Hurdles Abound for Small Business, Intelligence Community Cooperation

June 17, 2009
By Henry Kenyon

Dr. William Nolte, research professor and director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Education, University of Maryland, laid the problems on the line regarding industry and intelligence community organizations during the AFCEA Small Business Intelligence Forum, which took place today in Fairfax, Virginia. Ranging from determining who is in charge to the acquisition process, Nolte forthrightly shared that the many of the systems that facilitate government-industry partnerships are broken.

One underlying issue that has yet to be resolved is who is in charge of the intelligence community as a whole. While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was formed to create a centralized control authority, there are exceptions to the rule, including the CIA and the cyberspace realm. This is leading to serious problems. "We're in a bad way in terms of the oversight process," Nolte said.

The acquisition system as it stands today is broken, he added. This is a condition that small businesses in particular cannot handle. They rely heavily on being paid for their goods or services in a timely manner; however, this often is not the case when working with the federal government in general. "This problem has gotten better since I retired, but there won't be any shift in [the way that] acquisition is done in the near future," he stated. Nolte retired from the government in February 2006 after serving as the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Education and Training and the Chancellor of the National Intelligence University System.

Many issues could be resolved if Congress had a better handle on the issues that surround the acquisition, he proposed. "Is there a global war on contractors?" he quipped. "Probably not, but there will be a change from the [immediate] post-9/11 pattern. We need to get Congress to understand that there's a difference between crooks and a broken system. But [in response to a problem] Congress does two things: nothing or overreact." The procurement power base still resides in the agencies, Nolte noted.

Despite hurdles, both the intelligence community and industry must work hard to work together. "The business community-including small businesses-must be a partner in American national security efforts," Nolte asserted. This includes bringing industry in to solve cybersecurity issues, he added.

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