Some acquisition ideas for the next president

Although it’s still a year away, the next presidential election will be upon us before we know it. 

White HouseAnd with so many issues needing attention, a set of recommendations on a federal technology agenda would help the next administration hit the ground running.

It’s important to see through the haze of heated rhetoric and focus on three questions:

1. What current initiatives should be continued? Too often, ongoing efforts from the prior administration languish or are discarded because they weren’t invented here.

2. What current initiatives or policies should be terminated? The road of federal IT initiatives is paved with many well-intentioned efforts at portfolio management that never actually retire legacy systems. Similarly, practices that create drag on the rapid acquisition of effective IT solutions must be discarded.

3. What new initiatives and actions should be embraced? We need to bring speed, innovation and commercial best practices to government. We can no longer afford to function in an environment in which the platforms, apps and managed services available in the commercial marketplace are not the norm in the federal government.

Keep reading this article — including what should be kept on the bus and what should be thrown under the bus — at:

Defense industry pushes back against Pentagon’s consolidation concerns

The Aerospace Industries Association last week pushed back against comments made by the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, who in unusually strong language raised concerns about consolidation in the defense industry.
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Frank Kendall, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said this week that continued consolidation of major defense firms could limit competition, stifle innovation and eventually result “in higher prices to be paid by the American taxpayer in order to support our warfighters.”

And Kendall said he feared a future where the Pentagon “has at most two or three very large suppliers for all the major weapons systems that we acquire.”

Aerospace Industries AssociationBut in its statement, David F. Melcher, the chief executive officer of the AIA, said that as defense spending tightens and there is continued budget uncertainty, “it’s no surprise that industry is looking to become leaner and more efficient.”

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Lockheed-Sikorsky deal stokes fears about industry consolidation

As the world’s largest defense company gets even larger, Pentagon leaders worry that competition is evaporating.

BlackhawkThe Pentagon’s top arms buyer worries that Lockheed Martin’s upcoming $9 billion acquisition of Blackhawk helicopter maker Sikorsky is part of a bad trend in which large defense firms get bigger and competition wanes.

The Defense Department will not block the purchase, but “we believe that these types of acquisitions still give rise to significant policy concerns,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, told reporters on September 30. “The Department of Defense is concerned about the continuing march toward greater consolidation in the defense industry at the prime contractor level.”

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Georgia Tech launches new logistics center in Singapore

Georgia Tech, in collaboration with The National University of Singapore, officially launched the Center for Next Generation Logistics on July 24, 2015 in Singapore.

The inauguration ceremonies were attended by 150 industry and government representatives and included presentations by the provosts of both universities.  The Center will serve as an open logistics innovation platform to:

  • Identify and pursue pre-competitive and industry-focused research inspired by significant promise for economic and social impact and contributions to the body of knowledge,
  • Accelerate and de-risk the path from knowledge discovery to innovation and commercialization,
  • Nurture and develop the Next Generation supply chain & logistics workforce,
  • Provide up-to-date business intelligence to better understand today’s competitive landscape.
Georgia Tech, in collaboration with The National University of Singapore, officially launched the Center for Next Generation Logistics on July 24, 2015 in Singapore.
Georgia Tech, in collaboration with The National University of Singapore, officially launched the Center for Next Generation Logistics on July 24, 2015 in Singapore.

During the inaugural ceremonies, Georgia Tech Provost Rafael Bras noted, “Logistics is a major player of the U.S. economy comprising over eight percent of the U.S. GDP, and Georgia, in particular, is a U.S. logistics hub.  In parallel, Singapore and its container port thrive on expert logistics know-how. The new generation of logistics must integrate supply chains, movement of goods, manufacturing innovation, data analysis for predictive logistics, and growth of urban regions and megacities. It represents the future, and we are thrilled to define that future together with our Singaporean partners.”

Chelsea C. White III, Schneider National Chair in Transportation and Logistics and Professor in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering, has spearheaded Georgia Tech’s participation in this initiative and is co-leader of the center with the NUS principal investigators, Professors Lee Loo Hay and Chew Ek Peng.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with NUS in an area of research and innovation that has such potential societal and economic impact for both our countries. Next Generation technology, data availability, customers, manufacturing innovations, and demographic trends will shape Next Generation logistics and supply chain systems, and it is critical that both nations are leaders in these areas to insure sustainable economic growth and prosperity,” said White, who presented the Center vision during the inaugural ceremonies.

Georgia Tech has collaborated with NUS for more than 15 years as the co-founders of The Logistic Institute – Asia Pacific, and the new Center will further expand this collaboration.

The Center has received seed funding from Georgia Tech and NUS over a two-year period to develop the Center concept and expects a 5-year initial funding commitment of $3 million annually from collaborating government agencies and industry partners to support approximately 25 faculty and graduate researchers.


What does innovation really mean?

In this article, Michael Fischetti, executive director of the National Contract Management Association, explores what forms innovation might take in the government acquisition arena.

Innovation is defined as “the introduction of something new…a new idea, method, or device.” In business, that description includes “the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”  Within acquisition, innovation might mean two things: wider use of new and innovative technology tools and products; or what could be called a new business (management or human resource) philosophy, government contracting policy, regulation, training initiative, strategy, type, etc.  Taken further, “disruptive innovation helps create new markets and value networks, eventually displacing or replacing existing ones and legacy technology.

Confusion results when it isn’t clear what innovation means. No innovation is risk free, of course. Nothing new ever is. A structured, traditionally conservative acquisition community has much to be concerned with. This is justified, since despite contrary rhetoric, everyone from the program customer, senior agency or corporate leadership, oversight officials from GAO, inspector general, DCAA, DCMA, Congress, to media and industry associations, can be quick to highlight failure, but not as prominently promote success. Shortfalls in government’s acquisition performance are clear when, by the time government receives new technology, it’s already outdated, having long been used in the private sector. This perpetuates criticism mistakenly linked to existing regulations, lack of communication with industry, workforce training, etc.

In a bygone era, the government led technological change. Now it mostly follows.

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