Adaptive Acquisition in Government: Deploying Agile Practices for DOD

Gone are the days of the “waterfall” model in software development—those lengthy, risky processes that notoriously churn out cumbersome IT systems and create technical debt. Federal agencies, recognizing these pitfalls, are pivoting to agile development.  

The need for rapid, mission-first IT services is critical, especially at the Department of Defense (DoD). To ensure DoD agencies and service members have quick access to the latest commercially available technologies, they are aligning agile acquisition methods with agile software development. 

 Mark Kitz, chief of the Army’s program executive office for command, control, and communications-tactical, captured this shift succinctly at the AFCEA Belvoir Industry Days, as quoted by Federal News Network: “That’s really what I think agile does for us in the government — these agile acquisition programs can more directly tie commander needs to how we build our programs.”   

 The DoD’s own Adaptive Acquisition Framework highlights a similar philosophy. It notes the integration of “modern iterative software development practices such as Agile or Lean Software Development Methods.” The aim is to streamline how services are acquired from the private sector.   

Transforming the DoD’s Acquisition Process 

The traditional system of RFIs, RFPs, Q+As, proposals, and implementation is not only costly and time consuming but often outdated by the time it’s implemented because of changing needs and tech advancements. At REI, our agile methods prepare for and adapt to these changes. We focus on the desired end results and work backwards, using collaborative strategies over cumbersome documentation to avoid ending up with systems that don’t meet the actual needs. 

 This is massively important to DoD and organizations like the Army. Through the Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU) Immersive Acquisition Program, the DoD is training acquisition professionals in Agile. Army Maj. Michael E. Gerbasi, a contracting officer who participated in the program, emphasized the quick and efficient prototype awards process, a method new to him before his DIU experience, which aims to be replicated across the Army. 

Here’s what agile procurement looks like to REI: 

  • Ensuring procurement aligns with the agency’s mission. 
  • Breaking down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks for incremental achievement. 
  • Quick procurement that adjusts to the evolving needs of officials and end users. 
  • Using a challenge model to test drive solutions from multiple vendors. 
  • Flexibility to shift vendor roles quickly as project requirements evolve. 
  • Collaborative testing of each project phase with user feedback loop. 
  • Success measured by outcomes and user adoption. 

We celebrate DoD’s move to navigate to more effective acquisition processes, enabling them to hit mission goals with precision. Consider the Army’s dedication to speed up the acquisition process, as noted by its Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics & Technology Young Bang. He said he wants to “ensure that realistic testing and Soldier feedback are integrated into the acquisition process.” 

To ensure service members have the tools they need when they need them, the Army should partner with contractors who have deep experience in agile methodologies – for both service delivery and procurement. For example, REI already manages our own contracts office using agile principles and has a team of highly experienced Agilists leveraging our Agile Delivery Framework for successful delivery. Our agility services are designed for rapid adaptation and include: 

  • Agile Enterprise Transformation 
  • Lean Portfolio Management 
  • Process Automation 
  • Quality Management 
  • Software Delivery Lifecycle 
  • Advisory Services 
  • Agile Program Management 
  • Cloud Migration 
  • DevSecOps 

When combined with REI’s Mindful Modernization® approach, which brings together people, processes, and technology to meet mission success, our services also align with the Army’s desire to bring “a human-centered design to improve the user experience,” as described by Maj. Luis “Lou” Gaitan-Tovar in a discussion about how the Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army (IPPS-A) portfolio called Accessions Information Environment (AIE) is using an adaptive acquisition approach to meet its mission to enhance the Army’s recruiting process. 

For our warfighters, agile methodologies are critical. They cannot afford to wait for tools that no longer serve the mission because of delays. They cannot be bogged down with monolithic IT systems. At REI, we’re ready and eager to support the DoD as it embraces the full potential of adaptive acquisition. 

 Read our other blogs on the subject: 

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