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With the 'Needipedia,' DIA aims to lower barriers for innovators

Dec. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments

The Defense Intelligence Agency wants innovative solutions. In particular, DIA wants new ideas for developing human intelligence and validating the credibility of intel data it collects and disseminates.

The agency is also seeking a small-form-factor camera and accompanying processing platform for identifying a person under low-light or other deteriorated conditions from 100 meters away or farther.

What DIA does not want is to go through the government’s arduous process for identifying and buying such innovative solutions.

The problem in government is “when we want to find new capabilities, just asking for them is a process that takes six to nine months,” Dan Doney, DIA’s chief innovation officer, said last week during a viewcast hosted by Government Executive.

DIA’s solution: the Needipedia.

DIA launched the initiative late last month as a means to express its needs to a larger community of innovators, according to the Needipedia website. Individuals, companies and academia can submit ideas and proposals for grants or contracts through an open broad agency announcement, based on DIA’s specific needs. Those needs are articulated on the Needipedia website and replace the traditional request for proposal process, Doney said.

This new process has taken away the friction associated with how the government asks for things, he said.

Once submitted, ideas and proposals go through an evaluation process, which in some cases occurs quarterly, depending on the need. There’s even an avenue for innovators to submit new capabilities that DIA hasn’t asked for.

People don’t have to know the chief technology officer or the chief innovation officer to present their solutions to DIA, said Gus Taveras, the agency’s CTO. This new process “allows you to be connected with the guy delivering the capability,” Taveras said.

DIA is also in the process of launching its Open Innovation Gateway, which Needipedia falls under.

The goal is to allow innovators, whether they’re working out of a garage in Texas or studying at Carnegie Melon, to contribute to the intel community’s mission with little barrier to entry, Doney said. The Gateway provides a means for the IC to rapidly field new capabilities in support of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE), the IC’s strategy for consolidating its technology infrastructure.

The Gateway is a “broadly available (but controlled) environment emulating the architecture and key characteristics of mission systems,” according to DIA’s innovation strategy. Participants will be given challenges via the Gateway to help solve the the IC’s mission needs.

The bulk of the Gateway mechanism will be available by Jan. 24, Doney said.

“Any strategy that does not build into the strategy the mechanisms by which new ideas can be brought to bear quickly, will be dead right out of the gate,” Doney said. The Gateway provides that mechanism for the ICITE strategy.

The Gateway will allow IC end users, not just managers and acquisition professionals, to test the technologies and weigh in earlier on in the buying process. DIA’s Taveras envisions new technologies being fielded on a 30-day cycle.

DIA is coordinating with other defense and IC agencies on the Gateway effort, said Doney, noting that failing to do so would diminishes the overall value of the new model.

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