The Air Force wants to bypass the traditional lengthy contract award period, so it’s holding a number of pitch days including one devoted to space.
Made popular by shows like Shark Tank, pitch competitions have become widely adopted in the commercial sector. In a typical event, dozens of individuals and businesses will share proposals with a group of judges who will then allot funding as they see fit. Using this model, the Air Force is getting around the months that can pass between a proposal submission and the eventual awarding of money.
In a matter of hours the Air Force will hear proposals from a number of companies, and some successful participants can be awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research contracts within just minutes of pitching their ideas.
“Events like Pitch Day simplify proposal and shorten evaluation timelines to get new capabilities in the hands of the war fighter with epic speed. Additionally, it fosters partnerships with nontraditional and small businesses and the Air Force. Both speed and partnerships are key to the new way [Space and Missile Command] does business,” read a Space and Missile Systems Center news release.
The Air Force is holding a dozen of these pitch days this year, seeking partners in areas such as space, hypersonics or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Space Pitch Day is slated for Nov. 6 in San Francisco, and will see 20 to 30 companies present their proposals. Specifically, the Air Force is looking for ideas related to launch systems, data mining, space visualization and space communications.
The first Air Force Pitch Day, which was held back in March in New York City, doled out $8.75 million split between 51 companies. There were 417 submissions for that initial event and, ultimately, the Air Force invited 59 businesses to come pitch their proposals.
Awards were granted far more quickly than they would be in the typical acquisitions process. An Air Force press release noted that the fastest an award of this type had been granted previously was 90 days. In comparison, the Air Force boasted that they were able to award a contract in just three minutes at Pitch Day, and the average time between pitch and award was just 15 minutes.
“We have to do this across the country, across all places that do Air Force acquisition,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, following the initial event. “Now that we’ve wrung all the lessons out of the process, we’re ready to box it up as a tool that can be executed by the work force out in the field.”
A full list of the dozen pitch days the Air Force is holding this year can be found here.
Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.