Over the last several months I have read the Section 809 Panel's 3 volumes of recommendations and had the privilege of interviewing the Commissioners and their senior staff. My goal was to keep an open mind, listen carefully and ask thoughtful questions. And this is my analysis.
Something has to be done to improve the Department of Defense's current convoluted, bloated procurement system to ensure that American innovation reaches warfighters quickly. We are in a race with bad actors around the world.
The Panel's recommendations made after 2 years of study and analysis and leveraging the extensive procurement knowledge of the Commissioners, are both evolutionary and revolutionary (relatively speaking). From an evolutionary perspective they are recommending more money for existing small business programs like SBIR and higher limits on buying commercial items and the Simplified Acquisition Procedures. These are excellent and can be implemented relatively quickly.
The other recommendation that can be implemented easily is to allow IT cloud based services to be contracted as consumed. The industry has moved toward selling software and network services "by the drink", which now is a mature business model that should be adopted by the DoD. This could substantially reduce expenses as well.
The most radical of the recommendations is the acquisition of "readily available" products and services up to $17 million. Those that can be bought "as is" for use by DoD and those that may require minor modifications could be acquired in the same manner as a commercial entity would buy them. Vendors compete based upon the value of their offerings and the procurement happens quickly. Small businesses would still receive a 5% price advantage.
Under this scenario, many companies that currently do not do business with the military would be enticed to jump in the fray. In theory, there would be more competition, more innovation and lower prices.
Of course the devil is in the details of how this will be actually implemented throughout the Department of Defense. Questions remain. But some branches of the military such as the AirForce are already implementing creative approaches to injecting innovation into Programs of Record.
Visit our Section 809 Panel web page for details on how to express your thoughts and listen to our podcasts on this topic on the Growth Masters Federal channel.