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OODA Salon 10 Nov 2021: A member discussion of build vs buy in the federal ecosystem

On 10 November 2021, OODA Network members participated in a network only salon focused on the topic of build vs buy in the federal ecosystem.

In the age of great power competition, the need for government to be able to tap into commercial innovation has never been greater. But it can be hard for government decision-makers to know when it is best to leverage existing commercial capabilities or to hire defense integrators or use internal staff to create their own solutions.

Questions of building vs buying have been around for decades. Numerous high level studies exist on this topic, incudling many by the Defense Science Board and the congressionally mandated Software Acquisition and Practices (SWAP) study. This is not a topic with simple answers. But now more than ever it is one that is important to keep pushing on.

Some questions discussed included:

  • What can government decision-makers do right now to optimize the use of commercial innovation to support critical missions?
  • What factors cause government decision-makers to use their own developers to re-create things that already exist?
  • Advice for senior government decision-makers who need to decide whether to build their own software package or buy an existing commercial product?
  • How can government leaders know they are making the right build vs buy decision?

Members will be able to ask questions and interaction is strongly desired. We will call on several subject matter experts and with member input will build an improved collective situational awareness on the topic. We will also use this session to inform our reporting at OODA Loop.

The discussion was lead by:

  • Lisa Porter, former head of IARPA, former deputy CTO for the Pentagon
  • Jen Buss, head of the Potomac Institute
  • Melissa Flagg, former DASD in DoD and highly regarded researcher, speaker and writer
  • Brendan Zegers, from Palantir, Brendan is perfectly situated to help us understand some of the commercial dynamics around make vs buy. 

OODA Salons are for OODA members only, and all full members will receive an invite to participate. For more information on OODA membership see: Join

Note: This meeting will be recorded and an edited version will be posted in The OODA Member Video Library for future member reference.

Coming Salon Schedule:

  • Wednesday 1 Dec: Opportunities and Risks in Smart Cities
  • Wednesday 15 Dec: The Metaverse: What to expect in 2021
  • Wednesday 12 Jan:  Digital Twins: The mirror worlds of the metaverse
  • Wednesday 26 Jan:  The modern data architecture: How the best in industry do data
  • Wednesday 9 Feb: Anomalous Health Incidents (AHI), MilSpeak for the Havana Syndrom

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes Bob is the co-host of the popular podcast The OODAcast. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Find Bob on Defcon.Social