Thursday, May 2, 2024
Insights from Bonnie Evangelista, Acting Chief Digital and AI Officer for Acquisition, U.S. Department of Defense

The traditional approach to defense acquisition has long been criticized for its complexity, rigidity, and slow pace. However, the rapid advancement of digital technology and AI has compelled the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to rethink its acquisition strategies. Bonnie Evangelista, acting chief digital and AI officer for acquisition with her extensive experience in federal contracting and acquisition, is working on accelerating tech procurement. Recently, Bonnie joined me on The Business of Government Hour to discuss how the DoD is adapting its acquisition strategies to embrace technology, streamline processes, and foster innovation. This blog post delves into the key insights shared by Evangelista during the interview and explores the implications for the future of defense acquisition.

Towards an Agile and Flexible Approach to Defense Acquisition

Evangelista highlighted the need for a more agile and flexible approach to defense acquisition. She noted that traditional contracting methods are often compliance-oriented and lack the speed required to keep pace with technological advancements. This can hinder the DoD's ability to access cutting-edge solutions and meet its operational needs in a timely manner. To address these challenges, Evangelista is leading efforts to create a rapid acquisition environment that accelerates the delivery of digital, analytics, and AI solutions within the DoD.

Tradewinds Marketplace: A New Paradigm for Acquisition

One of the key innovations discussed by Evangelista is the Tradewinds Marketplace, a platform designed to streamline technology procurement and foster collaboration between the government and private industry. Tradewinds offers a more flexible and efficient environment for acquisition, allowing the DoD to quickly identify funding sources, select the best technological solutions, and create business deals with minimal delay.

Evangelista explained that the Tradewinds approach differs from traditional methods in several key ways. First, it emphasizes speed and flexibility, enabling the DoD to respond to emerging technology trends and industry developments more quickly. Second, it reduces bureaucratic hurdles, making the contracting process less intimidating and more accessible to industry partners. Third, it creates a competitive playground where the government can see tangible results before committing to an investment.

The Tradewinds Marketplace represents a significant departure from conventional procurement models and aligns with the DoD's goal of embracing technology and fostering innovation. Evangelista's insights into the Tradewinds approach offer a glimpse into a viable future of defense acquisition, where rapid acquisition and flexible contracting become the norm.

Leveraging Emerging Technologies

As the acting deputy chief digital and artificial intelligence officer for acquisition, Evangelista plays a critical role in integrating emerging technologies into the DoD's procurement strategies. This involves not only identifying innovative solutions but also ensuring that these technologies meet the high standards of security and compliance required by the DoD. During the interview, Evangelista discussed the importance of leveraging AI and other advanced technologies to enhance the acquisition process. She emphasized the need to strike a balance between innovation and compliance, ensuring that new technologies are secure and reliable while enabling rapid adoption. The Tradewinds Marketplace facilitates this process by providing a platform for experimentation and collaboration, allowing the DoD to access a diverse range of technological solutions. The insights from this interview reflect a broader shift within the DoD toward more agile and innovative acquisition practices. By embracing digital technologies and AI, the DoD aims to enhance its operational capabilities and improve the efficiency of its procurement processes. 

Benefits of AI Adoption 

Evangelista also discusses how AI is being used in the acquisition process, highlighting the potential benefits and challenges.

Streamlining Acquisition ProcessesOne of the key areas where AI has made an impact is in streamlining acquisition processes. The traditional methods of government procurement can be complex and time-consuming, often involving significant paperwork and bureaucracy. Evangelista explains that AI can automate repetitive tasks, analyze large datasets, and assist in decision-making, thereby reducing the time and effort required for acquisition. By leveraging AI, government agencies can improve efficiency, allowing them to focus on strategic decision-making rather than getting bogged down in administrative tasks. Evangelista's insights suggest that AI is not merely a tool for automation but a catalyst for transforming how government agencies operate. 

Improving Data-Driven Decision-Making. Data-driven decision-making is another area where AI plays a crucial role. Evangelista emphasizes the importance of using data to inform acquisition decisions, ensuring that government agencies are making the best choices. AI can analyze vast amounts of data quickly and accurately, providing insights that would be difficult to obtain through traditional methods. During the interview, Evangelista discusses the various applications of AI in data analysis. For example, AI can be used to identify trends, predict outcomes, and detect anomalies, enabling government agencies to make more informed decisions. This not only enhances the efficiency of acquisition processes but also contributes to greater transparency and accountability in government operations.

Challenges in AI Adoption

While AI offers significant benefits, its adoption in government comes with challenges:

Data Privacy and Security. One of the primary concerns with AI adoption is data privacy and security. Government agencies handle sensitive information, and ensuring that AI systems are secure is critical. It is important to implement robust security measures to protect data and maintain public trust. AI security is a multi-faceted challenge, requiring collaboration between various stakeholders. 

Overcoming Organizational Resistance.  Introducing AI into government operations can face organizational resistance. Change management and stakeholder engagement are key to overcome this resistance. It involves educating stakeholders about the benefits of AI and demonstrating its potential to improve efficiency and outcomes. In the interview, she highlights the role of leadership in driving AI adoption. Leaders must champion the use of AI and create an environment where innovation is encouraged. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, government agencies can successfully integrate AI into their operations.

The Future of Defense Acquisition

The insights shared by Evangelista suggest a significant shift in the DoD's approach to acquisition and procurement. The emphasis on rapid acquisition, flexible contracting, and reduced red tape reflects a commitment to embracing technology and fostering innovation. This shift is expected to have far-reaching implications, enabling the DoD to maintain a technological edge and meet the evolving needs of national security.

Looking ahead, the DoD is likely to continue its efforts to simplify processes, promote collaboration, leverage emerging technologies, and reimagine traditional procurement models and adopt a more agile approach to defense acquisition.


Bonnie Evangelista's interview on The Business of Government Hour provided valuable insights into the evolving landscape of defense acquisition. Her role as the deputy chief digital and artificial intelligence officer for acquisition places her at the forefront of the DoD's efforts to transform conventional procurement models and embrace technology. Through initiatives like the Tradewinds Marketplace, the DoD is creating a more agile and flexible acquisition environment, enabling it to access cutting-edge solutions and maintain a technological edge. By embracing rapid acquisition, flexible contracting, and collaboration, the DoD is better positioned to meet the challenges of the digital age and ensure the success of its mission.