Driving Impact Through Acquisition Flexibility

January 2020
Topics: Government Agency Operations, Contracts and Contracting, Government Acquisition, Acquisition Management
Ryan M. Novak, The MITRE Corporation
Justin G. Raines, The MITRE Corporation
Stephen W. Roe, The MITRE Corporation
Patrick R. Staresina, The MITRE Corporation
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Sluggish…rigid…inadaptable…unresponsive to evolving mission needs…

These are some of the most commonly heard complaints about the federal acquisition system.

Mimicking and capitalizing upon the benefits of Agile Software development, the government desires to provide programmatic and execution flexibility throughout the acquisition lifecycle; however, traditional acquisition and contracting approaches are challenged to fulfill this need.

Government agencies are in search of new techniques to overcome the slowness and rigidity of traditional acquisition approaches. The contrast in flexibility between traditional and Agile acquisition processes is captured well in a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled, Effective Practice and Federal Challenges in Applying Agile Methods, which states, “Procurement practices may not support Agile projects: Agile projects call for flexibility in adding the staff and resources needed to meet each iteration, and to adapt to changes from one iteration to the next. One official stated that working with federal procurement practices presents a challenge where they do not support the flexibility required.”

To further emphasize this point, the recent efforts of the Section 809 Panel on Streamlining Acquisition and the current focus on Other Transaction Authority (OTA), rapid prototyping, assessments, and fielding, Challenge-Based Acquisition (ChBA), Minimal Viable Products (MVP), and DevSecOps, make it clear that agencies are eager to adapt their acquisition processes and products to allow for greater speed and flexibility to meet evolving demands.

This paper offers a wide range of recommendations for injecting flexibility into acquisitions for software development, security, and operations (DevSecOps) and Agile software development.

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