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Christopher O’Donnell Talks DOD Focus Areas During Defense Acquisition Priorities Forum Keynote

On Tuesday, GovCon Wire Events hosted its Defense Acquisition Priorities Forum, which featured leaders across defense agencies, military branches and industry who joined in dynamic discussion to share the procurement interests, technology influences and strategic priorities driving acquisitions across the defense sector as agencies work to accelerate modernization initiatives and support the nation’s warfighters.

Keynote speaker Christopher O’Donnell, acting assistant secretary for acquisition at the Department of Defense, commenced the virtual event with an opening address focused on the challenges, threats, opportunities and innovations that govern the Pentagon’s acquisition strategies and procurement priorities in today’s ever-developing defense environment.

Rich Wilkinson, director of product marketing for Unanet and GovCon Expert, served as the moderator for the event and introduced O’Donnell, who began his keynote speech with an insightful look at three of the major changes he’s seen in DOD’s acquisition strategy over his five decades of service within the department.

If you missed Tuesday’s event, visit the GovCon Wire Events page to watch the Defense Acquisition Priorities Forum and other webinars on-demand.

As O’Donnell opened his address, he described U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s comments, made earlier this year, regarding integrated deterrence as a call to action for those in the acquisition world. According to O’Donnell, Austin explained that the right mix of technology, operational concepts and capabilities must be woven together to create a deterrence capability that is credible, flexible and formidable to adversaries.

“Our defense industrial base and government laboratories have shown they can quickly respond to any threat, but we need to go further and ensure we harness the innovation and talent to keep pace with advanced and accelerating competition,” O’Donnell urged.

O’Donnell further explained that to keep pace with today’s threats, the defense department must continue to evolve its policies, processes and culture. The agency’s Adaptive Acquisition Framework, as O’Donnell outlined, reflects this evolutionary effort and is the result of a transformational, comprehensive redesign of DOD’s mission-critical acquisition policies and systems.

With six distinct pathways, the framework was designed to empower program teams to tailor their approaches depending on specific needs and shorten the duration from milestone B to initial operational capability, O’Donnell detailed.

Among the Department of Defense’s key technology focus areas, O’Donnell shared, are the development of hypersonic technologies and countermeasures as well as boosting cybersecurity capabilities.

O’Donnell said the department’s cybersecurity priorities include not only offensive and defensive cyber operations, but more importantly, protecting DOD’s weapons systems and infrastructure against cyber attacks and working to harden those areas.

Additionally, O’Donnell identified artificial intelligence and machine learning as both an opportunity and a challenge across the DOD as the agency develops AI algorithms to process both new and existing data.

“We’re in this constant balance across the department right now of how do we keep necessary capabilities in the field and upgrade them versus how do we introduce new capabilities that have the actual ability, with processing and storage, to really make AI and machine learning work for our systems,” O’Donnell explained.

To hear Christopher O’Donnell’s full keynote address detailing how the Department of Defense is responding to challenges in areas such as cybersecurity, supply chain and the JADC2 initiative, visit the GovCon Wire Events page, where you can watch the full Defense Acquisition Priorities Forum on-demand now.

On Jan. 13, GovCon Wire Events’ Department of Defense: Digital Modernization Forum will congregate influential defense agency and private sector leaders, who will speak on how modernization and digital transformation initiatives are shaping approaches and operations for DOD agencies and their industry partners.

Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for the United States Space Force, Dr. Lisa Costa, will keynote the event and share insights as to how the Space Force is leveraging commercial partnerships, advancing modernization efforts and remaining competitive in the rapidly-growing space domain.

Visit the GovCon Wire Events page to register for the DOD: Digital Modernization Forum on Jan. 13.

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