Federal acquisition is the lever for delivering hard-hitting mission impact to citizens across the nation— from protecting our nation to serving our citizens to helping communities rebuild after disasters. As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) delivers on the Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal of “Improving Customer Experience with Federal Services,” acquisition is critical to improving customer experience, including across its four High Impact Service Providers (HISP): FEMA, CBP, TSA, and USCIS. 


Polly Hall and her team (Trevor Wagner, John Inman, Sandra Schmidt, Scott Simpson, and Ross Wakeman) lead the DHS Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL), a virtual lab providing a safe space to experiment with innovative acquisition techniques across the DHS enterprise designed to create the best possible solutions in support of the DHS mission outcomes and citizen services and to save taxpayers’ dollars. Since its inception in March 2015, the DHS PIL has supported every component within DHS and 55 total procurements, resulting in hard-hitting mission outcomes to citizens across the nation and dramatic improvements to the internal customer experience within DHS. DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa has been instrumental in supporting and empowering the PIL to achieve its far-reaching impact. Given the PIL’s success, the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is looking to expand the PIL model to at least 4 additional federal agencies outside of DHS in the coming year.  In their outreach to other departments, the PIL has influenced the Intelligence Community, Department of Defense and Civilian Departments. 

Polly Hall and her team lead the PIL using two key innovation philosophies: testing/experimenting and sharing/institutionalizing. They test and experiment by applying innovative procurement techniques to actual DHS procurement projects and then capturing DHS and citizen feedback and lessons learned. They institutionalize by sharing innovative procurement techniques and best practices DHS-wide via webinars, an intranet portal, and outreach. Through this process of testing and institutionalizing, they are driving both improved citizen outcomes and improved internal customer experience. 


For example, across the 55 procurement teams the PIL has coached and supported, they have tested and embedded the following innovative procurement techniques for better mission outcomes for the citizen:


  • Incentivizing industry to incorporate innovation into its proposed product or service by asking questions relevant to innovation during proposal submission, and ensuring innovation is included in the evaluation factors so the industry knows they will receive credit for their ideas.

  • Leveraging the use of prototypes to provide access to innovative technologies and solutions for the mission’s most challenging problems

  • Incorporating video proposals to shorten time to award 

  • Incorporating technical demonstrations, enabling an offeror to prove its product by having evaluators actually see and test the product



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Application of these innovative acquisition techniques have directly resulted in the successful procurement and delivery of mission-critical citizen-facing procurements such as:

  • Silicon Valley Innovation Program Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS) resulting in agile R&D projects for cutting edge technology, including artificial intelligence to screen passenger baggage 

  • Grants Management Modernization systems for the Federal Emergency Management Agency ensuring quick delivery of critical citizen and community grants system

  • Risk Planning and Analysis Mission Support for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s National Risk Management Center (NRMC) ensuring quick delivery of critical analytics services to analyze and communicate threats during emergencies to ensure citizen safety


Further, the PIL leads the institutionalization of these innovative procurement techniques through impactful sharing and teaching that results in widespread culture change and improved internal customer experience as follows to date:


  • 43 PIL Webinars produced to share detailed case studies on innovative techniques, reaching over 10,105 members of the acquisition workforce, 490 average attendees per webinar, and receiving an average 4.4 out of 5.0 average customer satisfaction  

  • 31 PIL Boot Camps facilitated to share most successful innovation techniques across federal government, reaching over 1,673 members of the acquisition workforce (and industry partners) including 38% of all DHS 1102s including across the country (GA, VA, DC, MD, IN, VT, CA, NM, TX) and receiving 4.7 out of 5.0 average customer satisfaction 

  • 43% of DHS GS-1102s have Digi-Badge credentials, a procurement innovation micro-credentialing program focused on recognizing and highlighting innovators within DHS contracting and fostering culture change; 303% increase in issued Digi-Badges from FY18

  • Designed and implemented DHS “Innovation Coach” and “Innovation Master” education programs for individuals interested in growing their innovative acquisition skill sets and capabilities; “Innovation Coaches” and “Innovation Masters” then coach acquisition teams in new PIL projects


As described by DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa: “Through a rigorous and continuous cycle of testing, feedback, sharing, and retesting, we are fostering a learning culture that will continue to steadily and rapidly improve our business processes. I challenge you to try something innovative on one of your current or upcoming procurements! While change may not be easy, in today’s acquisition environment, change is essential to delivering better outcomes for our customers.”


The DHS PIL team has achieved the following hard-hitting mission outcomes for citizens across the nation:


  • Innovative, cutting edge solutions in place faster to meet citizen needs, including:

    • Procured Grants Management Modernization systems for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in under 7 months—ensuring quick delivery of critical grants system to ensure citizens and communities are prepared for and able to recover from disasters  


    • Established Other Transaction Solicitation (OTS) for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program—resulting in agile R&D projects for cutting edge technology, including artificial intelligence to screen passenger baggage


    • Procured Risk Planning and Analysis Mission Support for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s National Risk Management Center in a short 56 days—ensuring quick delivery of critical services to analyze and communicate threats during emergencies to safeguard citizen safety 


    • Procured Non-Intrusive Inspection Density Meter for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in half the expected time (107 days instead of 210 day)—ensuring quick delivery of handheld density meters to detect the presence of illegal contraband and protect citizens from illegal substances


  • Achieved cost avoidance and taxpayer savings, shortening lead times and contracting cycles by 20-50% for each procurement