SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL
ALION SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CORP.
Mr. Brian Fisher joined Alion Science and Technology Corp in April 2014, after leading Teradata Corporation’s Government Systems legal and contracts team for 10 years. At Alion he has served as Deputy General Counsel (April 2014 – November 2015), Acting General Counsel (November 2015 – May 2016) and in May 2016 was appointed General Counsel. In June 2016, he was elected Senior Vice President.
ExecutiveBiz: What legal barriers do you see as ones that can be changed to facilitate more collaboration between contractors and the government?
Brian Fisher: In the United States, collaborations and cooperative R&D agreements suffer less from burdensome legal barriers than from a lack of familiarity with existing statutes and regulations that already grant to the Government wide authority to partner creatively. Yet, from a purely intellectual property perspective and with few notable exceptions, many seem to see the CRADA as the edge of an ancient map of the oceans, labeled “Here be dragons.” This reluctance to travel further – to share the costs and the benefits of a deeper partnership – seems especially evident in the information technology market where IP ownership and licensing reign supreme.
That said, continually tightening budgets worldwide have prompted many of our customers and competitors to consider approaches that are more flexible than traditional “tried and true” contract types. This is excellent news for an engineering and R&D company like Alion which has a proven track record of creative, collaborative partnerships extending back to the 1930s as part of the Armour Institute (later IITRI).
Any successful public-private collaboration requires: (a) each party’s key stakeholders to fully understood – and accept – its cost, benefit, and risk trade-offs; (b) clear and comprehensive agreements; and most importantly, (c) trust that each party will communicate fearlessly throughout the project life cycle; especially as issues invariably arise. Without executive buy-in, clarity, and communication, the end result will look far different than the original expectation.