Critical Read

Partnership wants feds and industry to collaborate on tech

Management abstract

What: "Innovation is a Contract Sport: Ways that Agencies Can Achieve Innovative Outcomes Through Acquisitions," a report from the Partnership for Public Service.

Why: Federal agencies are increasing their collaboration with industry to inject innovation into technological research and development, commercialization and contracting efforts.

The Partnership for Public Service interviewed dozens of federal officials who have formed strategic partnerships with nongovernmental partners to discuss how they achieved profound results, managed risk while allowing for failure and changed agency culture.

The study points to recent joint work on projects such as a bionic exoskeleton developed by an Israeli company and tested at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. It helps veterans with spinal cord injuries stand, walk and climb stairs. VA recently announced it will make the exoskeleton systems available to all qualifying veterans.

The study also cites the successful public/private development of the Internet and Global Positioning System as evidence that such synergies are important to technology innovation and development.

The report has specific suggestions about ways the government can incorporate innovative private-sector techniques into its work. It recommends that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy expand its Acquisition 360 process to include iterative reviews and checkpoints throughout the federal acquisition process and says acquisition outcomes should be measured by different sector representatives.

OFPP Administrator Anne Rung launched the Acquisition 360 process in March 2015 to get more industry feedback on major federal acquisitions. The program solicits feedback in several directions: from contractors to the government, from the program office to the contracting office and from the contracting office to the program office. The goal is to aggregate data to learn what is working and where improvements are needed.

The study also recommends that acquisition professionals be trained in partnership building and other skills that foster innovation. Furthermore, agency leaders should make filling the position of chief procurement officer a priority and hold that person accountable for establishing a culture of innovation.

Verbatim: "The nation depends on innovation, but it cannot be done by the government alone. Agency officials need to cultivate relationships with partners in the private and nonprofit sectors, as well as in state and local government. These partnerships can be strengthened by treating everyone as members of the team and balancing risk for all involved."

The report is available on the Partnership for Public Service’s website.

About the Author

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.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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