The president's initiative for revitalizing the U.S. commercial shipbuilding industry tasked the Maritime Systems Technology Office of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) with establishing a technology-development initiative to help shipyards become internationally competitive in commercial markets and thereby help preserve the industrial base for possible future national security needs (Clinton, 1993). ARPA is executing this program in collaboration with the Maritime Administration and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). This program, called MARITECH, is structured for a five-year period, with $30 million in the first year, $40 million in the second year, and $50 million per year for the next three years.
The ARPA approach for MARITECH technology development consists of an integrated two-part program. The initial phase will be to master the basics of commercial shipbuilding and enter the international market in the near term. The second phase is to provide a national infrastructure dedicated to continuous shipbuilding product and process improvement for the long-term. The approach is to have the shipbuilding industry compete for government funds on a cost-share basis to assist in these development initiatives. The shipyards are encouraged to initiate partnerships with customers, suppliers, and technologists to develop a total system or "focused development projects" approach (Denman, 1994). Through a government Broad Agency Announcement, which only specifies areas of consideration and criteria for acceptability, proposals are solicited from industry. In this manner, the ideas for projects that come from shipbuilders themselves rather than from the government. Criteria for awarding funds include having a team that is effective in identifying a real market need, an innovative design concept to service that market, and a competitive approach for the detailed design and construction process that could be implemented in the near term (MARITECH, 1994).
Linked with this near-term effort must be a long-term effort to take advantage of lessons learned and to institutionalize continued advancement. The primary thrust of the long-term program is to put in place an integrated national infrastructure focused on maritime technology development. The objective is to ensure the long-term viability and growth of the U.S. shipbuilding industry through continuous product and process improvement in commercial ship design and construction.
The awards for the first year of the program were announced in May 1994. Twenty projects were funded (ARPA, 1994).