“Accelerate. Agile. Streamline.” The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has used buzzwords like these many times before to describe its ideal approach to acquisitions. And yet, government contracting still seems just cumbersome and slow to many commercial vendors. As one audience member pointed out Wednesday at the GEOINT Symposium’s Government Pavilion Stage: What’s different this time?
A panel of NGA procurement officials attempted to answer that question during a session on “Acquisition Agility.” Moderated by Dr. Fred Turman, co-chair of USGIF’s NGA Advisory Working Group, the panel included Kelly Pickering, director of NGA’s Office of Contract Services; Matt Conner, NGA’s chief information security officer; Shenice Stephens, a division chief in NGA’s Office of Ventures and Innovation; and Mark Andress, NGA’s chief information officer.
During an expansive, 75-minute conversation, each explained efforts underway in their respective offices to encourage and activate increased speed, agility, and transparency.
In the Office of Contract Services, for example, Pickering wants to develop an agile workforce by encouraging and rewarding employees who exercise creativity, risk-taking, and communication. Across NGA, meanwhile, Andress is promoting contracts with more modular components. And in the area of cybersecurity, Conner is pushing security control inheritance as a means to expedite development by way of standardization.
But if you really want to know why things are different this time, the man with the answer is Kevin Meiners, deputy director of national intelligence for enterprise capacity with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), who opened Wednesday’s panel discussion with a brief keynote. The X-factor, he said, is his boss, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence (PDDNI) Sue Gordon, who made acquisition agility one of ODNI’s six principal objectives when she reorganized the office in 2018.
“When … things take off is when you have senior leaders focused on the topic,” Meiners concluded.