DHS tries agile approach in Silicon Valley-based R&D effort
- By Mark Rockwell
- Jan 14, 2016
The Department of Homeland Security is about to get more agile, thanks to the Cyber Security Division's plan to put into play a new procurement idea in Silicon Valley.
Director Douglas Maughan said the division will begin using its newly introduced Innovation Other Transaction Solicitation next month to make it easier for nontraditional contractors, including startups, to share innovative technology and ideas with the department. DHS released the solicitation plan on Dec. 9, 2015.
The approach provides a way for DHS to keep up with fast-paced corporate development and attract companies that might not have experience working with the federal government, Maughan told FCW at a Jan. 14 event in McLean, Va.
"We can give a company the thumbs-up or thumbs-down [on proposals] on the spot," he said, which significantly shortens what can be a lengthy government evaluation process. The companies' pitches will be based on an oral presentation, not a whitepaper or other documentation, he added.
"They'll have 15 minutes to make their case," Maughan said, which resembles the process in the freewheeling world of venture capital funding. DHS' goal is to award contracts in four months. As long as all the proposing companies get equal time, the process adheres to government rules, he added.
The first slate of awards -- expected to total about $5 million -- will go to firms with inventive ideas about how to secure the Internet of Things. The program will also include awards in aviation security, border security, cybersecurity and counterterrorism.
Although DHS is seeking nontraditional performers, it is not looking for raw, unproven startups. Maughan said DHS is focusing on six- to 12-month-old companies that have already received or currently have some venture capital investment.
Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.
Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.
Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.
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