What is Acquisition Innovators Weekly?

The easy answer to the headline’s question is that the Weekly is an online newspaper. What might be more interesting for you is to understand how I choose which articles to include in each issue.

The Weekly was in born in May 2018 as a daily online newspaper using the same underlying curation software, paperli. In those heady days, a person could load up a daily paper with news related to acquisition innovation in less than an hour a day. Nowadays, there is so much news that I must apply a finer strainer to the exercise and take more time to do it lest I overwhelm you, its readers.

As an editor for many years, I often taught writers and reporters to put pictures of those they were writing for around their computer screens to remind themselves to focus on their readers’ interests and to write in a voice and at a level of sophistication that matched the recipients’.

So, who do I have in mind when I am curating articles for the Weekly?

Well, all of you of course, but also a wider community of people interested in and practicing acquisition innovation. They include contracting professionals in government daring to push the Federal Acquisition Regulation to its limits and to experiment with tools such as other transaction authority (OTA), rapid prototyping and fielding, the commercial solutions opening, digital IT acquisition, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and much more.

I am thinking about what news, reports, analysis and other resources would be helpful to people trying to keep up with procurement innovation—not just what’s labeled that way, but what’s happening across government and the federal market that’s new and shaking up traditional approaches.

For example, the new U.S. Space Force wants its own acquisition system to apply new approaches to new endeavors, such as buying and launching a constellation of new small satellites using the services of small launch companies.

The Defense Innovation Board’s 2019 Software Acquisition and Practices Study helped motivate the software acquisition lane in the DOD Adaptive Acquisition Pathways. The SWAP Study drew upon the origin story of Kessel Run, the first Air Force software factory, which in turn has spawned others in the Star Wars panoply, including Kobayashi Maru in Los Angeles and BESPIN in Montgomery, Alabama. So you’ll be hearing more about software acquisition developments.

Another tranche of Weekly target readers includes the companies that want to provide innovative technology, services and approaches to government. They include both well-known federal contractors and would-be newcomers to the market—startups, emerging companies, and commercial companies that heretofore have seen no real advantage to government sales.

Attracting especially those newcomers is the job for a rapidly expanding number of innovation hubs within and around government. Some 30 or so OTA consortia, partnership intermediary agreement organizations such as SOFWERX, AFWERX and the like, startup accelerators, venture capital firms and other sherpas hoping to bring sharp young firms into agencies. The hubs also are Weekly candidates.

In the July 8 issue of Acquisition Innovators Weekly, then, you’ll see obvious choices, such as the lead story about COVID-19 advancing procurement reform around the world, and those about AFWERX on building an innovative community and transitioning tech. Also pretty easy to understand is the inclusion of coverage of cancellation of the huge Alliant 2 Small Business contract—not so much innovation as important information for small companies and for those who would hire them.

But why articles about a COVID-19 patient transport and the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle? You need to read them to understand, but each one features out-of-the box contracting. The transport was rapidly prototyped under an other transaction agreement through the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction consortium. The OMFV process has been characterized by extensive digital vs. physical prototyping and intense market research of a very different and much deeper type than required under the FAR.

You’ll also see a good bit of coverage of Chinese investment in U.S. startups and Chinese technology. The world of innovation has special reason to understand and be cautious of Chinese influence and infiltration. U.S. innovation is our best hope of dealing with China’s rise and efforts at world domination.

The world of unmanned systems is especially vulnerable, since China, through the company Da Jiang Innovations, DJI, currently dominates the world market for small drones. So much so, that Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord has marshaled her Trusted Capital Marketplace to hold a drone investor-innovator matchmaking event last November to kickstart a U.S. small drone market.

As companies selling to government and their investors and sherpas know, it’s vital to know “who’s who in the zoo.” So, I also include coverage of comings and going in positions important to innovators. Hence, for example, the article about filling the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy post, which among other things, plays roles in both COVID-19 response and the Trusted Capital Marketplace.
Finally, any publication worth its salt covers candidates’ policy positions of note during a presidential election year, so you’ll see and be seeing articles about Sen. Joe Biden’s plans for innovation in defense and civilian agencies and the U.S. economy.

I am always open to help, advice and suggestions for the Weekly, so please don’t hesitate to send me your ideas in the Comments section of the Out of the Box blog!

Outside the Box Blog

Thoughtful commentary every week from Anne Laurent and the community about trends, surprises, lessons, and cautions in pursuit of Acquisition Innovation. Stay up to speed on acquisition innovation here.