The Federal Warfare System(s) (FWS) Laboratory Accreditation Program (LAP) was developed in 2021 by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) by request of the Air Combat Command (ACC) Federal Research Laboratory – Beale Air Force Base, California. The program was created under the support and affirmation of the USAF ACC Science and Technology Directorate, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.
This FWS LAP accredits both government and civilian laboratories to ensure traceability, competence, impartiality, and operational consistency when conducting System Integration Testing (SIT) and Operational/User Acceptance Testing (O/UAT) on defense technologies supporting all warfighting domains (e.g., sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace). As laboratories of this type may support a wide spectrum of systems and user requirements, this LAP focuses on SIT and O/UAT processes – and not the testing of any specific technology.
About FWS Laboratories. FWS Laboratories are Department of Defense (DoD) organizations which: (1) meet the Title 15 U.S.C. § 3710a (as referenced by 10 U.S.C § 2500) statutory definition of a Federal Research Laboratory, (2) have successfully passed FWS LAP assessment, and (3) maintain direct physical access to Warfighting organizations and systems. Laboratories of this type are vertically-integrated and are foundationally built upon a “Confluence of Warfighter, Developer, and Acquirer.” This model brings development and acquisitions in-house with operations. Through this, the Warfighter is empowered with the access and knowledge required to rigorously mature warfighting requirements to well-vetted, high-Technology Readiness Level (TRL) solutions – reducing risk, compressing milestones to field, and front-loading the system to mitigate unknown-unknowns. This embedded model faster and more accurately delivers capabilities the Warfighter needs.
How it works. This laboratory construct exploits an unregulated space that exists left of “Requirement,” as defined by the DoD Directive 5000.01. Under this framework, advanced technologies can be integrated (or developed) to determine technical feasibility (“Is it possible?”). Embedded developers then hand the technology to the Warfighter to determine operational utility (“Is it useful?”). This process continuously cycles between development and operations, with a fluidity impossible to realize under current DoD processes. End-state is achieved when the technology has evolved to a high Technology Readiness Level (TRL), Warfighter-useful solution. At this point, the technology graduates normally into the Defense Acquisition System as a well-vetted, mature requirement.
Value. Through this model, the Defense Acquisition System is externally compressed, and cost offsets realized, by: (a) Front-loading development with the end-user, and (b) abatement of the Problems of Scope, Understanding, and Volatility associated with the requirements process. Additionally, this LAP affords laboratories of this type within the DoD a standardized means to meet the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) mandate that, “prototyping and experimentation should be used prior to defining requirements.”