Capitol building and bogeyman

Does Your Government Customer See You As the Bogeyman?

It would appear so.

Some form of the bogeyman existed in our childhoods regardless of where we grew up. The bogeyman is a mythical figure capable of making bad things happen, often by doing bad things. In many cultures, children are encouraged to behave with the veiled threat of harm from the bogeyman if they don’t behave better. The bogeyman, in any of its manifestations, exists as a teaching tool that relies on fear.

People in your government customer constellation, the many deciders, enablers, influencers, and gatekeepers of agencies, may believe you are the very incarnation of the bogeyman. It’s not entirely their fault. But it would help if you considered their perspective as you formulate your business development and sales approach.

Senior uniformed and civilian leaders have risen to their positions with periodic and mandatory ethics training that can go beyond its original purpose. To make sure leaders understand the ethical standards conveyed in law and policy, sometimes extreme examples introduce an irrational fear of industry.

Are You Avoiding the Risk of Exposure to the Bogeyman?

Rather than develop an understanding of the actors in the acquisition environment, government officials sometimes avoid the risk of exposure to the bogeyman (industry) by avoiding them altogether. Rather than acknowledge that their process and decisions don’t always stand up to scrutiny from other relevant decision-makers in Congress, it can be easier to lash out. It can take a few forms:

  • The email or phone call goes unreturned
  • The schedule is full
  • “Please reach out to my staff, anytime.”
  • Or, as we saw at Sea Air Space, a more public rebuke.

Recently, Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gilday, took a public swipe at the industry, chiding an audience at Sea Air Space that “…it’s not the 90s anymore.” And, “…lobbying Congress for programs we don’t need is not helpful…” The paraphrased remarks went viral within minutes.  

“Navy admiral criticizes industry” – The Hill

“CNO Gilday unloads on industry” – Defense Systems Journal

“Gilday wants industry to focus on shipbuilding, not on aircraft we don’t need” – USNI News

“Navy Chief Sends Stern Message to Industry” – NDIA

Admiral Gilday knew the headline that would emerge from the keynote. He came into the position with a bias. In his first session with the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus as CNO, Gilday proclaimed to the industry audience, “…your stock portfolios appear quite healthy…despite the difficult budget environment…”

Your government customer is bombarded daily with poor information. For the good of our warfighters and our national security, it is our job to help those in office get it right. Click To Tweet

Former Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, felt the need to rise to Gilday’s defense and then seemingly pile on against industry, in his opinion piece following Sea Air Space.

“We shouldn’t have to stand for this” – Breaking Defense

Spencer lost his platform to arbitrate such issues given his departure from office amid a clumsy maneuver in the Gallagher courts-marital case that subsequently required multiple explanations.   

The retired four-star industry pundits offered timid support for Admiral Gilday’s comments.

Why would that be?

The less than fulsome support of Admiral Gilday’s comments from the retired community has much to do with perspective. How one is doing depends on where one stands. From within the lifelines of the Navy, the industry may look like the bogeyman. On the other hand, the retired community has the perspective of appreciating more sides of the issue.

Many in Industry…

The industry is multi-headed, opinionated, well-resourced, extremely competitive, and often independent of voice. The industry is not a monolith that falls into lockstep in behavior and message. While industry shares a responsibility to the public trust, as do those in uniform, it shares a powerfully strong responsibility to shareholders, investors, employees, and families.

  • Many in industry recognize that the very decision-making processes of the government customer are often deeply flawed and poorly staffed.
  • Many in industry recognize the fullness of the federal process, of which agency budgeting is just one part.
  • Many in industry recognize that when left to its own, the government process will never innovate. The bureaucracy does not allow it.
  • Many in industry work tirelessly to push, bend, pull, or otherwise shape an extremely calcified system for resourcing and acquisition.
  • Many in industry have served inside the lifelines of the agencies to which they sell. They understand it inside and out. The reverse is not true.
  • Many in industry are simply trying to help the government get out of its way.

Sometimes, not always, but sometimes, that means deploying other tools. Tools such as diplomacy, influence, messaging and communications, and tools for teaching and educating are all available. Thankfully, industry has a right and the opportunity to communicate with Congress. It is a right enshrined in the Constitution.

What does this mean for us bogeymen of industry? It means the job requires extraordinary thought in developing and implementing your agency engagement. It should not be this way, but it is a reality of our time. Your government customer is bombarded daily with poor information. For the good of our warfighters and our national security, it is our job to help those in office get it right.

If you need assistance securing government grants for your policy or product, schedule a call with Gene or click here to learn more about the services available to help companies to improve their positions and achieve significant improvements in federal sales outcomes.

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