The FBI and Treasury Department will be the first agencies to pilot the federal Digital Acquisition Accelerator.
Through the accelerator — cooperatively run by the General Services Administration’s 18F and Presidential Innovation Fellows teams — the FBI and Treasury cohort will receive six to eight months of training in human-centered design, lean and agile methodologies, open innovation, and modular contracting at no cost to their agencies. At the end of the program, participating teams will use their new skills to execute two digital acquisitions each for their agencies, with some assistance of program leaders.
Coming in to the pilot phase of the accelerator, the FBI plans to work on digital acquisitions for a National Virtual Translation Center redesign and mobile tagging and scanning of crime scenes. Treasury will work on certificate of label approval registry modernization for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and a modernization of IRS’ auction.gov auction website.
During the first acquisition, the agencies’ teams will receive structured guidance from program leaders, but during the second, they will be left to go it alone, aside from some coaching if needed.
“Like the proverb ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,’ the purpose of these pilots is not just to disrupt a few acquisition and procurement processes and leave. Instead, they’re meant to build capacity in these agencies to incite change within the organization,” 18F wrote in a blog post in March.
“The joint group will coach the agency teams throughout the acquisitions, helping participants to become more confident in their ability to modify acquisition processes to fit modern-day practices. With each new phase and acquisition, the teams will become more competent and will improve their skills,” it says.
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy announced the accelerator in March as part of an White House initiative to launch agency innovation labs. The accelerator program is meant to complement and train the professionals who work in those labs, which should “provide the agency’s workforce with a clear pathway to test and document new acquisition practices and facilitate fresh perspectives on existing practices” and “help programs and [integrated project teams] successfully execute emerging and well-established acquisition practices to achieve better results for the taxpayer,” U.S. Chief Acquisition Officer Anne Rung wrote in her guidance, released in March.
The efforts, in total, aim to improve the way federal agencies acquire goods and services, particularly IT. Although the federal government spends more than $80 billion on IT each year, agencies’ prevailing lengthy and unresponsive contracting practices often lead to failed procurements.
The 18F-PIF program team plans to launch a beta version of the accelerator in early 2017 “that will build upon the lessons we learn from this first phase,” an 18F blog post says.
The second phase will host three or four teams, according to the Digital Acquisition Accelerator website.
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