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Will the Federal Government ever catch up?

By Steve Geary | 12/03/2017 | 6:37 PM

I read a column by Steve Banker, a fine analyst and advisor in the Supply Chain, “What Was Hot in Supply Chain Technology In 2017.” 

Steve listed 3D Printing of Spare Parts, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Supply Chain Applications, Autonomous Mobile Robots for the Warehouse, Autonomous Trucks, SNEW data – social media, news, event, and weather data – and the Uberization of Freight.

It’s a good list.

What I find interesting is what happens when you overlay that list against the Federal Government.  There are few touch points.

The military is taking autonomous trucks and robots seriously, as well as 3D printing of spare parts, for obvious reasons.  I sure hope some of the folks in the Three Letter Agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.) are doing something with Artificial Intelligence.  I keep hoping that NASA will do something spectacular like they did in the sixties, but they remain starved for funds. 

This is not a long list.  Where are the other overlaps between innovation and the Federal Government?  It shouldn’t be a hard question.

During World War II, a phrase entered common usage.  Seventy-five years ago, "good enough for Government work" meant it could meet the most rigorous of standards.  That’s not what people mean when they use that phrase today, and that should make all of us sad.

Once upon a time the Federal Government was known for innovation, including achievements in the supply chain.  These are the people who gave us the Post Office, the most formidable last mile delivery capability on the planet.  The Feds figured out how to mobilize the supply chain to win World War II on the other side of the Atlantic, and even more impressively on the other side of the Pacific.  They conceived of and created the interstate highway system; where would we be today without that coast-to-coast network?  ARPA, now DARPA, played a pivotal role in the creation of the internet. 

The list could go on, but I don’t really see much that is meaningful and recent.  Why can’t federal government agencies keep pace with the private sector anymore?  I once had a boss who liked to ask, “What have you done for me lately?” As a Taxpayer and a Supply Chain Professional, I find myself wanting to ask that same question of the Federal Government. 

Can anybody tell me who I should call?



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About Steve Geary

Steve Geary

Steve Geary is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Tennessee's College of Business Administration, and is on the faculty at The Gordon Institute at Tufts University, where he teaches supply chain management. He is the President of the Supply Chain Visions family of companies, and Chief Operating Officer at ROSE Solutions, consultancies that work across the government sector. Steve is a contributing editor at DC Velocity, and editor-at-large for CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, and Who's Who in Executives and Professionals. In November of 2007, Steve was recognized for "Selfless Service to Our Nation and the People of Iraq" by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.


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