NGA Looks to Agile, Adaptive Acquisition

Agency representatives host “Acquisition Report Card” session at GEOINT 2017


The audience was equipped with foam NERF bullets as well as green, yellow, and red score cards during the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Acquisition Report Card session at GEOINT 2017. The audience was invited to launch their fake weapons and hold up corresponding cards as representative of their attitude toward NGA’s success level.

The purpose of the panel, held June 7, was to evaluate NGA’s recent performance in certain areas relevant to commercial business—partnering with new companies, for instance—and to highlight ways the agency plans to improve in those areas.

Senior Procurement Executive Nicole Pierce said NGA’s acquisition process has three areas that are ripe for improvement. The first is NGA’s understanding of its own strategy and pre-contracting requirements. According to Pierce, “If you don’t get that phase right, the other two don’t matter.” The next area is the contracting itself, specifically methods of selection, transparency, timeliness, and communications with the contracting office—all of which the crowd felt had been lacking in the past year. The final area Pierce described is allowing for continued innovation in the post-award environment.

“It’s like buying shoes,” Pierce said of the acquisition process. “Am I going for comfort? Am I going for durability? Am I going for style? We want to make sure that we pick the procurement method that actually best fits the needs that we have.”

NGA’s incoming Chief Venture Officer Dr. David Bray said he considers “adaptation” an important keyword for the agency as it molds its acquisition process and leadership techniques. There is no textbook for the future, he said, so the ability to experiment and address things as they come along is essential.

Karyn Hayes-Ryan, NGA’s component acquisition executive, emphasized the necessity of active, tangible follow-through.

Hayes-Ryan outlined the agency’s new Acquisition Workforce Strategy, which involves an increased focus on technology-proficient individuals and agility. To that end, more than 2,700 NGA employees so far have passed an agile acquisition training program.

NGA Acquisition Strategist Daniel Takane spoke to the introduction of human-centered design at the agency, which looks to customers and partners to help identify true root problems rather than symptoms.

Pierce referenced the Commercial Initiative to Buy Operationally Responsive GEOINT (CIBORG) program, through which government agencies buy content from NGA-contracted commercial imagery providers, thus fostering public-private partnerships, as another step in the right direction.

Vinci identified some of NGA’s goals for the next year, including integration of artificial intelligence and integrating more software- and data-centric automation.

A majority of the grading cards held up by the panel’s audience were red or yellow, but NGA leaders said they plan to take the steps necessary to generate more greens by next year’s Symposium.


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