Collaboration is key in streamlining the procurement processes necessary for progressing the Department of Homeland Security’s mission, according to Paul Courtney, the department’s chief procurement officer.
To foster a culture of collective innovation that shapes DHS operations and extends to its partners, the agency has created a strategy to enrich the procurement process, both within and outside the agency, Courtney said in his keynote address during ExecutiveBiz’s Homeland Security Forum on Tuesday.
“Enhancing the procurement experience is not just about improving the process for DHS employees, but for industry partners as well,” he emphasized.
In fiscal year 2022, the DHS obligated over $24 billion to private sector organizations, said Courtney, who intends to carry this commitment to industry partnerships into fiscal year 2023.
Currently, Courtney is focused on four facets involved in developing a productive procurement environment, which he lists as empowerment, collaboration, innovation and of course, procurement. These priorities play a major role in driving the overarching DHS mission, he said.
These areas of focus are intertwined with the 12 priorities Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas listed in a memo detailing the department’s current goals, Courtney said.
Courtney highlighted the fourth of these priorities, which is to innovate and transform the delivery of services within the DHS. Courtney said that this is an area in which industry collaboration is “very important” not only for technology procurement but for research and development support.
Collaboration between DHS offices plays a major role in improving the procurement process, not only for federal employees but for industry as well, Courtney said. He noted the integration of the department’s financial management system and the work with the agency’s human resources department to hire and onboard talent as recent successes between DHS agencies.
A second objective Courtney discussed calls for the transformation of DHS infrastructure. This goal, he said, aims to evolve the department’s agency-wide processes to drive productivity through a more flexible working environment for DHS staff and contracting partners.
Courtney stressed the importance of two-way communication to bring these objectives to fruition and ensure a smooth procurement process to ensure that the department can provide the best possible experience to DHS customers.
Strong communication, he said, can help the department plan for future procurement opportunities, identify new methods of doing business and make public and private sector interactions more efficient and effective.
“We really want to have those conversations with the folks who own the requirements and hear it from them firsthand. We believe that we have learned best together, and that consistent industry engagement is a process,” Courtney said.
Another way DHS is working to get industry involved in its mission is by encouraging small businesses to work with the department and other federal agencies.
“The federal marketplace can be perceived as more complex than the private marketplace in terms of regulations, processes and procedures, making it difficult for companies, especially small businesses to navigate,” said Courtney.
To break down these barriers, the DHS has created a team of industry liaisons that businesses seeking to work with the agency can reach out to with any questions they have regarding the road to partnering with federal agencies.
“I am a huge advocate for partnership and collaboration. It really is the core of what we do and how we do it,” Courtney emphasized.
DHS has already seen success in its efforts to further its strategic procurement goals, Courtney noted. He offered the department’s purchase of the first uplift law enforcement battery electric vehicle, a Ford Mustang Mach-E, as an example of progress.
“We are always encouraging our priorities and proactive industry engagement activities so we can provide the best procurement outcomes for our customers. We will continue to emphasize the importance of having two-way dialogues with industry partners so we can learn, improve and innovate” stated Courtney.