Acquisition: More like jazz, less like practicing scales

Acquisition: More like jazz, less like practicing scales

The speed of technology development has pushed officials to return to basics as barriers surrounding traditional acquisition stall procurement.  According to one official, innovation within the government IT space should resemble jazz.

“When I think about innovation, I think about jazz musicians,” Elliott Branch, from the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, said. Musicians understand how the 12 notes that make up a scale are put together; they know what the rules are, when to break the rules and the effect breaking these rules will have. 

The Navy, he said, has created too many rules that add complexity to the buying process but don’t necessarily lead to the right solutions.

“The innovation I want to chase is not the innovation of process, it’s the innovation of the technology,” Branch, who is deputy assistant secretary for acquisitions and procurement, said during a June 8 panel discussion at the Acquire Show in Washington, D.C.  The Navy must simplify and strip requirements to bare essentials, he said, and must think of product innovation as opposed to process innovation, especially when it comes to data center consolidation and mobility, which  will drive decisions in acquisition for years to come, Branch said. 

There is a great deal of data center capacity that is not being used efficiently, he said.  The force has worked over the last few years to better leverage this capacity by moving to the cloud and virtualizing  machines and applications, but questions still exist.  “How much of that can we basically put in the commercial space, how much of that are we going to put in the government dedicated clouds, how much of that are we going to leave in kind of the brick and mortar traditional data centers?” he asked. 

The capability to be able to work anytime, anywhere around the world will drive demand for mobility on the infrastructure.  By using innovation labs, the force can experiment with promising technologies and see if they scale, Branch said. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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