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Thursday, June 1, 2023

GTSC’s FITGov Summit 2023: Procurement Pros Know the Recipe to Advance IT Innovations

Complexities introduce and increase vulnerabilities, so how do we promote flexibility and agility with advanced technology while maintaining security?

The first panel at the Government Technology and Services Coalition’s FITGov 2023 Summit in Tysons, Va., on Wednesday was titled “IT Procurement Stew: Blending Innovation, Security, and Compliance.” And panel members offered a clear recipe (apologies, seriously) for the stew they think government and industry should make to leverage advanced technology.

Dictionary.com defines stew this way:


  1. To undergo cooking by simmering or slow boiling.
  2. Informal – To fret, worry, or fuss.


  1. A preparation of meat, fish, or other food cooked by stewing.
  2. Informal – A state of agitation, uneasiness, or worry.

The panel’s recommendations? Communicate and collaborate to bring innovation, security, and compliance together. Fail to communicate and collaborate, and a procurement can cause government and contractor to fret in a state of agitation.

GTSC acquired the FITGov Summit in 2022 and refocused the summit’s mission to bring government the resources and information needed to govern advanced technology before it governs us.

Moderator and FITGov Board Member Soraya Correa, who retired as chief procurement officer at the Department of Homeland Security after 40 years of federal service, opened the session with a crucial question: The world is more complex partly because we’re more interconnected. This introduces and increases vulnerabilities, so how do we promote flexibility and agility with advanced technology while maintaining security?

State Department Deputy Director of IT Acquisitions Jason Passaro is reducing the number of non-enterprise systems, which present their own security challenges. Katherine Lugo, director of the IT Contracting Services Division at State, makes sure experts talk to each other throughout a procurement. “We serve as a translator to clarify terms and concepts different subject matter experts use to talk about the same thing,” she said.

Polly Hall, who championed groundbreaking acquisitions as executive director of the Procurement Innovation Lab at DHS before moving into her current role as senior advisor to Chief Procurement Officer Paul Courtney, builds relationships with contracting activity leads – across a vast enterprise – to ensure cross-functional collaboration.

Correa turned the conversation to security by asking how to best structure an acquisition effort to address vulnerabilities early in the process.

Passaro said that the State Department’s seven-year, $10 billion enterprise IT services contract vehicle, EVOLVE, will include the latest cybersecurity policies. Task orders issued under the multiple-award IDIQ to improve State’s security posture and promote innovation and modernization will give government and contractors the right starting place, from the beginning, to work on the balance of flexibility and innovation with security. This is key to leveraging technology so it doesn’t leverage us.

Hall emphasized the importance of bringing teams together to do early acquisition planning, to clearly understand the need and security requirements that go with it. She urges teams to think about how to understand what the end state looks like, and to not attempt to put every requirement on paper at the beginning. This innovation – thinking about how to do the work differently – includes discussions of risk at every step so risk management emerges with the acquisition plan, and the team shares its understanding of risks and risk management.

Passaro emphasized how important this was with a vignette about working with grant managers who took three meetings to reach agreement on a term as fundamental as award date. “For one, it was when the grant was awarded,” he said. “For another it was the day an award was signed. For a third it was something else. They eventually agreed.”

“But if we have different understandings and definitions of something that simple, we know how hard it is to get on the same page to improve our security posture,” Passaro added.

Lugo recommended shifting acquisition planning “to the left” and including standard cyber language – with the caveat that the team understands what that language means so it can modify language, appropriately, to define minimal acceptable risk standards. She also shared Air Force experience in which teams were provided change management training so they could incorporate principles and practices into contract and project management.

Correa asked how government could bring industry into this conversation. Lugo recommended taking collaborative cues from great forums that have advanced government and industry dialogue. Her organization created a LinkedIn page to issue problem statements to industry and seek input. And she adds the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s myth-buster memos to policy in an attempt to foster organizational culture change.

“The majority of IT requirements are for commercial IT products and services, so we press in hard to engage industry,” Hall noted. She meets monthly with industry associations on a range of topics, including their help to shape reverse industry days and workforce training ideas. The DHS Procurement Innovation Lab focuses on driving culture change, so it supports acquisition teams in sharing knowledge across government and with industry through events and bootcamps. They’re collaborating at this time, in particular, to discuss the implications of large language models for both government and industry.

“It’s about the conversation,” Correa emphasized at the conclusion of the panel. “What are we trying to do? What is the end state? What do we need to think about to get there, together?”

Being on the same page about these questions has always helped government and industry satisfy contract and project management requirements, and meet missions. But in a world where large language models and generative AI are at our fingertips, communication and collaboration are critical for government and industry to leverage those technologies, and not be leveraged by them.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the FITGov Summit 2023 here at HSToday

GTSC’s FITGov Summit 2023: Governing Advanced Technology Before It Governs Us

GTSC’s FITGov Summit 2023: Governance and Risk – How Much Is ‘Just Right’?

GTSC’s FITGov Summit 2023: Asking the Right Questions to Improve Governance of Innovation


Lou Kerestesy
Lou Kerestesy has spent 40 years helping people getting on the same page to meet their mission. Lou began his career working for local government in Portage County, Ohio, and then USEPA in Washington, DC. He’s owned a technology company, been an exec in a management consulting firm and energy management company, and been an independent consultant to government and industry. In various roles Lou has led strategic planning, program evaluation, change management, continuous improvement, corporate culture, designed and delivered services, managed corporate finances, and wrote (many) proposals. Today, Lou coaches leaders and teams in collaboration, communication, and conflict resolution techniques to get on the same page, quickly. Lou has a liberal arts undergraduate degree from Kent State University, and an MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.

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