Acquisition

How the IC can improve acquisitions

man graphs performance

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance has some suggestions for how the intelligence community can improve its acquisition practices.

During a panel discussion at INSA's Sept. 7 Intelligence and National Security Summit, the organization's Acquisition Management Working Group shared a list of 10 improvements the IC could make to help it adapt to changing federal acquisition practices.

Ellen McCarthy, president of Noblis National Security Partners and chair of the working group, said the list began as ideas on tweaking the acquisition process from Kevin Meiners, assistant director of national intelligence for acquisition, technology and facilities in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The recommendations will be included in a white paper that the group will publish in the coming days, she added.

Among other ideas, the list advocates:

  • Focusing on outcomes-based acquisition.
  • Ensuring that service-level agreements are proposed by offerors in response to statements of objectives.
  • Choosing the most highly rated technical solution within an IC-acceptable price range.
  • Establishing and funding an IC-specific database on contractors' past performance.
  • Implementing a 360-degree review program to foster transparency and continuous improvement.

In an earlier presentation at the INSA summit, ODNI Director James Clapper said he was generally satisfied with how the IC was acquiring large systems.

"We're doing pretty well," he said, adding that strict congressional oversight of large acquisitions was keeping procurement efforts in line.

Nevertheless, some members of the acquisition panel said there was room for improvement.

"It's hard to argue with success," said Kelly Gaffney, ODNI's assistant deputy director for acquisition, technology and facilities, adding that IC acquisitions have been "95 percent successful" at coming in under cost and on schedule in the past five years.

But she pointed out that "major acquisitions are closely monitored" while smaller or incidental procurements are not as carefully watched.

"There's a little less insight into those," Gaffney said. "It's possible that they have the same success rate, but it's not as certain."

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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