Acquisition Next: A playbook to break the industrial age paradigm

Acquisition practices and policies at the Department of Defense were originally devised in the 1960s and were optimized for the industrial age. These approaches are counterproductive for today’s digital age, where modern engineering and business practices have dramatically accelerated product development cycle times.

To combat this, the Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University, with partial support from Improbable U.S. Defense & National Security, has published their year-long research project to identify acquisition approaches that break the industrial age paradigm. The report details modern approaches that could be accomplished today without any changes in regulation or legislative authority.

The playbook distills the research into six plays designed to spur modularity, speed, iteration, and competition in defense acquisition:

Program Level Plays

  1. Requirements: Make room for opportunities in program requirements
  2. Market Research: Make market intelligence a core and continuous organizational capability
  3. Master the Baseline: Tailor the contracting approach to technically separable elements

Software Intensive Plays

  1. Agile Work Statements: Separate technical direction from contract work statements
  2. Modular Contracts: Reduce risk by partitioning contract tasks over time and components
  3. Intellectual Property: Avoid vendor lock by deferring rights to interfaces and operational data

Many of the above practices are already being used in select programs today, but more widespread adoption will help drive culture change across the acquisition community.

We encourage defense acquisition leaders and professionals at all levels to review the playbook in order to innovate, iterate, scale, and field effective military capabilities for U.S. and its allies.

Access the full playbook

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