Government and industry contracting professionals confront a near future of confounding, compelling, and interconnected urgency. In recognition of growing challenges to the profession, NCMA has adopted “The Urgent Future” as the theme for the 2021 Government Contract Management Symposium (GCMS 2021), December 2–3 in Washington, DC.
What is most striking about the crises before us is their scope.
· The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted weaknesses in supply networks for almost all goods in industry and across the federal government. China weaponized those supply chain vulnerabilities.
· The SolarWinds cyber-attack and ransomware hacks on Kaseya and other software suppliers demonstrated their vulnerability and that of their government and industry clients. The Colonial Pipeline attack brought home the real-world consequences of cyberattacks in the form of lines at the gas station.
· The pandemic and concentration of semiconductor manufacturing in a handful of countries brought a global shortage of microchips—the DNA of technology from agriculture and transportation to healthcare, telecommunications, national security, and the Internet. About 70 percent of the worldwide supply of microchips is currently manufactured in Asia; Taiwan and South Korea are the top producers.
· China, the world’s biggest chip consumer, has redoubled its longstanding interest in controlling Taiwan, stepping up military incursions into that nation’s waters and airspace.
· Many chip-dependent technologies also rely on the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) of satellites ringing Earth. The simplification of access to space, and brewing struggle to dominate it, spell trouble for GPS, which is virtually unprotected and has no terrestrial backup.
· Both China and Russia have tested weapons to attack satellites from Earth and in space. No surprise that the United States stood up the U.S. Space Force in 2020.
· Natural disasters are flooding, burning, and otherwise disrupting trade and manufacturing worldwide, worsening other troubling trends.
As protectors of companies’ and the country’s budgets, advisers to buyers, providers of capability, and weavers of solutions, contracting professionals must shape responses to these problems.
Further complicating that job is the fact that the global marketplace today is a contested space in which countries vie using capital and contracts. U.S. government and private sector contracting professionals must lead in this competition using agile, rapid, and creative strategies. They must compete with contracting professionals worldwide to win the support and products of leading companies.
Governments are competing worldwide for access to people, data, research, and intellectual property. U.S. contracting and procurement organizations vie daily with global competitors to find and adopt emerging technologies. Delays in U.S. acquisition create opportunities for adversary buyers to seize ground by cutting deals with, investing in, supporting, and creating innovative companies to put cutting-edge technology out of U.S. reach.
Creativity, agility, speed, and resilience, all prized today, will become the gold standard of successful contracting tomorrow. That truth is reflected in every session of GCMS 2021: “The Urgent Future.”