The DoD is Pressing Hard to be More Innovative in Commercial Space (Part II)

Part II: Is there a disconnect between words and deeds in DoD Innovation and Procurement Practices?
The pitfalls seem to lie in the environment and the execution.

The DoD has sought the engagement of the commercial space industry to develop innovative solutions that will allow COMSATCOM and MILSATCOM architectures to be interoperable, particularly as it looks to the next gen MILSATCOM. There have been incremental successes with Space & Missile Command and JFCC. Maybe the way the DoD does things in this arena will work out well, although past and present experience casts doubt on this.

The operative term, innovation, (or lack of innovation) starts with top management. The general starts the ball rolling by saying the word innovation, and then the staff picks it up and repeats it over and over. Soon, leadership begins to believe that it is true because they say it so much. But, as we all know, saying it and doing it are two different things.

So what has happened? Most Generals we’ve talked to are smart, entrepreneurial and dedicated to their jobs with hardworking, conscientious and dedicated staff in support. As time moves on, the promises to “innovate” seem slow to bear fruit with no noticeable changes made across acquisition or decision-making. Unfortunately for the DoD, without their active engagement and input, commercial satellite owner/operators move apace to replace satellites with new and improved technologies ideally suited to our major customers – the broadcast industry!! In short, despite the opportunity to influence the DoD are liable to be left with whatever we have left, at market prices out of the control or influence of DoD, and at terms that DoD may not like.

Real innovation does not fail to materialize because leadership doesn’t want it rather because an innovative culture within the environment is not supported and encouraged. Innovators take proactive steps, accept risk and tolerate (even celebrate) failure, make decisions and then accept where you are and set the new baseline. It is almost impossible to dictate innovation, it only thrives in an environment where it is nurtured and rewarded.

The message is simple – change (innovation in this case) requires proactive action throughout the organization

The key is what you allow and support versus what you discourage and punish. Industry is here to allow and support the DoD to overcome any institutional hurdles so that they get value for money, operational flexibility and spread the strategic risk.