The recently released president’s management agenda states that efforts to transform government through major acquisitions are hamstrung by processes that “remain captive to a risk-averse culture that rewards compliance over creativity.”
No wonder. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contains a mind-numbing 1,917 pages of policies and procedures that government acquisition officials must follow when buying goods and services. Navigating these rules can be daunting for contracting officers, who often live in fear of something going wrong.
But even within the constraints, there is room for flexibility—approaches that deviate from the norm but hold potential to achieve better quality and innovative outcomes while preserving competition, transparency and accountability.
Following a path toward innovation requires overcoming the fear of failure and the willingness to take risks within reasonable bounds.
For example, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been a major cause of injury and death in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq since the United States put its personnel on the ground. Enemy combatants can remotely detonate IEDs using cell phones or other electronic devices.
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