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Last week, the White House announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), a new team of America’s best digital experts dedicated to improving and simplifying the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government. The USDS team has already begun to make progress by releasing the TechFAR Handbook, a guide that helps explain how Federal agencies can take advantage of existing procurement authorities to execute key plays in the Digital Services Playbook.
The Federal Government has long used its buying power as one of the world’s largest customers to accelerate well-known innovations, from the first microchips to the Global Positioning System (GPS). Today, Federal agencies continue to leverage innovative procurement practices that spur the private sector to develop advanced technologies to better serve the American people – and to pay only for successful results, not just best efforts.
Today, the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget are pleased to release the first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, an iterative, evolving document that describes a number of ways Federal agencies are getting more innovation per taxpayer dollar – all under existing laws and regulations. For example, NASA has used milestone-based payments to promote private sector competition for the next generation of astronaut transportation services and moon exploration robots. The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an invitation for short concept papers that lowered barriers for non-traditional government contractors, which led to the discovery of powerful new technologies in mobile health and trauma care. The Department of Defense has used head-to-head competitions in realistic environments to identify new robot and vehicle designs that will protect soldiers on the battlefield.
We encourage both private sector stakeholders and public servants to engage in a sustained public discussion, identifying new case studies and improving this document’s usefulness in future iterations. At the same time, Federal government employees can join a community of practice around innovative contracting by signing up for the new “Buyers Club” email group (open to all .gov and .mil email addresses). This “Buyers Club” group should provide a useful forum for troubleshooting and sharing best practices across the Federal government, serving everyone from contracting officers with deep expertise in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to program managers looking for new ways to achieve their agencies’ missions.
All of these innovative contracting efforts are aligned with President Obama’s management agenda to deliver a 21st century government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth, including specific cross-agency initiatives on Smarter IT delivery, strategic sourcing, and shared services. We encourage readers to join the public discussion of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, or sign up for the Feds-only “Buyers Club” email group. We look forward to raising awareness about the many ways that the Federal Government can use the power of the purse to deliver powerful and cost-effective technology solutions for the American people.
Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Lesley Field is the Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.