Disruptive By Design: Modernizing With Intellectual Property Management

December 1, 2019
By Jennifer Miller

When it comes to acquisition reforms, many know of the talent management, leader development and other transaction authority endeavors, but in this column I want to highlight a lesser-known effort, Army Directive 2018-26 (Enabling Modernization Through the Management of Intellectual Property), which will be incorporated into a number of other Army regulations covering acquisition, technology transfer and integrated product support.

As I read the document, I got the impression that intellectual property (IP) management has been an afterthought to the front-and-center, attention-grabbing modernization and acquisition reforms of the past few years. I am glad to see IP addressed, given its daily criticality to the nation’s global, competitive edge.

Where IP is concerned, the pendulum often swings between minimally sufficient governing and excessive control. When I served as a team lead budget analyst for Fort Belvoir’s garrison, an information technology employee shared with me a motto he picked up from years of Army service in a civilian capacity: “Ma’am, we’d rather you be secure than able to do our job.”

It was a stunning reality I would revisit multiple times in that position and thereafter. In my current role, the email systems’ “sniffers” for personally identifiable information are so hypersensitive that nine numerical digits cause rejects because they look as if they could be a social security number. Like my peers, I have tasks to execute and to-do lists I long to attack. Unfortunately, technology and access to it are not always supportive. I’m glad to see this directive focus on balanced goals, sustainment and cost consciousness.

The applicability section of the directive speaks volumes in my opinion. It mentions research and development, acquisition, sustainment, contracting and acquisition regulations. Even other vehicles for acquisition are noted, such as grants, agreements and other transactions. Where I see an excellent display of actionable intent is the portion addressing the environment, leveraging communication, touting information exchange, adhering to controls, ensuring compliance, practicing risk management and capitalizing on control activities, similar to the federal government standards for internal control.

The description of program managers’ roles and actions is noteworthy too, for its focus on the acquisition strategy, intellectual property documentation and changing needs over a program’s life cycle.

I took particular interest in the matter of data rights. I’ve encountered a number of horror stories about the government failing to contract in the wisest fashion for data rights, costing taxpayers ludicrous amounts of money. There is also the more recent matter of licensing, which organizations are encountering with SAP Software Solutions, for example. In the last few years, SAP has successfully won every lawsuit concerning licensing limitations and enterprise systems use. Incredible, but true.

In sum, Army Directive 2018-26 is worth reading and watching. It will be fascinating to see where this directive takes the Army, and potentially the larger Department of Defense, given the signatory, Mark Esper, is now the secretary of defense. I hope we all pay attention and see fruitful results.

Jennifer Miller is an operations research analyst for the Air Force’s Cost Analysis Agency; she previously supported the National Guard Bureau Headquarters’ Joint Staff, and the Air Force and Army at locations along the East Coast. She is a Certified Government Financial Manager, a Certified Defense Financial Manager with acquisition specialty and a member of the American Society of Military Comptroller’s Washington Chapter.

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