Magazine article National Defense

Chem-Bio Defense Program Eases Path for Industry

Magazine article National Defense

Chem-Bio Defense Program Eases Path for Industry

Article excerpt

* In a 2016 congressional hearing, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated that chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and emerging infectious diseases constitute a major threat to the security of the United States.

The Department of Defense is facing the challenges of this evolving threat environment head-on.

The joint program executive office for chemical and biological defense and the joint project manager for medical countermeasure systems are transforming ways of doing business with industry partners in order to rapidly develop and field medical countermeasures to support U.S. service-members around the world.

Medical countermeasures, such as vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, are a critical component of a multi-layered defense strategy to protect troops from CBRN threats and emerging infectious diseases. The medical solutions developed add an initial layer of protection and enhance the diagnostic capabilities and post-exposure treatments that save lives and enable U.S. service-members to complete their mission.

Medical countermeasure systems is a joint project management office located at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, and facilitates the advanced development and fielding of these medical countermeasures.

In order to streamline the acquisition process that provides critical medical countermeasure products to the warfighter, the two offices are employing a new "agile medical paradigm," or AMP. Its mission is to decrease risk, address a broader threat environment, and enable a rapid response capability to future threats.

"We are undergoing a transformation in how we do our business and the technologies we are pursuing," said Jason Roos, deputy program executive officer for chemical and biological defense. "From a medical countermeasure perspective, we need innovative solutions to stay ahead of the enemy, and a robust pipeline of capability to draw upon in a crisis."

Part of this transformation includes incentivizing industry members to work with the two offices. Currently there are few economic incentives for industry to participate, coupled with the lengthy requirements of Federal Acquisition Regulation contracting, and reliance on the U.S. government as the only customer for medical countermeasures against many CBRN threats.

The medical countermeasures system office is overcoming these hurdles by utilizing "other transaction agreements" --also known as OTA--as set forth in U.S. law in 10 USC 2371b. Other transactions are legally binding instruments that are used to engage industry and academia on a broad range of research and prototype projects. The mechanism provides an opportunity for nontraditional defense contractors to partner and address important capability requirements across the federal government.

Employing OTAs allows for speed, adaptability and accessibility in providing prototypes and medical countermeasures, without having to meet the many statutory requirements governed by the FAR. In short, this authority is designed to stimulate innovation.

As a part of this effort, the office has partnered with Advanced Technology International to create the Medical CBRN Defense Consortium. Now with over 130 members --including prominent industry, academic and nonprofit partners--the consortium facilitates a flexible arrangement with the Defense Department to accelerate medical countermeasure development.

The office identifies requirements through Army Contracting Command-New Jersey and solicits proposals for prototype projects from consortium members. By working with industry and academic leaders, the office streamlines the process for providing new medical products to the warfighter.

Members receive benefits such as networking opportunities with other consortium members and government stakeholders; providing visibility into government needs and priorities; and expanding their market by creating a channel for small companies and nontraditional technology providers to engage in the federal acquisition process. …

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