DHS’s Soraya Correa is making acquisition innovative

Soraya Correa has been a leader in the federal government for over 30 years. Since January 2015, Correa has used her experience and expertise to radically improve how the Department of Homeland Security purchases services and products – enabling DHS ability to adapt to the needs and challenges the agency faces daily.

On this edition of CyberChat, host Sean Kelley discussed with Correa her role as DHS’s chief procurement officer and how she is changing the opinion of contracting officers and what that all means for cybersecurity.

“As soon as you finish one year, you’re already well into the next year starting your acquisition planning,” Correa said. “There really shouldn’t be a lull because as we’re wrapping up one year, we should be thinking about what’s coming down the pike. In an agency like the Department of Homeland Security … our mission is constantly evolving and the threats are constantly changing. It becomes even more important to be completely engaged with our customers, our program offices, to ensure that we’re properly planning for what’s coming down the pike for every contingency that could be out there.”

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Correa said the formation of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) hasn’t changed much from a contracting standpoint. “We’re certainly revisiting some of the existing contracts. We’ve already been to a couple of strategy sessions with some of the leadership at CISA to talk about how we fulfil their needs,” Correa said. “[We’re learning] how we engage with them to come up with new approaches on how we do our contracting for them so that we can get their contracts in place a little bit more quickly, a little bit more efficiently, and ensure that they’re getting the right resources.”

DHS’s constantly evolving cybersecurity mission means acquisitions also need to keep up. Correa said it does that “through the use of our procurement innovation lab, our office of selective acquisitions that does our classified procurements, as well as our office of procurement operations that does the unclassified.” Correa said, “We’re trying to come together with them and say, how do we get this done for you a little bit more quickly, a little bit more efficiently and take advantage of the technologies and the tools that are out there to get it to them as quickly as possible.”

And the way that happens is by continually encouraging “meaningful communications between our procurement teams and the program offices, as well as our procurement teams with industry and the program offices.”  Correa said DHS also incorporates those aspects into their training. “When new legislation comes out that impacts cybersecurity or when we get bulletins or information about what’s going on in the cyber world, we try to get that out to our workforce,” Correa said. “We try to make sure that we regularly are keeping them informed of what’s going on, why it’s important and I think DHS as a whole is doing a much better job.”