No end in sight in quest for reform

Ellen Brown got her first government job as a new lawyer at the Small Business Administration, which hired her to advise small-business owners about selling goods and services to the government. When her telephone rang, she told SBA clients about agency solicitations in the Commerce Business Daily and other ways that federal organizations bought what they needed.

In her first few days, she recalls, she told some callers not to bother selling to the government. It was too complicated, and the rewards were uncertain. "I didn't understand why anyone would want to do business with the government," she says.

Her boss overheard one such conversation and told Brown to change her tune. But she continued to wonder why vendors put up with agencies' arcane purchasing techniques, slow turnaround time and rule-ridden cultures. The situation was even worse for sellers of computers and communications networks, because their high costs and unfamiliar technology led to tighter reins on acquisitions.

But later as a Capitol Hill staffer, Brown had the opportunity to improve the process. She worked for Rep. William Clinger (R-Pa.) and helped craft the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and then the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. As a result of her work and that of others, the federal government in the 21st century relies on information technology policies and practices that are more modern and effective than those in force when the Federal 100 awards debuted in 1990.

Many of the dramatic changes were conceived and championed by the leaders who have been recognized with Federal 100 awards. Those people get excited — and sometimes moved — when they reflect on the changes.

"The transformation has been staggering in its depth and breadth," said Chip Mather, a former Air Force IT procurement innovator who now helps agencies with procurements as a consultant at Acquisition Solutions Inc.

"I'm sort of amazed that we did as well as we did," Brown said.

As veterans of the federal environment, whether working for the government or with a company supplying IT products and services to it

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.