We are pleased to introduce you to ASTRO’s Strategic Advisor, John Christensen (JC).

JC is providing strategic counsel to some of ASTRO’s AM Forward – related government programs. We asked him to share some thoughts on topics of interest to us and our clients.

The Importance of Teamwork

My 28 years of combined Federal Service – Navy Active Duty for 6 years and as a DoD Civilian for 22 years – taught me how to work as part of a team to accomplish goals that could never be reached otherwise. My experience on a Navy Destroyer, where the officers and crew must work in close harmony to go in harm’s way and come out having achieved the mission, was as different as being a civilian working with contractors in the construction of a fuel pier in Long Beach, CA. But both scenarios required an ability to partner successfully to achieve objectives. The same can be said about my final 8 years as R&D Chief of DLA, which required thoughtful and constant coordination across the DLA Supply Centers, industry, academia, the Joint Directors of ManTech Programs, and even our Legislative Affairs office. My experience has made me keenly aware of the importance of teamwork – shared sacrifices for a common goal. The team is always ahead of the individual.

Biggest Challenge Facing Public/ Private Partnerships

The biggest challenge facing Public/ Private Partnerships (PPPs) is contracting on the public side and maintaining the ability to change direction over time from the private side. The acquisition workforce does not often fully embrace the concept of PPPs, and at best does so only in pockets of expertise that quickly become overburdened once more program offices learn of them. Too many contracting and agreements officers are rigid in their interpretations of the regulations governing PPPs and don’t allow meaningful steps to be made to achieve better outcomes over time.

On the private side, too many PPPs get comfortable and complacent after an award and do not reassess the partnership over time, scale the PPP as the government intended and/or change direction when needed. This can lead to atrophy among their membership, a lack of focus on the cutting edge, fewer benefits to the government and an overall dissatisfaction from members on how the PPP is advancing their strategic interests. PPPs must stay vigilant in achieving their mission and constantly looking for new and better ideas and processes to advance over time.

Manufacturing Readiness as a Critical Tool

It is one thing to demonstrate that a technology is mature. But to meet cost, schedule, quantity, and quality goals, readiness needs to be assessed via a different construct, one that looks at the manufacturability of the system, subsystem, assembly or component. That is why Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs) were developed — to reduce manufacturing risk across a number of areas referred to as MRL threads. Too often over time weapons systems have had significant cost and schedule overruns. Many of these were attributed to immature manufacturing processes.

Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) will not tease these risks out. By doing Manufacturing Readiness Assessments (MRAs) at key intervals in the system and product development phase, programs can significantly reduce their risk in production. I’m pleased to have been associated with the Joint Directors of Manufacturing Technology Panel (JDMTP) which pioneered MRLs and continues to sponsor the improvement of the MRL body of knowledge to this day.

For more on ASTRO’s leadership team, click here.