New changes are on the way for how the Defense Department operates with small businesses, allowing for more competition and better access to commercial technology for the Pentagon, according to one industry expert.
In a “Government Matters” episode posted May 28, Peraton Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Reggie Brothers discussed the changes proposed by Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, on the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The proposed changes make it easier for small businesses to work with DOD, for instance, allowing the Small Business Innovative Research program to reach out to businesses with venture capital and private equity backing, something it currently can’t do. Brothers thinks this change is crucial, and stresses the “importance of reaching out to as many different creative sources as you possibly can.”
In terms of why the Pentagon would seek this initiative, Brothers believes while competition is important, DOD just wants the best new technology it can get.
“So much technology that’s used for national security is commercial these days,” he said. “Therefore, everyone has access to it. The department needs to get access to it just like everyone else does. Because of contractual issues, it can be difficult to do that.”
There is an underlying issue with smaller companies being approached by the Chinese government wanting to buy their technologies; once this happens, DOD can no longer use these technologies, Brothers said. However, many of the technologies used against the U.S. are commercial, and “it’s not just China; it’s the entire world that’s looking at these kinds of technologies we are concerned about,” he said.
Making this year’s changes to the NDAA may be different considering Thornberry is now the ranking member, not the chairman, of the committee and can no longer, “dictate the rules of engagement,” as “Government Matters” host Francis Rose put it.
Brothers also highlighted the importance of whether DOD wants to take on risks, because “if you look at how innovation works in areas like Silicon Valley, it’s very much based on risk-taking. The Pentagon is not used to taking on risk.”