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How SDA’s Constructive Disruption Model Is Challenging Pentagon’s Status Quo

In the four and a half years since its inception, the Space Development Agency has challenged the status quo and provided the defense landscape with a glimpse of the Pentagon’s next era of innovation. As the Director of SDA, Dr. Derek Tournear has been a vocal champion of change, and he’s not afraid to be a “Maverick” or a “wild card” if necessary for the warfighter.

“The professional relationship I hold as my highest priority is the one between my agency and the warfighter. To deliver on my end of that relationship, we have no choice but to change,” wrote Tournear, a Wash100 Award winner, in a LinkedIn post. “Change is hard; change is necessary. And nothing fights change like the paralyzing behavior of going along to get along.”

Find out more about how Tournear is changing the acquisition paradigm within the space defense landscape — join the Potomac Officers Club’s 2024 Space Summit in February to hear Tournear speak in person. Register here to save your spot. 

In his post, Tournear acknowledged SDA’s “constructive disruption” and applauded the agency’s progress while recognizing that the challenges SDA faces are all part of “building an acquisition ecosystem within, and opposed to, the status quo.” Tournear noted that operating with this spirit of disruption occasionally puts him in a position to play the “bad cop” role, but it’s one he’s willing to take on in order to deliver for the warfighter.

“Historically, space acquisitions were driven by very detailed capability – when it was ready. SDA flips that paradigm to deliver what is ready on schedule—when the warfighter needs it. In this context, there have been more than a few times, when constructive disruption required someone to play the ‘bad cop,’” he wrote.

“Although it’s not a role I relish, I cannot stand by and watch wasteful, thoughtless procedures that will only benefit our enemies by delaying delivery to the warfighter. Calling that out won’t always make friends, but it will make our nation stronger,” Tournear added.

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