Fixing Acquisitions, Passing Laws: The Digital Transformation – Part 4

Bottom Line Up Front: The 2018 Defense Budget commissions a panel of Silicon Valley big bosses and tech geniuses to figure out how to fix DoD acquisitions.

Where We Left Off

In yesterday’s blog entry, we were continuing our detailed explanation of DoD acquisition boss Ellen Lord’s steps to overhaul technology acquisitions, as laid out in this article from Business Insider.

So she’d asked the Defense Science Board to give her recommendations on what to do, and they wrote this report.

Then What Happened?

She asked for a second report from some other folks. In her own words:

In accordance with the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I commissioned a complementary study by the Defense Innovation Board (DIB).

Ok, there is a lot to break down in that sentence. Let’s take it a step at a time.

First, We Passed A Law

The “National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)” is a document informally known as the Defense Budget. “FY2018” refers to the 2018 Fiscal Year. In other words, she added stuff to the 2018 Defense Budget (which you can read in its entirety by following this link). I do so every year and let me tell you, it’s super fun!

Now, stop for a minute and consider how staggering and impactful it is that Ellen Lord’s group of reformers passed a law in Congress! Whatever Ellen Lord and the acquisition reformers had in mind, it must be BIG if they are going through all the trouble to craft legislation, get it approved by the House and Senate, signed by the President, and given the weight of law. They were planning something, and it wasn’t going to be small potatoes.

And it wasn’t. Section 872 of the law says:

The Secretary of Defense shall direct the Defense Innovation Board to undertake a study on streamlining software development and acquisition regulations.

The entire section is a little lengthy, and you can read it if you want to take in the whole thing, but in short, it says some outfit called the “Defense Innovation Board” will craft recommendations on how to overhaul acquisitions from the ground up.

So Who Is This “Defense Innovation Board”?

Oh man, this is where it gets good!

The Defense Innovation Board is a panel of —wait for it— Silicon Valley titans. The Big Bosses. The Captains of Silicon Valley.

The solutions to broken contracting weren’t going to come from DoD acquisitions pros, nor from Federal contractors, nor from anyone in the Government contracting industry. No. It was going to come from Silicon Valley.

Wait, you’re kidding, right?

Nope. Take a look at the names in the 2018 panel:

  • Eric Schmidt – Chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet
  • Jeff Bezos – CEO of Amazon
  • Reid Hoffman – Founder of LinkedIn
  • Marne Levine – CEO Instagram
  • Danny Hillis – supercomputer genius, founder of Thinking Machines and Appiled Minds

Plus also a trainload of math geniuses, policy wonks, and a who’s-who of science and technology glitterati.

Let me highlight it one more time because it’s a staggering thing! Silicon Valley bosses were put in charge of rewriting the Federal acquisition industry.

Holy cow, So What Did The Report Say?

Well, it’s so big and wide-ranging that it warrants its own blog entry. We’ll cover it tomorrow.

Suffice it to say that people of this caliber weren’t going to piddle around with half measures. If you are in the DoD contracting world, you can be sure that your entire industry is going to be rewritten from the ground up. Find out tomorrow!

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