Turning the Tables – Using Emerging Tech to Transform the Acquisition Process

Published: August 23, 2018

Big DataContracting TrendsDigital GovernmentGovernment Performance

In a federal acquisition environment that focuses on streamlined rules and organizations to improve procurements a few agencies are using new technologies for faster, better buying.

Much has been said and done to drive improvements to the speed and effectiveness of the federal acquisition process – especially when it comes to the acquisition of emerging technological innovations like blockchain and artificial intelligence or machine learning. Usually these efforts revolve around streamlined acquisition rules or new procurement organizations. But there are a few examples that are turning the tables on that equation and using emerging technologies to improve federal acquisitions.

The goals of bringing technology to bear on improved acquisitions are shared by the rules and organization camp. In Congressional testimony earlier this year Keith Nakasone, the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Acquisition Operations, Office of Information Technology Category (ITC) at the General Services Administration (GSA) touted the priorities and promise of leveraging various emerging technologies to improve federal acquisitions through increased operational efficiency, reduced cost, improved processes, increased accuracy, and the ability to redeploy staff to higher value functions.

With those goals in mind a handful of efforts that seek to deploy emerging technologies to aid acquisitions include:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shared-service provider Program Support Center is using IBM’s Watson to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to better understand and leverage procurement data.
  • Blockchain – GSA is testing Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to automate financial reviews for its FAStLane program that gets vendors onto GSA Multiple Award Schedules (MAS).
  • “Bots” – GSA is piloting uses of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) “bots” to help review new contract offers for their Professional Services Schedule (00CORP PSS) and free up staff for activities that require human involvement.

These other efforts are piloting or building upon earlier efforts to harness the power of computing for decision-making and process improvement, and the momentum will continue to build as these produce results.

GSA anticipates awarding their AI- and RPA-related Contact Center for Centers of Excellence Operations Support Phase II a by the end of fiscal 2018. (See GovWin IQ Opportunity ID #171531.) HHS is already setting the stage for a follow-on procurement for additional AI solutions later in calendar 2018 through their PSC Artificial Intelligence Solution competition. (See GovWin IQ Opportunity ID #166316.)