ManTech CEO offers global perspective on federal tech priorities

Federal agencies can often appear to be of two minds at once when it comes to technology innovation and transformation: hungry for all that it promises but slow to embrace it because of regulatory and cultural reasons, among others.

That does not mean industry should sit back and wait for that embrace to happen. During a Northern Virginia Technology Council-hosted breakfast Friday, ManTech International CEO Kevin Phillips sought to put the technology journey substantially all federal agencies are on within the context of what is happening around the world.

“The technology changes are happening because other countries are able to compete globally with technology. That technology-driven change is driving economic competition and increasing military competition” Phillips said at the event in Tysons Corner, Virginia. “All of that is coming together from the national decision makers’ standpoint, and that impacts a lot of these policies that we have to support.”

What is happening now as those decision makers think through and lay out the country’s direction in terms of technology?

“These external factors are driving federal policy change and when the government decides to move they move quickly. It takes them a while to decide what to prioritize, but once they prioritize they move,” Phillips said. “There are significant shifts that will define how the government operates and how it procures going on now that will change how we in our industry do business for the next 15 years. Recognize it or lose.”

Which leads to the internal happenings inside agencies at the moment. Some of those changes Phillips hinted are appearing in pockets across government as it relates to acquisition policy and how agencies bring in emerging innovations.

Alternative contracting methods like Other Transaction Authority are becoming more in vogue, as are rapid prototyping and fielding efforts for what are described as “middle tier acquisitions” mostly focused on software.

So is both the concept of and policies regarding open architectures that would allow agencies to increasingly take in multiple new technologies at once, according to Phillips.

“Think about that tech insertion that needs to be done quickly on a platform that’s somewhere in the middle of the ocean or somewhere in space. That can’t happen in a proprietary closed system,” Phillips said.

In theory, that hunger or thirst for innovation on the part of agencies would allow for more nontraditional players to enter the government market and partner with companies like ManTech that integrate those technologies. But some barriers remain, as Phillips pointed out.

“Think about trust in the federal government for technology: supply chain assurance, foreign control and interest, cyber ratings for companies,” Phillips said.

“The demand for security and trust in technology is here to stay and you’re either in or you’re out. For those of you that are investing in being in and you can do that and still provide global competition, it’s going to be great the next 10 years.”

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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