5 Additional GAO Recommendations for DOD Innovation

DOD should adopt a science and tech management framework.

After assessing eight companies and their approach to managing technology development and investments, the Government Accountability Office has some tips for the Defense Department. These recommendations follow GAO’s report issued June 27, urging DOD to implement an innovation strategy addressing its major defense acquisition programs and weapon systems.

Now, a more recent report from June 29 addresses DOD’s plan to invest $12.5 billion on innovative technology in fiscal year 2017. Yet, compared to how companies like Amazon manage science and technology investments, GAO still found DOD’s innovation initiatives are limited by funding policies and lengthy project planning.

GAO recommended DOD adopt a more defined Science and Technology Management Framework based on commercial best practices. Below are ways to better implement these practices and strengthen DOD’s position to counter near- and longer-term threats.

  1. Define the mix of incremental and disruptive innovation investments for each military department: Group technology development activities in two portfolios; incremental and disruptive. Incremental is for upgrading existing systems, and disruptive is for developing futuristic but potentially risky technologies that can be integrated into new or existing products.

  2. Annually assess whether that mix is achieved.

  3. Establish policy or guidance for a Science and Technology Management Framework: To keep up with the pace of innovation, the framework should emphasize using existing flexibilities to more quickly initiate and discontinue projects.

  4. Incorporate acquisition stakeholders into technology development programs: This can help ensure the programs are relevant to customers.

  5. Promote advanced prototyping of disruptive technologies in the lab: The S&T community can then prove these technologies are capable of generating demand from future acquisition programs.

Along with GAO’s recommendations, Congress also requires that by February 2018, DOD create a new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. This position will be in charge of creating policies to improve innovation, and hopefully promote commercial practices.