In an era of constrained budgets and an acquisition process, derided by many as too slow to compete with the advancements of information technology, purchasing newer equipment and systems persists as a challenge.
Partnerships between commercial companies, however, might be a way to kill two birds with one stone. Budgets are not going up, John Hickey, director of the Cyber Development Directorate at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said March 1 at an AFCEA hosted mobility summit in Washington.
Think of capacity service type contracts in the area of cybersecurity, Hickey said, regarding ways to get around the current perceived lethargy surrounding acquisition. "Could you get it as a managed service and buy it as an integrated package?" he asked the audience.
He said he is looking for industry to partner together and come with a package that produces the capabilities that DISA is looking at, which is also easier to contract for and allows for the ability to change out of quickly when leasing the equipment. This model has been employed by DISA before in the way of computing centers, he said.
Understand, Hickey said, considering the budget environment means industry must give the government a good deal. When leasing equipment to DoD, it stays there a while, he added, "so give us a price over a period of time that is reasonable, understanding we'll be a little higher than if we just procured the equipment and advertised over five years or so."
"In 28 years at DISA, I have never seen such budgetary limitations…this has been the tightest we had," Tony Montemarano, executive deputy director at DISA, said at a breakfast hosted by AFCEA in January. "Every time we do something at DISA we have to come up with an innovative way of doing it."
Recognizing two parallel realities – that government research, development, testing and evaluation is lower than it’s been in recent years, combined with advancements in the commercial space – Hickey said he wants to leverage this commercial technology.
Across the board, but specifically citing communications as an example, Hickey noted that the commercial space and war fighter space is closer today than it’s ever been.
Another vehicle Hickey mentioned to get around acquisition constraints is other transaction authority, a vehicle that operates outside the usual acquisition methods, providing cost-sharing with vendors with the goal of shortening the capability-development cycle and speed the transition of prototypes to the government. He cited the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental and the Army as beneficiaries of this process and said DISA is also looking to leverage it.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.