Fiscal pressures ignite interest for shared services

If there's a bright side to tightening budgets, it's in the increased motivation among agencies to look for opportunities to share.

Rick Holgate

ATF's Rick Holgate: Agencies can no longer afford to do things individually when they can share.

Budget austerity may have at least one upside. The pressure to reduce costs is forcing agencies to share solutions and platforms, which is breaking down the notorious government silos, according to an agency CIO.

During the Jan. 23 Federal Mobile Computing Summit held in Washington, D.C., and organized by Mobilegov, senior government officials said the sharing extends to solutions, contract vehicles, lessons learned and best practices. Cost-conscious agencies have a renewed appreciation for the value of not covering ground where someone else has already blazed a trail.

Since the release of the Digital Government Strategy in May 2012, the focus has been on governmentwide collaboration in addressing mobile security and tailoring security postures to agencies’ missions, said Rick Holgate, CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“We’ve also seen a lot of emphasis on adopting common platforms across federal agencies; within the Department of Justice in particular, we’ve had a lot of conversations about areas in which we’ve already seen commonalities among all the various DOJ components,” he said.

For example, officials are exploring how mobile device management could be a common platform or service the entire department could benefit from and use. Similar conversations have emerged at ATF around mobility expenses and how to adopt a common contracting vehicle to capitalize on Justice’s buying power.

Holgate said the idea is to identify areas of commonality where ATF can share solutions and common platforms and pursue initiatives jointly to prevent the agency from constantly learning the same lessons or inventing the same acquisition vehicles, platforms or services.

Amid constricted resources and fiscal pressures, agencies are more willing than ever to share solutions. “We can’t all afford to do things individually and uniquely like we may have done in the past,” Holgate noted.

Historically, Justice’s subcomponents have not embraced sharing because of their autonomous nature, but they are now motivated to share solutions. Mobile device management is a good place to start, Holgate added.

The next level of challenge for ATF, however, is to focus on how to distribute applications or provide services in a more common fashion. Holgate acknowledged there is not an easy road ahead. 

“Frankly, upcoming deliverables in the Digital Government Strategy at the 12-month point address some of those issues, and they are further-out deliverables because they are harder problems to solve,” he said.

NEXT STORY: 2013: The road ahead

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