Top 25 DOD Execs to Watch in 2020: Department of the Navy’s James Geurts

James Geurts, Department of the Navy

In an environment with high expectations for bureaucratic standards and oversight, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition James Geurts redefined and reorganized the research, development and acquisition community to align to mission and to increase its agility.  His innovative leadership in 2019 took a multipronged approach on various fronts to drive speed and cost.

Of note, through creative contracting methods and driving efficiency into processes, his organization saved over $25 billion through major contracts.  Geurts drove a two carrier-buy contract and conducted process improvements with block buys, use of Other Transaction Authorities contract awards, prize challenges, cooperative R&D agreements and accelerated contract awards.

Geurts strives to deliver output at scale to the warfighters to be relevant, setting a clear vision and culture that emphasizes the criticality of putting the right product into the hands of those in need, in a timely manner.  Through his background with the Special Operations community and as a career active duty Air Force acquisition specialist, Geurts learned to cut quickly across boundaries, diversify the approaches to acquire mission-essential systems and technology, and that the future is unknown, so one must be ready to take advantage of upside opportunities.

In 2019, Geurts formed the Navy’s agility office in Alexandria, Virginia, to centrally facilitate the increased adoption of proven agility-enhancing methods across the Department of the Navy.  Acting as a gateway for innovators and entrepreneurs inside and outside of the Navy, this effort included the establishment of five naval tech bridge locations that operate in concert with NavalX.

These new offices share best practices and quickly connect critical problems to capabilities for the Navy and Marine Corps. Today, the Navy has grown to 12 tech bridges across the country that are driving accelerated outcomes.

Why Watch:

Strategic organizational focus areas for 2020 include continuing to lead and not just manage, build trust and transparency, and a continued drive to improve collaborative processes. It’s important to Geurts to establish a diverse and inclusive environment where civilians and military can produce output at speed to ensure sailors and marines maintain their strategic advantage.

In addition, in response to COVID-19, Geurts is focusing on maintaining the health of the defense industrial workforce and the economic wellness of the defense industrial base. Keeping the funds flowing to the industrial base and accelerating the award of contracts is expected to minimize the impacts of this disruption to the maximum extent possible.

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