For Political Appointees: Why Acquisition Success Equals Mission Success
Acquisitions are the key to success in major programs of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The procurement process deploys the materials, services, and knowledge necessary to operate the DHS’ protective and preventative missions. Without timely and effective procurements, DHS could face new and avoidable challenges in their mission to prevent terrorism, manage our borders, enforce immigration laws, secure cyberspace, and act with resilience in the face of disasters.
To grow and maintain a strong acquisitions function, the next Administration and political appointees in a wide variety of mission and mission support roles should promote:
- A forward thinking and informed acquisition workforce
- A culture of knowledge sharing between program offices and acquisition professionals
- Communication with industry to drive innovation
A well-educated acquisition workforce that is encouraged by its leaders to take smart risks is a strong workforce. People are the Government’s greatest asset, and there are limitless sources of trainings on acquisition topics. Contracting processionals, though, have limited time. Therefore, an acquisition office must:
- Accommodate and anticipate the training needs of their personnel based on demographics and agency culture
- Conduct forecasting measures to manage workloads and plan future needs. For example, DHS uses the Acquisition Planning Forecast System
- Stay up to date on industry trends and best practices and share these across their workforce
Knowledge sharing is a challenge because the programs and acquisition offices are both very busy and procurements are becoming more complex. Building a strong partnership early – between the programs and acquisition officials, then bringing in legal and other experts as needed – help each procurement lower risk and find the time to drive innovation. Divisions apply other divisions’ techniques and talents, and position their teams for success. Through knowledge sharing comes empathy, which leads to a better procurement that drives greater mission synchrony.
Finally, engaging industry early in more complex acquisitions helps both the program and acquisition officials generate innovative ideas that informs their statements of work, acquisition strategy, and evaluation criteria to select the best solution for each need.
If each political appointee takes the opportunity to learn how important acquisition is to achieving the missions of DHS, they can make a tremendous contribution to the collaboration and results of the Department.