Rodriguez: Collaboration Accelerates Security Innovation
Security Innovation Network Chairman Robert Rodriguez on why small, unknown security companies need the chance to work with federal officials
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
March 24, 2009 — CSO —
A 22-year veteran of the Secret Service, Robert Rodriguez knows the inner workings of government. And it is that understanding that he uses today to foster relationships between public, private and government organizations. As chairman of the non-profit Security Innovation Network, Rodriguez's goal is to increase collaboration that will lead to the innovation of security technologies that maintain and protect our nation's IT and telecommunications critical infrastructures.
Rodriguez, a 2009 CSO Compass Award winner, spoke with CSO about the difficulties small, private security companies face when trying to win grants from the government and how the economy is impacting SIN's efforts to give unknown firms their shot at success.
Talk about the Security Innovation Network's mission. What are you trying to accomplish?
Sometimes you have to move out of your neighborhood to really see your neighborhood. That is what I'm trying to do with the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency. I'm trying to create awareness of available solutions out there that they don't know about. They see the same usual suspects. That's a term they used. A lot of the folks that apply for grants within the Beltway understand the process and it's very complicated. So, what I'm trying to do is open the door to those small companies in the garage in Maine or Louisiana that have no clue as to how the government operates, but would like an opportunity. So it's bridging the gap from Silicon Valley and the Beltway.
There is a huge cultural divide of understanding of the venture capital model and the entrepreneur model and the government. There is a misunderstanding of the acquisitions and procurement policies and the requirements that exist today. I'm hopeful readdressing some of the language in the policies might accelerate in innovations.
"Not invented here" is a problem within the government. But with all respect to the government, they are in the business of mission readiness. They cannot afford to be risk averse. But the threat evolves so fast there needs to be some element of risk right now. Their operating systems are being affected adversely.
When you talk about Lehman Brothers and the pain that was incurred from their failing, it hurts you in the wallet. But when talk about failure of a command and control operating system, now you are talking about life and liberty. So the stakes increase dramatically. That is one of the reasons the White House issued the presidential directive last year allocating anywhere from 30-40 billion dollars just to fix government operating systems.