If you’re a small business with an innovative solution for the intelligence community – bring it. That’s the message Dawn Meyerriecks, Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Acquisition, Technology and Facilities gave a group of small business innovators at a recent gathering of the Small and Emerging Contractors Forum.

“You need clearances to work with us, but you don’t need TS/SCI access in order to be able to work with us,” said Meyerriecks, who cited the democratization of technology as resulting in a significant loss of competitive advantage for the intelligence community in particular and the government at large.

Examples of some of the IT investment strategy within the intelligence community include cloud computing, big data, human language technology, video/motion imagery and cognitive systems. But Meyerriecks urged small businesses to study the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) in order to see where the intelligence community would be spending money in the future.

Meyerriecks acknowledged that working with the intelligence community can be intimidating, but encouraged small businesses in attendance that her office is working to avoid making everything a major systems acquisition (a distinction that requires both companies and the federal government to jump through a number of hoops). “For a brand new technology platform, you don’t need an analysis of alternatives,” said Meyerriecks. “None exists.”

She also noted a need for companies who have a contract vehicle to look for ways to develop that product rather than starting from square one.

“We need to innovate within our own processes,” said Meyerriecks, who cited the Apple iOS as an example. Rather than proposing a new device, you innovate within the framework to provide solutions. By shortening and simplifying the acquisition process Meyerriecks hopes to bring more innovative solutions into the intelligence community, along with better talent.

“China is graduating eight times the number of scientists we are,” said Meyerriecks. “We can’t count on the numbers.” While the United States still has the advantage today when it comes to complex systems analysis, Meyerriecks said there was no guarantee for that advantage to continue. Meyerriecks said the U.S. strategy of the past was simply to be better than anyone else, but that won’t continue without investment in talent acquisition, as well as systems acquisition.

“One of my priorities given to me by the Director of National Intelligence was to grow the next generation of me,” said Meyerriecks. “Data scientists – ask someone what that means. Most of those people are working for companies who are paying a heck of a lot more than I will.”

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