On June 1, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Susan Gordon released the following open letter to the NGA: “Maximizing NGA’s aquisition system for NGA/NSG Mission.” The letter appears below, and a copy of the acquisition rules is available here.
The timely acquisition of the right technologies, data, and services from industry, academe, non-profits and other government agency partners is essential to our operation.
Mission must always come first; the mission does not wait. American national security requires that our national security bureaucracy outperforms the pace of the threats our nation and our allies face. Our enemies do not pause to accommodate inefficient processes. It is our responsibility to keep abreast of new acquisition processes and find ways to leverage innovation to accelerate the accomplishment of our mission.
Customers require rapid delivery of solutions and services to realize their mission outcomes. Their needs and requirements continuously evolve; we must build speed and flexibility (agility) into our acquisition processes to respond to those evolutions. It is our job to acquire the technologies, data and services that NGA and the NSG need to execute our mission in the most effective, efficient and timely manner possible.
Our acquisition process follows the NGA Acquisition Regulation Implementation (NARI), the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation (DFAR). Although these acquisition regulations and policies contain explicit and statutorily required provisions, they also offer significant flexibilities. Sometimes, opportunities associated with these flexibilities are lost or, worse, ignored due to our agency’s misinterpretation, reliance on past practices, or competing priorities (i.e., the drive for contract consolidations to ease workload or centralize management).
I urge you to challenge the status quo, to leverage best practices and develop tools and guidance that emphasize flexibilities in the FAR and DFAR. Doing so will drive outcomes and accountability and allow people to do their best work.
The Tech FAR Handbook and Digital Services Playbook highlight flexibilities in authorities that enable acquisition agility. NSG’s Acquisition Strategy provides an overarching framework to enable NGA to drive efficiency as well. All acquisition personnel should complete NGA courses Agile 101 and Agency Orientation toward Agility.
To be clear, while we incorporate agility into NGA’s acquisition guidance, all acquisition personnel should assume that if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interest of NGA and is not specifically addressed or prohibited (by law, Executive Order, regulation or local policy) then that strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority. We must discover and embrace best practices to achieve more effective, efficient and timely means of meeting mission owners’ needs. NGA leadership establishes the vision for agency success, and our portfolio managers (PfMs) and acquisition experts translate that vision into action. As a foundation for improvement, I have identified rules, included on the next page, for using the flexibilities within our acquisition process to bring agility and efficiency to our acquisitions.
Innovation in the acquisition process continues across the enterprise. We must take full advantage of existing acquisition flexibilities, embrace new acquisition methods and reduce our acquisition cycle. I challenge the NGA workforce to build flexibility into all acquisitions so that we can provide services and capabilities to customers that are timely, offer the best value and are more effective than ever before.
Susan M. Gordon