Companies new to federal procurement will have an easier path to contracts awarded by the Defense Department as part of ongoing efforts to speed up US military adoption of emerging technologies.
At the Nexus 22 Summit Tuesday, DOD Defense Innovation Unit Director Michael Brown cited the US Navy Task Force 59’s effort to create the largest uncrewed fleet in the world as an example of how the new system should work. DIU focuses on emerging technologies in artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomy, cyber, energy, human systems, and space.
“I really applaud the Navy for having the vision and creativity,” he said. The task force is testing equipment, observing what works and what doesn’t, and collecting data to see what can lessons can be learned.
“That’s exactly what we need to be doing in all the services,” he said.
A new framework announced Monday will place prototypes on General Services Administration contract vehicles. It’s designed to ease barriers to entry into the federal market and “increase the speed at which all U.S. Government agencies can access non-traditional industry partners through GSA contracts,” according to a GSA and DUI memorandum of understanding.
Announcement of the collaboration comes as the DIU called for “immediately demonstrable” commercial uncrewed and autonomous systems for an upcoming exercise with the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
Brown, who is departing from DIU, also called for overhauls in funding and requirements writing. He said both those aspects of procurement limit the government’s ability to keep up with the fastest moving companies in the commercial sector. Brown suggested the need for “buying centers of expertise” for agencies.
“There’s just not a lot of tolerance out there for any programs that fail, and so we almost create this environment where its an impossible scenario” to get new technology into the government, agreed Angel Smith, partner at Microsoft mission solutions and customer expansion, who also spoke at the Nexus 22 summit.
For example, she said, the US Special Operations Command has greater acquisition authority flexibility compared to rest of the services due to “congressional tolerance for the Tier One units where we don’t necessarily have that same level of tolerance for the rest of the DOD.”
DIU’s collaboration with GSA is the next step in a pilot program enacted in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to allow DOD to use the Commercial Solutions Opening process to procure innovative commercial items.
The partnership will also allow civilian agencies to scale commercial technologies at local, state, and federal levels.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patty Nieberg in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org