18 months in, DHS’ Procurement Innovation Lab is seeing success

DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa talks to Women of Washington hosts Aileen Black and GiGi Schumm about the Procurement Innovations Lab.

The Procurement Innovations Lab that the Department of Homeland Security established over a year ago has been revolutionizing the government procurement process.

For the first large procurement that the PIL was involved with, they shrunk the lead time from a projection of six months to just under 80 days, said DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa, who talked to Women of Washington hosts Aileen Black and GiGi Schumm about the PIL initiative.

Part of the increased efficiency is due to new procurement strategies that DHS has developed. “We found ways to evaluate the technical factor of a proposal by demonstration, or by conducting a test,” said Correa. She added that DHS’s procurement team is able to bring multiple companies in, have them demonstrate their ideas to the DHS officers, and then choose a solution by the end of that day, which is much faster than the traditional procurement process.

The PIL is also working to clear the backlog of completed contracts that have not been closed out. Last year, there were over 300,000 of these contracts before Correa implemented her strategy to reengineer the closeout process. Correa told Women of Washington, “If I can take off the table those low risk contract closeout activities as quickly as possible… then the contracting officers can now focus on the larger actions, the ones that really require attention for closeout.”

Many of Correa’s strategies involve partnering her procurement team with the business community. “I believe that when industry and government better understand how each other impacts the others businesses and what drives us, we’re going to make better business deals,” commented Correa. To this end, DHS is about to host its third Reverse Industry day where business partners come talk to DHS officers about how their industries function.

The PIL has also borrowed methods directly from Sillicon Valley to attract smaller start-up partners. Correa explained, “We studied how venture capitalists work with start-up companies, and we created a solicitation that’s very similar to the questions they would have to answer from a venture capitalist, to reduce the amount of paper they have to submit.” They hope that by making it easier for small companies to partner with DHS, they will increase the number of companies working with DHS and ensure that DHS always receives the best solutions for their mission.

Correa discussed how her partnership with DHS CIO Luke McCormack as part of the Acquisition Innovations in Motion (AIIM) initiative will improve the quality of DHS procurements going forwards. “I think it’s important for the procurement team to partner with their customers. We need to partner to find solutions and to find them quickly, effectively, and efficiently. I believe that that partnership needs to continue to thrive and grow. It doesn’t matter who’s in the job, and I think we lead by example,” Correa said of their partnership.

This relationship is already seeing results, said Correa. “We have seen an improvement in relationships between the CIO community and the procurement community because of the partnership that we’ve developed.” Correa told Women of Washington that she intends to continue working not just with McCormack, but with DHS’ entire C-Suite to improve procurement.

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