In the development of new capabilities, technological innovation and deploying these at the speed of relevance, the area in which the DoD can be truly most innovative is how it conducts business. Finding innovative companies and technologies is usually the easy part. What we should be asking and doing, is how can the government foster development of technologies, connect complimentary companies or ideas, encourage brainstorming and better problem solving for critical and complex national security issues? How can the federal government make the most of the talent and resources out there and encourage collaboration, best outcomes, and win/win scenarios? This is where the real innovation and vigor lies, in collaborative business arrangements and that means… contracting!
The highly regulated FAR system is not working and institutionally corrupt. Reports show that the system continues to degrade. The persistent lameness of acquisition for the advancement of science and technology innovation has wide ranging effects. The nation is falling behind and losing competitiveness at a quickening pace and greater expense. Sticking heads in the sand to all of this may be one generation’s legacy and folly but does not have to be another. Where are the gutsy smart people willing to embrace an alternative?!
The Innovation theater and #innovation crowd creates the impression that something is happening out there, and they and others think highly of themselves. The incremental changes, the acquisition PR stunts, the hip-office spaces, cool lingo and showy events do not really do much of anything, though they may look and feel good. There is a large dose of make-believe in all of this. Folks, particularly in leadership, still are not focusing on how to truly facilitate next-level innovation through business and collaboration, even though Congress has told them to for years and many know they should. Instead, DoD leadership has shrugged off these responsibilities to the warfighter, taxpayer, Congress, and the nation’s greater industrial base. It is the same thinking with an up-to-date makeover.
Maybe it is time for a refocusing, it seems like an odd time in history for the federal acquisition community to remain resting on its laurels. Why not take the authorities that Congress has given the DoD and unleash the innovation, unbridle it, raise the standard and make spirited achievements? It is right there in the background behind the PR-stunts, #innovation; an alternative and largely unencumbered acquisition system, it is as smart or as dumb as you want it to be. We know that there are intelligent people out there, what are you waiting for?! The beauty of the authorities that Congress has gifted DoD and told to develop a “preference” for using is that they invite the best qualities of collaboration and in doing business. Join the innovation struggle at its pointy end – improving business processes and arrangements with the tools that have been made available.