Agencies seek to shed antiquated acquisition model

As the Defense Department and the government writ large struggle to match policy to the pace of technology, the gap that is acquisition speed doesn’t seem to be getting much smaller. Now DOD and the intelligence community are looking at new ways of buying technology, goods and services, but are still determining when to buy fast – and when to stick with the status quo.

DOD’s acquisition model effectively is still rooted in an industrial-era model, but leadership is hopeful that new ways of buying are on the horizon, according to a panel of DOD and intelligence officials who spoke April 17 at an AFCEA DC event in Arlington, Va.

“The asymmetry I deal with on a daily basis is the difference in speed between the amazing technology that’s being produced by industry and the agility of the commercial space, [and] the different tempo and processes used internal to the government to take advantage of those,” said Ted Cope, director of geo-intelligence research at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. “That seems to be its own type of asymmetric warfare.”

Increasingly, acquisition officials are looking to a pilot-style model of developing and fielding technologies that are less than 100 percent solutions, but still effective.

“We’ve been successful when we’ve taken an approach where things are built to be piloted versus being built to last. You recognize that maybe you don’t have the perfect solution,” Cope said. “Maybe doing things in smaller chunks versus bigger blocks…but then you get the challenge of how do you make these pieces interoperable?”

Cope said that’s a process his agency is still learning, along with trying to determine how to scale pilot-type projects to an enterprise level. “That’s a gear we’re still learning to shift,” he said.

Furthermore, the incremental approach isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution by any means, according to Tami Johnson, project manager with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force.

“With some things it just doesn’t work. It has to be individual-specific to a program. That’s where the acquisition community really needs to stay on top of this, and when it doesn’t make sense, regardless of the pressure, we need to be able to stand up and say, ‘Look, if we deliver this capability in 12 months, you’re going to get garbage. We need to push forward on some things, but stay realistic.”

According to Gus Hunt, CTO for chief information officer, Central Intelligence Agency, security is also a high-priority issue, along with finding solutions that can accommodate the mass capacity required by DOD and the intelligence agency’s volumes of data. Still, he remained optimistic.

“I’m hoping this is the harbinger of our future economic engine,” he said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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