During the 18th annual Acquisition Research Symposium (ARP) in May, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) students presented theses and research projects to the Department of Defense (DOD) acquisition community during a virtual Graduate Student Research Poster Show.
The students’ research covered various aspects of acquisitions such as price analysis factors and developing international wireless solutions. They spent a lot of time on their research to find improved ways to bring relevant technology from developers and experts to the warfighter, bridging the gap known as the Valley of Death that separates the two.
“The [Graduate Student Poster Show] has always been a cornerstone of the symposium, and I consider this the highlight of the entire symposium,” said retired Vice Adm. David Lewis, NPS Chair of Acquisition. “This is really our seed corn for the school because all of what these students learn here will be applied to the rest of their Naval careers. And I'm sure every one of them, if you ask them 10 years from now, they'll tell you this is the class that made the difference for them. Each of the students will find something that they've learned here and will use it repeatedly.”
Ideas for their theses originated from sponsors looking to explore new directions, or from acquisition issues they experienced firsthand during previous operational tours.
Symantha Loflin, an earned value management analyst for the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) who had previously worked with the Joint Acquisition Task Force for COVID-19 to work on glove production, said her thesis focused on how to expedite products into the national stockpile and into the hands of frontline workers who needed it.
“I’m using my education to build up the industrial base of bringing back manufacturing to the United States by Americans for Americans,” said Loflin. “Through my research at NPS, I was able to use more than my earned value management experience and my production quality and manufacturing experience to assist with government contracting needs.”
In addition to streamlining the process to bring goods from industry to end users, students researched how well their intellectual and educational resources were reaching out.
Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Smith, a Navy Supply Corps Officer, helped analyze the Navy Supply Corps 810 Program which allows Navy Supply Corps officers with the opportunity to attend a top-30 U.S. business school for an MBA.
“It was a great opportunity,” said Smith. “[The 810 Program] is one a big investment, and we were able to show our sponsors how well the program was at retaining officers, and found potential for greater follow through on using the skills at commands where they’re needed.”
DOD attendees provided feedback on the students’ theses, asked questions, and acknowledged their work and potential new avenues to explore to make acquisition’s ‘Valley of Death’ narrower.
According to ARP Principal Investigator Dr. Robert Mortlock, “The students brought a unique, different perspective allowing us in the acquisition community to answer some really difficult research questions.
“This really highlights the critical thinking, problem solving, and resource management parts of student [research],” he continued. “We end up solving problems that I don’t think we’d be able to solve if we didn’t have the student researchers asking those tough questions and bringing their perspectives into view.”
Check out the NPS Acquisition Research Program YouTube channel for short videos on student research projects.