Can we make rapid acquisition more efficient by tearing down our own walls?
“When it comes to the Olympic-style bidding for Amazon’s second headquarters, the nation’s capital and its neighbors could have joined together in a united front,” NPR reported Friday, 4 May 2018 in an article about the shortlist for Amazon’s next hub. “Instead, the District of Columbia and the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia decided to compete against each other.”
Ouch. That sounds familiar. Not so much the competition for resources–though that’s there as well–as the lack of teamwork or admitting that someone else might have better methods and then actually using said methods.
How often does the Air Force, for example, leverage rapid acquisition successes from the Navy or Army? I honestly can’t recall a single time in my personal experience that I was sent elsewhere or that any of them came to me. At least not through official channels.
Not. A. Single. Time.
We’re having three-legged races while a bus big enough for us all is idling next to the track.
Ask your Air Force boss if you can use an Army technique because it’s better and he’ll likely grimace, sucking air through his teeth and stretching wide his bottom lip while he tries to figure out how to explain to you how things work. You may even hear that there really are such things as stupid questions.
The NPR article goes on to say that the different competitors within the DC area could have pooled resources for a big win instead of one-upping each other with higher incentives for Amazon. In other words, teamwork could have made them all winners, and much more efficiently with limited resources.
And that’s a reflection of a frustration for me when it comes to the rapid acquisition tidal wave I’ve been watching for the last year: I just don’t see enough working together among the different Government entities trying to get to the same finish line. We’re having three-legged races while a bus big enough for us all is idling next to the track.
For the last 6 or so years, several organizations have been pushing for rapid acquisition, yet they don’t really share information, techniques, lessons learned. At least, not that I saw when I was the Rapid Acquisition Cell chief. I reached out to a few here and there when I found someone willing to talk to me, and as my network of what I called “acquisition lighthouses” or “beacons of light” expanded as I began to find my tribe, I shared information and gleaned everything I could from anyone willing to share…and many haven’t been willing to share. Then again, I subscribe to an abundance mindset, not a scarcity mindset, and we’re all pushing rapid acquisition for the same end goal. I’m not going to worry about credit–I’m focused on lives and lead-times, and I’m rolling my eyes at resume-builders.
Some of us down in the trenches are sharing, and this is very exciting and passionate work, but the question is, is that same level of sharing happening higher up? Can the Army, Navy, Air Force, DARPA, Labs, MDA, various rapid capabilities organizations, innovation hubs, AFWERX, DIUx, and other Government entities with the same end goal of moving technology out there with greatly reduced timelines share their wins and borrow from each other? I see some communicating, yes, and I’m heartened by that. I’m having a lot of fun talking to the AFWERX/DIUx networks. But are most of the lighthouses out there creating rapid acquisition processes and libraries from scratch?
For example, is there a single list of all the OTA consortia out there? What’s the Dept of Interior doing? The Dept of Labor? I have no idea who that gatekeeper would be but why isn’t there a list we could share? Why create a new OTA from scratch for a similar purpose (assuming the scope can be written broadly enough) if we can leverage an existing OTA?
And don’t tell me it can’t be done–I know better. Been there, done that, wove the T-shirt myself.
(Lorna’s secret weapon: broad scope + flexible contracting vehicles = ability to contract quickly)
If you know better, you can plan better. You can strategize for more efficient use of resources. But the successes are smaller in the trenches. They are greater–scaleable–as sharing and cooperation rise to the top.
Let’s get rid of the stovepipes and leverage our successes at the broadest and highest levels. That’s another way you move faster–you build on what’s already been done successfully while continuing to look for new ideas that might be better but without wasting time reinventing the mechanisms for the products and services needed more urgently.
Time to get rid of ego and admit that other organizations, services, agencies, etc, might have a better way we can emulate. All these rapid and rapid-wannabe organizations are not competitors–our adversaries are the real competition. WE are on the same team.
c 2018 Lorna Tedder
Effective 29 April 2019: Lead/Principal DoD Program Management and Agile Acquisition Subject Matter Expert at The Mitre Corporation
*NO LONGER ACCEPTING CONSULTING CLIENTS*
- Recently retired Contracting Officer, unlimited AFMC warrant 1991-2018; Rapid Acquisition Consultant, 2018-2019.
- Nationally recognized Innovation Thought Leader in Government acquisition
- Rapid acquisition teacher, both FAR and non-FAR based contracting
- Master brain-stormer and advisor to program offices across the DoD
- Expert in developing junior and mid-level personnel to become innovators in Government acquisition
- 3 decades of first-hand experience and success with Other Transactions, Oral Proposals, 10 USC 2373, Broad Agency Announcements, unique pricing arrangements, Price Based Acquisition, Award Without Discussion, streamlined source selections, multiple award IDIQs, UCAs, waivers, omnibus tool creation, Quick Reaction Capability teams, and strategic sourcing.
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