Government and Industry Need to Clean Up Their Procurement Act
Neither side is happy, but both agree current acquisition policies and cultures must change.
Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium 2016
The SIGNAL Magazine Online Show Daily, Day 2
Quote of the Day:
“We have to change the way procurement is done. Government is losing out on the best of industry.”—Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise
A new paradigm in the relationship between government and industry will be absolutely necessary if both are to succeed in speeding innovative technologies into the U.S. military. Both the traditional model of procurement and the culture behind it must be changed drastically for government to keep abreast of new information technologies that are changing at an ever-faster pace.
Old procurement models do not simply fall short, they actually are sabotaging innovation efforts in military information technologies. Neither government nor industry truly understand how the other works, which will make a necessary cultural change both more important and more difficult. Ultimately, it may come down to establishing an unprecedented degree of trust between the two sides.
Many of these causes and consequences were discussed by panelists and speakers on day two of the Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium (DCOS) 2016, being held in Washington, D.C., April 20-22. Several speakers from industry joined military and government officials in examining the problems with bringing new information technologies to the force while suggesting broad-reaching solutions.
The differences between the two groups were summed up by a statement from panelist Lt. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence, USA (Ret.), a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. Gen. Lawrence, a former U.S. Army G-6/chief information officer (CIO), said she wished she had known in the Army what she learned in her first 90 days at Booz Allen Hamilton. “I would have made different decisions in the Army,” she conceded.
The solution to fixing that disconnect may be a strong partnership between the two organizations, offered Terry Halvorsen, Defense Department CIO. “Now it’s time to have a conversation about culture change—cyber culture, tech culture,” he emphasized. “The issue is how we in government look at industry and how industry looks at government. The partnership where we understand what industry is doing and industry understands government is a win-win.” Government needs to listen to industry more, he allowed, and industry must be dedicated to working in new directions.
“The technology is the really easy part,” he said, speaking to industry. “I’m not convinced you will get all the culture right.”
Yet, Halvorsen was not pessimistic in his presentation. “Everything we’ve ever done in [the Defense Department] and industry has involved lots of challenges,” Halvorsen observed. “We must be open to change in the process.”
Lt. Gen. William J. Bender, USAF, chief, information dominance, and Air Force CIO, added a similar perspective. “If we can look at innovation in not just technology but in the processes, we can get there,” he said.
And that change is not beyond reach, suggested Gen. Lawrence. “Somehow, other parts of the federal government have figured out how to get [information technology] solutions faster,” she pointed out. “We’re all reading the same FARs [federal acquisition regulations].
“We have to get our leadership to talk to the right community to say, ‘You have to fix the process,’” she stated. “We’ve been discussing it enough.”
Another industry perspective was voiced candidly by Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In a luncheon presentation where she was interviewed one-on-one by Halvorsen, she outlined the severity of the technology procurement system’s flaws.
“Things are moving in technology much more rapidly than I’ve ever seen,” she declared. Describing a long-term plan as the opposite of an agile relationship, she observed, “Often these [government] contracts feel like straight jackets to us and to your people [in government].”
Even waiting for a just five-year window will result in a missed technology trend, she continued. And, 10-year contracts do not work. After seven years, both sides realize nothing new has been delivered, and innovation has passed by the original technology goal. Both government and industry will require cultural change, and government must change how it does business, Whitman declared.
The rapidly changing nature of the technology marketplace was the reason Whitman split the company into two parts: one manufacturing computer and printer hardware, the other focusing on information system services, she allowed. “The future of every organization is going to belong to the fast, and we have to get smaller to be fast,” she declared. “Our customers say they’re already seeing greater agility.”
No discussion about innovative defense information technology could omit cybersecurity, and this day’s sessions were no exception. Halvorsen was direct about it in his remarks to government and industry.
“We’re at war today in cyber,” he declared. “You in industry are at war today in cyber. The pace of change in cyber is what makes it different from every other war.”
Collaboration in this realm may include overseas partners. “We have to continue to build partnerships—with industry, with our allies, with our allies’ industries,” Halvorsen stated.
He noted that European allies are pursuing excellent approaches as they strive for cybersecurity. The United States and its allies would benefit highly from cooperating, he said.
In many cases, similar solutions are being pursued on both sides of the Atlantic. If the United States and its allies can develop common security, “it gives us an unbelievable warfare advantage and an unbelievable business opportunity,” he warranted. “We need identification that works among allies.”
For example, the common access card (CAC) has been in use for many years, but Halvorsen called for its replacement with a more advanced approach. He quickly added that the department is “not killing the CAC tomorrow,” but the next step in identification should be pursued and implemented.
View videos of the DCOS speakers.
On the final day of DCOS 2016:
Addresses by Vice Adm. Jan E. Tighe, USN, commander, Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet, and Marty Roesch, vice president and chief architect, Cisco Security Business Group; along with a panel on combatant command and joint collaboration.
Also, approved continuing education credits apply to nine Friday DCOS panels and theater sessions for AFCEA members who attend—or for attendees who become AFCEA members at DCOS!