Private Sector, DoD Collaborations Mean Overcoming Cultural Shifts

Some of the nation’s top tech firms and the federal government will have to learn how to work well with each other, as cultural challenges present barriers to progress.

“It turns out the primes are actually not helpful,” Trae Stephens, co-founder and chairman of Silicon Valley-based Anduril Industries and partner at Founders Fund, said at a recent Defense News forum. “Now, as a venture capitalist, I’m pattern matching for who is unwilling to partner with primes as a positive.”

See: Cybersecurity Predictions: From AI to IoT, 2019 and Beyond

Stephens said that companies like SpaceX and Palantir have earned investors millions, while not partnering with prime contractors or taking smaller, one-off contracts from the Department of Defense.   

The Pentagon has long courted Silicon Valley for its procurement needs, and developers such as Amazon, Google and SpaceX have increasingly taken on the mantle of cyber partner with the federal government. But the collaborations have raised just as many questions as answers, as the Pentagon grapples with speeding up its acquisition policies, accepting risk in new technologies and discontinuing legacy systems.   

SEE: Oracle Files Injunction Against DoD’s $10B JEDI Cloud Contract

“If companies continue to take on government functions, Washington will have to start acting more like a portfolio manager rather than a regulator, rewarding the companies that enact good practices and incentivizing tech companies to build for civic needs,” wrote venture capitalist Katherine Boyle in The Washington Post. “In a sense, Silicon Valley is slowly becoming a potential check and balance on executive authority.”

More: GAO on IT: Federal Agencies Need to Strengthen Acquisitions, Operations, and Cybersecurity

Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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