Just show up
Recent weeks have brought us news that more military conferences and trade shows have been cancelled due to budget austerity needs. First, the Defense Information Systems Agency said it wouldn’t participate in the annual “Forecast to Industry,” then the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) said it had back out of the Belvoir Industry Days event.
That’s precipitated a lot of head scratching about why the military is backing out of local shows where military personnel are only being asked to show up and maybe give a presentation at little cost to the military. It’s telling that both of the cancelled events have the word “industry” in their title, and I think it’s a lost opportunity for the military and industry to get on the same page when it comes to capabilities development.
A common concern expressed repeatedly by both the military and private sector is often a lack of understanding about the exact requirements of a hardware program, for example. Industry doesn’t fully understand what’s expected of it and military leaders aren’t properly describing the capability they need filled.
I’ve had several conversation over the past couple years with program executive officers and project managers who have said that cost and budget overruns often can be attributed to not having industry properly plugged into the process of setting requirements. And even when they’re plugged in, the requirements are changed without full consultation with industry about the affect requirement changes will have on cost and timelines.
So I’ve always looked at conferences and trade shows as the place where military and industry can come together in a neutral format to discuss requirements and expectation, while better understanding the new technologies being developed that can enhance programs. That’s especially been the case when a military conference is specifically labeled as being industry facing.
Doug Wiltsie, the Army program executive officer for EIS, who I interviewed for this month’s issue agreed, saying: “In the past, conferences have provided really unique opportunities for the government and industry to get together, share challenges and solutions, explore technology and effectively build enduring relationships between government and industry.” Wiltsie followed up that comment by saying: “The communication between government and industry is even more critical to our systems and to Army innovation efforts.”
I couldn’t agree more, but my concern is that they’ll be even less communication. Instead of industry being able to interact with a variety of military organizations all at the same time in a cost-effective manner by attending a single event, they’re now being told to arrange more costly and time consuming one-on-one contacts with each of the organizations involved.
For 2013, most companies have already committed money to attending the various military events throughout the year. The funds have already been budgeted for.
All the military needs to do is just show up.