Facilitating a Paradigm Shift: An Acquisition Playbook for the Information Age

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January 19, 2021—The Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University today announced the launch of a year-long research project to identify Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition best practices in an effort to improve the way the government and commercial companies work together.

For the past 50 years, there has been a stable consensus about the benefits of competition in the Department of Defense. Unfortunately, infrequent “winner-take-all” programs, for example, favor large incumbents and often lead to de facto monopoly positions. Contracting practices, moreover, can reinforce barriers to entry and discourage innovation.

Acquisition reform efforts have attempted to address challenges in the system for decades. Blue ribbon commissions, legislative changes, and DoD initiatives have attempted to reform how the DoD purchases systems and services from vendors. More recently, attempts to bring in commercial technology from companies in Silicon Valley resulted in efforts that have largely gone around the defense acquisition system. These critical initiatives, however, have led to innovative prototypes and exciting demonstrations that often struggle to transition to programs of record.

The time is ripe for a change in approach rather than a new set of reforms. What is needed now is a change in mindset, a paradigm shift in approaching defense acquisition. “Instead of incremental efforts or end-runs around the system, we should change how we think about defense acquisition,” said Center for Government Contracting Executive Director Jerry McGinn. The center has produced a video that describes how traditional DOD contracting practices, developed for industrial age processes, fall short in today’s information-age environment.

This study has been facilitated by generous donations in support of defense acquisition research from the Common Mission Project and a group of leading companies in defense technology: AndurilBMNT Inc.ImprobableScaleBalius Partners, and GoTenna. The Common Mission Project is a nonprofit dedicated to creating a global network of mission-driven entrepreneurs driven to solve the critical challenges of our time—from national security to natural disasters, from energy to the environment.

“CMP is glad to be part of this important effort to demystify the acquisition process. It is our hope that the Acquisition Playbook will help speed the adoption of technological advances that will help keep our country safe,” said Alex Gallo, CMP executive director.

An Acquisition Playbook for the Information Age

The acquisition playbook will mine the best of commercial and defense innovation and deliver a playbook that educates, informs, and provides practical approaches to government acquisition professionals to facilitate true competition throughout the acquisition life cycle.

“We are grateful for the donations from CMP and its partner companies to support acquisition research,” said McGinn. “This study will examine how DoD can more efficiently and fairly tap into the full range of innovation available in the government contracting marketplace.”

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The Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University’s School of Business is a nexus for government, industry, and academia to explore issues in government contracting. The Center is the first university-based organization to address business, policy, regulatory and other issues in government contracting through research, collaboration, and education and training.