Captain Kurt Huff

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-08-13

Chief procurement officer, Naval Sea Systems Command

Age: 47

Degree: Bachelors of science in oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy. Masters of science in financial management and a masters of science in acquisitions from Naval Postgraduate School. Masters of business administration from National University in San Diego.

Car: Toyota Solara

Stress reliever: Skydiving

When the Naval Sea Systems Command decided to launch SeaPort (, it wasnt just committing to making the first e-marketplace for contracting professional services in the armed services. It was also finding a new way to deal with software vendors that is being adopted in NAVSEA, says Capt. Kurt Huff, who led the creation of SeaPort. Senior Writer Mike Cleary spoke with Huff, who is retiring in September.

What is SeaPort?

Were a private exchange within Exostar [an Internet marketplace for the aerospace and defense industries]. Were the first private trading exchange to provide professional support services.

How does it work?

Our 21 contractors go to Exostar for contract award documents. We get all proposals on the Web site and route them to evaluators. They log on and do evaluations on the Web site, fill in electronic forms and send them back to contracting officers. These are called negotiated procurements, but are competitive where well do best-value analysis and award the contract. This is pretty streamlined. Its an efficient, off-the-shelf, proven model.

What did it take to set up SeaPort?

It cost under $500,000 and took less than eight weeks, from when we awarded the contract to Commerce One.

How did you go about setting it up?

Ive had some experience with the software industry. Usually, youre promised more than youre ever going to get. I wanted to try to roll something out on March 31, and gave a one-page sketch of the process. You tell me what you can get on 31 March. Normally, we say: We want it on X date. Tell me what it will cost. Then I added, And if you dont deliver, your payment is zero. That really got their attention. Historically in this business, people are late and over budget.

Why did you commit to the deadline if the industry is as unreliable as you said?

I had tremendous support from my boss [Vice Admiral Pete Nanos]. I felt committed to my boss to bring the bacon home. I hear all this talk about the Internet, so I said, Show me Internet speed. And they did.

What value do you provide in your role through e-commerce?

By providing a vision and passion to embrace e-commerce to dramatically improve business processes. I do a lot of speaking to demonstrate the value of e-commerce. It can improve efficiency. SeaPort has returned significant benefits, and other programs hopefully will launch soon.

Whats the biggest objection you encounter?

Fear of the unknown. In general, most of the midmanagement-level folks tend to embrace it. The hardest part is some of the senior managers. Not all of them, but some of them. Clearly, my boss is 100 percent on board.

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