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How Can Industry Introduce Innovative Technologies to Warfighters Faster?

June 19, 2008
By Henry Kenyon

The snail's pace at which capabilities are moving into current operations is a frustration for both military and industry leaders, and members of the final panel of the Joint Warfighting Conference agreed that lessons can be learned from the commercial sector. From outlining the requirements faster and more succinctly to having the courage to break the rules to meet needs faster, deep changes are needed from the Halls of Congress to the commanders in the field, they said.

Art Fritzson, vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, suggested that perhaps it is time for the military to take a lesson from industry. For example, one dot-com company called for ideas, then called on its users to come in and review them. Many of the ideas were implemented and led to the company's success.

Sometimes it's just a matter of organizations encouraging their personnel to be open to discussing ideas and using social media to do it. And sometimes, an idea implemented by Dell Corporation may offer the solutions. The company decided to add a user forum to its help desk offerings, and users were eager to solve each other's problems. These models could be some of the ways that the military solves its acquisition problems, Fritzson said.

Because so much innovation is coming from small businesses, Yogesh Khanna, vice president, chief technology officer, IT Infrastructure Solutions, CSC, suggested that perhaps it is time for government change the requirements for small business involvement in contracts. Rather than just allowing companies to add small business to their contracts to do "grunt work," perhaps they should be required to include some of the new innovative solutions in their total solutions.

But at the end of the day, it is going to take courage-from Congress, from military leaders and from industry-to speed up the process of getting capabilities into warfighters' hands, many panelists agreed. "I think about what our enemy does. They don't have RFPs. They go to the store and buy it and get an 80 percent solution, but they work with it," Fritzson said.

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