There are many challenges facing defense agencies when it comes to modernizing technologies and establishing an environment for industry and government to effectively communicate is essential to this process.

Speaking at Splunk’s GovSummit today, officials from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Departments of Defense (DoD), and Homeland Security (DHS) discussed the biggest obstacles their agencies face in accelerating the innovation process and allowing the government to produce better mission outcomes.

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Director of Innovation at DHS Hala Furst said that she believes the agencies need to be better communicators about the different ways industry can work with defense, while emphasizing that the agencies should detail the problem and explain what they think the solution should be.

“It’s not just about listening, but it’s also about seeing what the problem is and then also saying what our solution should be,” Furst said, adding “instead of saying ‘here’s our problem, please experts, tell us what our solution should be.’”

Director of the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence at NIST Jeff Greene agreed that communication within a tough environment should be a priority. He also said that in the defense space, it can often be difficult to make initial steps towards progress.

“There’s still difficulty in making that first step. You have an issue and you’re struggling with it. There’s a lot of talk about it, but actually converting it to action…it’s hard everywhere,” Greene said, pointing to the fear of making wrong decisions as a part of that.

On the DoD front, Director of Strategic Engagement for DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit Mike Madsen said that one inhibitor between government industry is that it takes larger movements to do business with DoD and that is another reason it’s hard to take those first steps towards modernization.

“It takes large muscle movements into doing business with the Department of Defense,” Madsen said. “It’s expensive, it’s very complex, and takes a long time. If it takes two years, startup companies don’t have two years of capital to last. There are a lot of barriers to entry to the defense marketplace.

Madsen offered that in building a more effective environment for defense agencies and industry to work together, they should make sure that they are developing an ecosystem to move at commercial speeds and a better understanding of where each other is coming from between government and industry.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.