June 26, 2014 - The highly secretive Defense Intelligence Agency has streamlined and put aspects of its acquisition process online to take advantage of talent and technologically “disruptive” ideas available outside its usual vendor circles, DIA’s chief innovation officer said yesterday.
Dan Doney and his team hosted a two-day DIA Innovation Symposium at DIA headquarters this week, during which the agency uncharacteristically threw open its doors, common spaces and auditorium to companies and their display booths, current vendors, and media representatives with cellphones, recorders and cameras.
A highlight of the symposium was Doney’s unveiling of the Open Innovation Gateway, an Internet-accessible environment in which any potential vendor can apply for an account. Once an applicant is approved they can use the site to demonstrate their technology directly to the specific DIA-mission user.
“The Open Innovation Gateway is a big part of our strategy to make sure that we take full advantage of the best capabilities that exist and, most importantly, that we have a model for reaching disruptive technologies,” said Doney, defining disruptive technologies as “paradigm changing.”
In the old model, he said, a vendor had to travel to DIA’s headquarters with a slide show presentation and sell someone who wasn’t the mission user on how useful to the mission the new capability was.
“What we needed was a mechanism where [mission users] can interact with your capabilities,” Doney told the audience. “They can be the tester of your capabilities in a discovery mode, so even if we didn't know to ask for your capability you have an opportunity to showcase it, because what we want to do is tie together the mission user and the technologist.”
The Gateway model allows such technology to prove its worth to DIA, in a relevant setting, before the agency invests heavily in the application, the CIO added.
Even in the Open Innovation Gateway, Doney said, “we have to take certain steps to maintain a safe, secure environment … and to make sure we're operating efficiently and economically. But all the other steps in the process that aren't value-added we want to streamline so we can take full advantage of what you have to offer.”
Although the Gateway is not quite ready for public release, eight companies called alpha providers were chosen by competitive solicitation to vet the new system, Doney said.
“It’s an environment where we can evolve tradecraft and develop new approaches to our mission problems,” he explained.
Near the end of the symposium, Doney introduced Karyn Hayes-Ryan, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s deputy component acquisition executive and director of the NGA Agility Strategic Initiative.
Last fall, the NGA began to revolutionize its relationship with industry through a program called the geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT, Solutions Marketplace, called GSM, which operates as an online exchange for government and vendors, commercial partners, academic institutions and the broader geospatial intelligence community.
“We wanted to fundamentally change how we were dealing with industry, how we were going to expand our relationship with academia and how we were going to drive R&T organizations -- industry and government -- to try to work some of our really hard problems,” Hayes-Ryan said, “so we began our efforts late last year to try to drive innovation and agility and created this concept of a GEOINT Solutions Marketplace.”
They wanted to see what solutions already existed, have the capabilities demonstrated for them, and find an easy acquisition model so they could get those capabilities quickly into users' hands, she added.
Looking around for models of such government streamlining, she stumbled on NeedipeDIA, Hayes-Ryan explained, a DIA project that uses an unclassified website to communicate mission needs to innovators in industry and academia.
Hayes-Ryan and Doney met later that year to discuss their projects, she said.
“Since then we have shared that vision and have pushed to revolutionize those capabilities and the industry interaction,” Hayes-Ryan said.
“Central to NGA's strategy and also to ours is the idea of a government-industry partnership and fostering those relationships,” Doney said.
DIA, NGA and other government partners are beginning to work together in “ways that could be game changing,” he added.
Reprinted from the U.S. Department of Defense