Center Blog

Innovation is a Contract Sport

February 17, 2016

Peter Kamocsai, Research Associate, Government Affairs, Partnership for Public Service

When government and the private sector innovate together, we help gravely injured veterans walk again, we save lives through faster emergency responses and we send people to the moon.

A key enabler of innovations in government are acquisitions—government contracting for goods and services. Last year alone, the government spent $440 billion on acquisitions—enough to buy Facebook, Disney and Starbucks together. Those $440 billion were spent on goods and services crucial to achieving agency missions.

But how is this relevant to the presidential transition?

The Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton interviewed dozens of federal officials who are working to form strategic partnerships with the private sector for our report, “Innovation is a Contract Sport.” The report’s recommendations can help bridge the gap between administrations, preparing the new administration to take on the mantle of innovating through acquisitions on January 20th, 2017.

Transition teams need to maintain and accelerate the innovation momentum within federal agencies.

The issues critical to reaching this goal include:

  • Calling the right plays: From day one, the new administration’s team should prioritize filling the position of chief acquisition officer or senior procurement executive, and appoint leaders who accept, encourage and reward risk-taking to find new ways to better serve citizens. Additionally, people in these positions, especially agency leaders responsible for acquisitions, need to be held responsible for innovation and a build a culture that supports it.
  • Building the best team: From day one, agencies should build cross-functional teams to allow for the most innovative solutions possible.
  • Using the full playbook: From day one, agencies should use the full-range of flexibilities allowed in and outside of the Federal Acquisition Regulation to allow for innovative thinking. These flexibilities will allow them to fail fast and learn from failures, while balancing risk for both government and private partners.

The bottom line is that the transition teams and agency leaders need to make sure that the new administration can expand government-industry partnerships to address the nation’s most pressing challenges.

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