It’s always worth going to hear James “Hondo” Geurts, the head of acquisition at U.S. Special Operations Command. Instead of the acronym-filled milspeak favored by many acquisition types, Geurts offers his audience clear, engaging explanations of what’s new and what’s next in his job. Which is to provide U.S. special operators with the latest technology — everything from submarines to satellites.
“If you’re thinking about where SOCOM is going, I’d rather play a lot of blackjack than play roulette,” Geurts said this week at the NDIA Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference in the Washington suburbs. “I see a lot of the standard acquisition system being roulette.”
He said he wants to place a lot of bets quickly and move on — because that’s what the operational environment demands.
“Things are changing so fast we don’t have three years to figure out what we want to do to go support an operation. I’m happy if I have three months to go figure out some of these things.”
Geurts is also unusually open to conversation. His presentations include his email address, phone number, LinkedIn, even his Twitter handle as ways to get in touch with him.
He encourages companies to pitch their products to the eight program managers who work for him: “Right now, 99.7 percent of all program authority for our programs sits at that level.”
This is important because it gives small technology companies the ability to get a foot in the door without an expensive business-development shop of retired military officers.
“Don’t come sell me a widget. Come see me about an idea. How [can] we do stuff better? What’s a good way to do business?” Geurts said.
His advice for companies: be open-minded when meeting with his team. Often companies pitch their product for one thing, but SOCOM finds a way to use the technology for something the maker didn’t envision.
For instance, there was a company that came in with commercial technology for taking mobile X-rays. “That was mildly interesting for a medial requirement [but] it was pretty interesting when I could see through the wall … with that piece of equipment,” he said.
Geurts also said he seeks competitions among companies. Between 70 and 75 percent of SOCOM’s business is disbursed through competitive bids, he said.
“We like to compete things…For us, it’s been very powerful,” he said. “The notion that you can’t do competition and be operation-responsive, I don’t think is necessarily a great notion.”
Geurts also said SOCOM leaders have stopped a decline in research-and-development spending, which had dropped in recent years as operations and maintenance dollars crowded out research efforts.
The command has even created a lab in Tampa called SOFWERX where companies can collaborate and prototype.
“Commanders committed to making sure we’ve got the research and development, because for us readiness is not just ready for the current stuff you have, it’s the stuff you have going to be ready for the fight you have in the future,” he said.
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Aerospace & Defense Exports Boomed in 2016
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Army Still Buying IED-Finding Radars
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Polaris Changes Its Name
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Patriot Missile Improvements in the Works
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