Linda Asher, head of contracts, procurement and pricing with Booz Allen Hamilton, has been appointed co-chair of the WashingtonExec Contracts Council for 2021-2022 alongside Kim Denver, Leidos’ senior vice president of corporate contracts, procurement and pricing.
“It’s a great opportunity to make a positive impact here around acquisition and contracting solutions,” Asher told WashingtonExec. “It’s really an opportunity to cultivate relationships, to collaborate, and to exchange insights between industry leaders and senior government leaders to improve the efficacy of the acquisition lifecycle.”
Asher said she is honored to work with Denver, a long-time industry colleague she described as “a great business partner.” The two met early on to outline key objectives and develop common strategies for the council.
This year, they plan to focus on collectively accelerating the pace of acquisition innovation. They also will give attention to the effort to identify top mission priorities and challenges across agencies as the nation sits on the precipice of technological change. They’ll discuss how government and industry can better exchange best practices. And they’ll focus on aligning contracting strategies to mission outcomes.
“I think with the advancements around artificial intelligence, machine learning, 5G – these are going to be solutions that our clients are going to need,” Asher said. “How do we put together acquisition solutions that are going to help them get what they need quickly?”
Asher brings to the role more than 25 years of contracting and business management experience. At Booz Allen, she leads corporate contracting operations across the firm, overseeing services to clients across the defense, intelligence, civil, commercial and international sectors.
Prior to joining Booz Allen in 2005, Asher served as deputy director of operations at Mnemonics, Inc., where she provided business and contractual management expertise and led the technical service division by supporting contracts and programs with the Defense Department and the intelligence community. She also led technical programs in quality management and process level improvements.
Asher’s goal as council co-chair is to apply her experience and current focus on technology and transformation within Booz Allen – along with her commitment to address diversity and equity to add value to the council’s ongoing dialogue.
“My concentration is (in) two areas: It’s really leveraging technology as an enabler within the contracting domain, and driving diversity across the full life cycle of contracting and acquisition services,” Asher said. “I personally believe it’s essential to blend perspectives; necessary to advance business priorities, performance and drive outcomes.”
And she feels there’s great value and synergy in bringing ideas together in this type of forum.
“It’s a relatively small forum, and so we’re going to have candid conversations and those are transparent, and we all have a common interest to get to the right outcome,” Asher said.
The scope of Asher’s emphasis on diversity and equity at Booz Allen includes diversity of thought, diversity of background, diversity of experience, and from a supply chain perspective, diversity of vendor base within the regulatory environment.
“We have small business requirements that we adhere to,” Asher explained. “How do we broaden that? How do we broaden that out to people of color? How do we broaden that to the diverse population that is going to be the right set of solutions to get to mission outcomes?”
Those are a few of the questions and topics surrounding diversity Asher hopes to bring to the council for discussion.
“We are laser-focused on that,” she said. “How do we improve that from an industry perspective?”
Ultimately, Asher’s goal as co-chair of the council is to share her focus areas for the betterment of the acquisition community by leveraging technology as an enabler, and by driving diversity. She hopes councilmembers leverage the forum and each other to make a positive impact, help solve clients’ toughest challenges and enable mission success.
“I think (leveraging technology and diversity is) essential to transformation, which is something that we focus on a tremendous amount here at Booz Allen,” Asher said. “At the end of the day, we want to leave the profession and the community and the acquisition lifecycle better than we found it when we entered in our careers. That is our goal.”
The council, which had its kickoff in mid-December, plans to meet on a regular cadence. Meetings will remain virtual until it is safe to gather in person, Asher said.
“We’ve got some seasoned folks to really collaborate and think through some of the tough challenges that we’ve got ahead of us,” she said.