Virginia Tech has been chosen as one of three institutions to lead the new Acquisition Innovation and Research Center (AIRC).

Funded by the Department of Defense (DoD) and directed by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, the center will bring together higher education expertise to increase efficiency in the U.S. Defense Acquisition System to accompany the expansion of defense technology.

Obtaining goods and services from contractors, federal arsenals, and shipyards to support military operations can be a time-consuming and expensive process. With the development of the new center, participating researchers will study how to better acquire quality products and resources that support the armed forces in an efficient manner and at reasonable prices.

The Virginia Tech-led team will also develop innovative policies to expedite the defense acquisition process that will ultimately support the DoD in its mission to ensure the nation’s security.

“The Acquisition Innovation and Research Center is about revolutionizing the way the Department of Defense acquires military technology,” said Laura Freeman, Acquisition Innovation and Research Center executive team member and the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology Intelligent Systems Lab director. “This center is not about engineering the next generation radar. It’s about helping the government obtain the next generation radar efficiently, while making the most of citizens’ tax-paying dollars, and ensuring the DoD can acquire that radar at the speed of relevance to operational missions.”

In addition to Virginia Tech, Stevens Institute of Technology and Georgetown University will also lead the development of new policies and efficiencies with Virginia Tech faculty focusing on creating a data strategy to develop models and build simulations, developing data repositories, and standing up the center. A few challenges include understanding how intellectual property and resources factor in and determining what policies are needed to perform acquisition.

“Being a lead institution of such a large collaboration allows for Virginia Tech to develop cross-university communities of expertise that cut across disciplines to support the initiative  in the best way possible,” Freeman said, who is also an associate professor of statistics in the College of Science. “The portfolios that the other universities bring to the table makes for a diverse panel of expertise, checking all the boxes of knowledge needed to build a successful center for innovative research in defense acquisition.”

Freeman joins other faculty members on the executive team: Dinesh Verma and Thomas McDermot, both of the Stevens Institute of Technology and Systems Engineering Research Center, and Bill Rouse, Georgetown University. Together, they will support the Office of the Secretary of Defense to shape center directives and  manage the new center’s research portfolio, operations, and education initiatives.

Virginia Tech faculty from the Hume Center, the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC), and the Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics will lead strategic decision making in data and data science, machine learning, and operational development. The Hume Center will lead overall data strategy, VT-ARC will focus on development of operations, and the Sanghani Center will contribute data science and machine learning expertise to help derive insights from award portfolios and intellectual property.

“AIRC is grateful for the leadership of Dr. Laura Freeman and the Virginia Tech team in helping us provide impact and value to the sponsors within the DoD,” said Verma. “In the future, the center will look to add more universities to the collaboration as one of the center’s core values is to combine efforts within the defense and commercial acquisition community nationwide and worldwide to generate a marketplace of innovative ideas.”

In April 2021, the center will provide an Acquisition Innovation Forum, where researchers can learn more about the AIRC’s first targeted research thrust: digital transformation and acquisition.

“We’re seeing data-driven decision making come to the forefront of a lot of activities in the DoD,” Freeman said. “I’m excited to see Virginia Tech take the lead in moving the center forward and helping the DoD transition to an acquisition system that uses data to support innovation.”

– Written by Aubrey Medina