After years of utilizing outside contractors for virtually all of its engineering expertise, the Army is centralizing its acquisition and engineering organization according to a recent Nextgov article by Katherine McIntire Peters.
According to Ross Guckert, Army Assistant Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Integration, it was determined there was no systems engineering function looking across and integrating all programs. This was highlighted last summer when the Army realized it had 16 different “battle command systems” (systems used to communicate on the battlefield) that could not work together. Guckert stated creating a unified communications system is now top priority.
First, while this is just one example, it highlights what could be an emerging trend within government and DoD to centralize core functions (particularly at a strategic level). While this may impact some vendors, overall this should be viewed favorably, as better high-level insight and accountability makes for greater efficiency, improved effectiveness, and a safer nation. Also, as a practical matter, it is far less likely for a vendor’s project to be delayed or cancelled mid-stream if the ongoing initiative fits well within the comprehensive strategic framework.
Second, vendors should place themselves in a position to help drive the conversation about integration and cross-functional applications. Interoperability in communications and other systems is a red hot topic across all levels of government. In the past, vendors sought to create proprietary solutions in hopes they would become the defacto standard. Today, a new mindset of open technologies and systems is making its way into government procurement. While in practice, legacy systems and approaches still may be difficult to remove in the short-term, vendors with an “integration mindset” will be favored going forward.