Navy considers venture capitalism to speed IT acquisitions

NEW ORLEANS'The Navy is starting a dialogue with venture capitalists that officials hope will result in a speedier acquisition process for bringing innovative technologies to warfighters.

It currently takes the Navy five to six years to acquire and field a new technology, officials say. Venture capitalists can cut that time significantly, according to several panelists who spoke today at the Department of the Navy Enterprise IT Industry Symposium, sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association

The Navy is studying the model the CIA has with its venture capital arm In-Q-Tel to see whether it would work with the service. That model could work, although the Navy might do well using several venture firms instead of one, according to one panelist.

"In-Q-Tel is a good model, but it needs to be broader in the way it's used from the Navy experience," according to Dominic Rodrigues, vice president of SAIC Ventures.

Rodrigues'who was joined on the panel by Nelson Cooney, managing principal of VentureGov Group; John Borchers, partner, Crescendo Ventures; and Mark Hatfield, managing director, Motorola Ventures'said he would like to see the Navy communicate its challenges and help venture capitalists understand what the service hopes to gain.

He added that the Navy needs to commit a single person to be the liaison on the issue and to help venture capitalists understand what the needs of the organization are.

Capt. Chris Christopher, a project director for the Navy's program executive office for IT, said the service is starting the dialogue now.

"The venture capital community has its hands on newer, cutting-edge technology first because they're the ones underwriting it," Christopher said. "We are figuring out how do we work together. The venture capitalists do more due diligence than anyone. Can we leverage what they're doing? This is certainly worth exploring."

Christopher said the Navy would spend the next year talking to the firms and would report its findings at next year's symposium.

Hatfield said the two areas in which the Navy is most in need of venture capitalists' help with technical innovation are biometrics, including enterprisewide physical and network security, and data management.

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