Procurement

In search of a bolder procurement process

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A group of West Coast analysts and public officials want to change the slow, cautious federal IT procurement process by casting a wider net for faster, bolder ideas among technology companies and others that aren't necessarily steeped in the government's culture.

The group, Public Spend Forum, is asking contractors that do business with the federal government and those that expressly avoid working for federal, state or local agencies to share what they believe are the biggest barriers to competing for contracts. Results of the study are expected to be released in early March.

The study is based on conversations that include industry/government roundtables and surveys. The latest roundtable discussion on Feb. 21 at San Jose City Hall included San Francisco CIO Marc Touitou; Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who represents a portion of Silicon Valley; Mike McNerney, former cyber policy adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and Anthony Robbins, vice president of federal for Brocade.

Panelists contended that the federal procurement environment's aversion to risk and its glacial pace are the biggest barriers to innovation and attracting more suppliers.

"Procurement people have a big red button in front of them to hit reject," Touitou said, and a mentality that suppliers have to be "qualified to engage with the government." Both factors make many businesses reluctant to compete for government IT contracts.

They can also contribute to problems with big government contracts, which can lack the flexibility to incorporate advancing technology, said Raj Sharma, founder of Censeo Consulting Group and co-chairman of the Editorial Board at Public Spend Forum.

Sharma said he hopes talking with a diverse group of companies that aren't necessarily involved with government contracts can lead to innovative approaches and business-savvy regulations.

Honda and Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) have championed national legislation that seeks to create 30 structured, non-paying positions at federal agencies so entrepreneurs could work with the public and share their expertise with agencies, similar to the role the presidential fellows play.

Note: This article was updated on Feb. 25 to include Anthony Robbins' current role with Brocade.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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Reader comments

Sat, Mar 1, 2014 Guy Timberlake Maryland

I hope the information reported by the Public Spend Forum for this is much more accurate than what they reported in their "office supply purchasing by the Fed" article a few months back.

Tue, Feb 25, 2014

That's very interesting. But it's not all about making life easy for business. Unless they also address the mandate for the government to prevent fraud, either deliberate or "inadvertent" (via vendor incompetence), and the obvious mandate to be effective stewards of taxpayer money, any reforms they propose will likely be rejected out of hand, and rightly so.

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