Government, Industry Optimistic About the Future of Innovation

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Recent government initiatives and executive orders have left Avi Bender, director of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), and Michael Whitaker, vice president of emerging solutions at ICF, optimistic about the future of Federal innovation and partnership with the private sector.

“I’m highly optimistic on it because I think that there’s real movement in the government right now to engage the private sector earlier in conversations,” said Whitaker. “There’s a very interesting overall mandate coming from the government right now, and you could hear it when Secretary [Thomas] Price was talking about HHS, and you can see through some of the executive orders, about reorganizing the Federal government, that there’s this call to reimagine how agencies are meeting their mission.”

Whitaker applauded the efforts of the NTIS, such as its Joint Venture Partnership program, for bringing the innovation of the private sector into the Federal government.

“One of the things that’s unique about it, I think, is that they have these whiteboarding sessions, where there’s this free flow of ideas between the agency being served and the potential partners to serve it, understanding at a deeper level what that problem is and how to address it,” said Whitaker. “I think that kind of a dynamic is very healthy. I feel like there’s a movement toward that coming more and more.”

“Given the role that I have at NTIS, and as I mentioned that we have this statutory authority to work with the private sector, I am immensely optimistic that we have the beginning of a new operating model today, focused primarily on data,” said Bender. “That model is proving to be very effective, and I do believe that it could be the beginning of something much bigger.”

Bender said that he sees the March 13 executive order on reducing Federal waste to maximize efficiency, and the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) resulting plan to have agencies submit reorganization strategies, as a positive step for innovation.

“I think that executive order really is an important catalyst for effecting change within the Federal space,” said Bender “My guidance would be for agencies to look at that not so much as a compliance exercise but really as a catalyst for instituting change within their organizations, specifically focusing on the mission of the agencies and maybe looking for ways to apply shared services for lots of the infrastructure and mission-enabling services for these agencies.”

Bender encouraged agencies to institute spaces for innovation within their organizations to promote risk taking and ensure that there won’t be retribution for failed innovative behavior.

Whitaker also applauded the OMB plan, particularly the fact that it not only allows for but mandates that agencies break away from their normal way of operating.

“I think there’s a good chance that there will be at least one agency that comes forward with a plan that’s more revolutionary than evolutionary change, and I think there’s a decent chance that OMB will say go for it,” said Whitaker.

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