Innovations in acquisition approaches at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made during the Obama administration will continue under the new administration, the acting deputy of the department said on Tuesday.

The department will continue to do things such as strategic sourcing, reverse industry days, and innovative ways to conduct acquisitions to save money, better understand industry’s perspectives, and obtain better solutions, Claire Grady, acting deputy secretary of DHS, said during the opening keynote address at AFCEA’s Federal Identity Forum and Homeland Security Conference. Grady is also the under secretary for Management at the department.

Claire Grady, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Photo: Defense Department
Claire Grady, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Photo: Defense Department

Industry needs flexibility to provide develop more “creative solutions so we are not prescribing exactly how to fix the problem,” Grady said. Instead, DHS has to communicate how a problem could be solved and what “end state we are trying to achieve … and then we need to give them the flexibility to come up with solutions that make sense,” she said.

Grady praised Soraya Correa, who has been the chief procurement officer of DHS since Jan. 2015, for being “absolutely brilliant in terms of forward leaning and in terms of promoting communication with industry.” She also highlighted the Acquisition Innovations in Motion effort begun in the past few years at DHS to better engage with industry, including the reverse industry days and other events such as roundtables and the annual Strategic Industry Conversation.

Despite the failure earlier this spring related of a $1.5 billion agile services contract effort called FLASH, which was an attempt to reach out to small businesses for agile development services for DHS components, Grady said more efforts like this need to be done. DHS took the blame for having to cancel the contract due to what Grady said were documentation issues but not the innovative and mechanical approaches to the acquisition.

“To me, we need to do more of those, not less,” Grady said.

Lessons from FLASH need to be learned and “We need to understand the risks and implications associated with it,” she said, adding that “we need to adapt to it, and we need to move on and be smarter.”

Grady also said that DHS can’t be averse to risk in doing acquisitions.

 “It’s okay to try something different.”

Before coming to DHS this summer as the management chief, Grady was in the acquisition office at the Defense Department serving as the director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy. She has also served in the Coast Guard’s acquisition office and the DHS chief procurement office.