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The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative

R&D Contracts (BAA)

The ADL Initiative contracts with external vendors and academic institutions to perform some research and development tasks.

Broad Agency Announcement

The ADL Initiative uses a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) contracting mechanism to solicit and award external R&D contracts. The U.S. Government uses BAAs to award contracts for basic and applied research and advanced technology development (so called, budget activities 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3). The ADL Initiative primarily uses our BAA to contract for Advanced Technology Development (budget activity 6.3).

Our official BAA solicitation is posted on FedBizOpps. It lists general areas of interest. Each year, we also identify more refined research targets, which are listed on this page (below).

ADL Initiative BAA Solicitation on FedBizOpps

How to Participate

Businesses and academic institutions may submit project ideas for consideration. The official FedBizOpps link includes full participation details, and a summary is provided below for convenience (the primary reference is the FedBizOpps guidance).

Offerors are encouraged to carefully review the BAA, and to ask for clarification and assistance as required. The Small Business Administration also offers a number of Contracting Assistance Programs for Federal contracts.

Step 1: Quad Charts (optional but recommended)

You can start at any point in this process, but we recommend you first submit a quad-chart. Quad-charts let you pitch ideas quickly, and if we believe the idea has merit, fits our mission, and can be potentially funded then we'll request a more detailed white paper. You can use this template for your quad charts: Quad Chart Template.

Step 2: White Papers (optional but recommended)

If the ADL Initiative is interested in your quad-chart submissions, then the Government may request a corresponding White paper. These are due within 30 days of request. You're encouraged to contact the ADL Initiative to discuss project ideas prior to White paper submission. Offerors may use their own format for the white paper but are encouraged to consider Heilmeier's Catechism as part of their organizing structure.

Step 3: Full Proposals

After white paper review, offerors may be asked to submit a formal proposal. Proposal guidelines are provided in the BAA. These should include detailed technical and management plans, pricing data, execution timelines, and a proposed statement of work. After receiving a formal request for proposals, offerors have 30 days to submit. Once a proposal is requested, open discussions with ADL Initiative personnel are no longer permitted other than with explicit Contracting Officer involvement and oversight. Offerors should be notified of the award decision within 4–6 months of Proposal submission.

Review Process

Submitted products are reviewed by technical/scientific personnel who are knowledgeable within the subject matter to determine if the product is consistent with the intent of the BAA and is of interest to the government. Quad Charts will primarily be considered on the scientific/technical merit and the importance to agency programs. White papers will be reviewed on the scientific/technical merit, the importance to agency programs, and the proposed price. Proposals are evaluated on the criteria presented in the BAA: scientific and technical innovation and benefits to the ADL Initiative; scientific and technical approach; management, and cost / benefit.

Products having insufficient scientific/technical merit, insufficient relevance to the ADL Initiative mission, or those in areas for which funds are not expected to be available, may not advance further in the process. In instances where the proposed cost increases substantially from earlier ROM estimates, the offeror should provide clarification for the price increase; inadequately explained deviations between the white paper and proposal ROMs will negatively impact the proposal’s evaluation.

Topic Background

The purpose of this BAA is to solicit industry participation in the furtherance of the Distributed Learning modernization and policy mission of the ADL Initiative. Towards that end, the ADL has stood up an overarching Research and Development Science and Technology (S&T) strategy known as the “Total Learning Architecture” (TLA).

The TLA seeks to decouple learning organizations from reliance on a Learning Management System (LMS) centric IT infrastructure, and instead, use a loose federation of web-based services and data sources that communicate human performance information via standardized data contracts. The activities of learning and evidence of human performance of interest to the TLA, and to achieving a “lifelong learning” path for federal personnel, include traditional web-based content, classroom experiences, simulations, and even on the job training and work experiences. These experiences provide data of “learning activities” within an overall “learning ecosystem.”

Course Catalog and Activity Registry

Across the Department of Defense (DoD), training and education systems historically use pre-determined, point-to-point connections and manual intervention to share actionable information relating to requirements, curricula, and student performance across systems. This requires integrators to customize each system to get the data out of one and into another, and human processes to analyzes and correlate it. This is especially true with the way we catalog and archive different types of instructional activities including digital content, instructor-led courses, simulations, and other learning opportunities. This is complicated in that a single entity does not own all training and education content and therefore can only publish catalogs (e.g. CANTRAC) for the courses they own.

In the face of numerous, varied, and complex information sharing challenges facing the DoD, the DoD Chief Information Officer (CIO) has set a vision to deliver an Information Enterprise (IE) that enables DoD and partners to securely access data and information services they need at the right time and place, and on approved devices of their choosing. The DoD Net-Centric Data Strategy provides the basis for implementing and sharing data in a net-centric environment. It describes the requirements for inputting and sharing data, but it does not accommodate the myriad of complexities associated with today’s training and education environment. The Total Learning Architecture (TLA) data strategy, along with the related common course catalog from the DoD Chief Management Officer, build upon the DoD Net-Centric Data Strategy’s goals of making data assets visible, accessible, secure, and understandable. This approach establishes services as the preferred means by which information producers and capability providers can make their data assets and associated operational activities available across DoD and beyond. It also establishes services (i.e. data contracts and manipulation business logic) as the preferred means by which consumers can access and use these data assets and capabilities.

As envisioned, this research will focus on identifying, enhancing, or developing the standards and specifications necessary to create a federated data framework that allows individual DoD components to manage their own learning resources via an Activity Registry that rolls up (i.e. federates) into a Common Course Catalog.

Download more info on the BAA for Course Catalog and Activity Registry, including key research attributes and tasks.
Papers are due by August 16th to be considered for FY19 funding.