National security depends on agile acquisition – NGA official


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Agile contracting not only reduces the risk that a project will go awry; it also can bolster national security, one intelligence official wrote.

Susan Gordon, deputy director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, penned an open letter to her workforce in which she challenges the NGA acquisition community to make acquisition faster, more flexible and more efficient to outpace enemies of the state.

“Mission must always come first; the mission does not wait,” Gordon wrote. “American national security requires that our national security bureaucracy outperforms the pace of the threats our nation and our allies face. Our enemies do not pause to accommodate inefficient processes. It is our responsibility to keep abreast of new acquisition processes and find ways to leverage innovation to accelerate the accomplishment of our mission.”

NGA Deputy Director Susan Gordon (NGA)

Like many other agencies that have recently jumped on the agile wave, Gordon wrote that the acquisition regulations NGA must abide by — the Federal Acquisition Regulation, NGA Acquisition Regulation Implementation and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation — are more flexible than often thought. She said the NGA workforce could use tools like the TechFAR Handbook and the Digital Services Playbook “to challenge the status quo, to leverage best practices and develop tools and guidance that emphasize flexibilities in the FAR and DFAR. Doing so will drive outcomes and accountability and allow people to do their best work.”

Additionally, Gordon said there are NGA courses acquisition personnel should take, such as “Agile 101 and Agency Orientation toward Agility.”

In her letter, Gordon introduced several “rules for capitalizing on acquisition flexibilities.” Beyond setting a sort of starting point for the workforce to explore flexible acquisition, the rules put the responsibility on individuals to bring ideas to the table. The final rule says, “Any NGA employee with a concrete idea to streamline acquisition processes has the responsibility to notify the Component Acquisition Executive of potential concrete steps that could be taken to unburden the process.”

Gordon emphasized this responsibility in her letter, writing, “all acquisition personnel should assume that if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interest of NGA and is not specifically addressed or prohibited (by law, Executive Order, regulation or local policy) then that strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority. We must discover and embrace best practices to achieve more effective, efficient and timely means of meeting mission owners’ needs.”

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agile development, Defense & Intelligence, Government IT News, NGA, Procurement, Susan Gordon