Performance pressure stresses agencies

Agencies now free of centralized information technology oversight procedures could lose that flexibility if they fail to get results from more creative ways of buying and managing their systems, a panel of industry and government officials said last week.

"Now is when the hard work is really going to begin," said Paul Brubaker, an aide to Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine), who sponsored the recently enacted Information Technology Management Reform Act. "We've laid a foundation, and it will be up to you to build a home."

Brubaker was one of four panelists participating in a discussion of the new law at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's "Virtual Government" conference last week.

Gregory Rothwell, the Internal Revenue Service's assistant commissioner for procurement, said agencies must "embrace this new spirit" by finding better ways to develop new systems and communicate more openly with vendors while at the same time being careful they do not act unethically.

The Cohen Act, as some are calling the measure, repealed the 30-year-old Brooks Act that governed IT procurements and replaced it with a new oversight framework that emphasizes program management.

Treating IT as an Investment

Cohen's bill, along with the Federal Acquisition Reform Act sponsored by Rep. William Clinger (R-Pa.), gives agencies more control over purchasing.

Christopher Hoenig, director of the General Accounting Office's IRM Policies and Issues Group, said that for agencies to succeed, they need to treat IT as an investment and be able to show what they are getting from their expenditures.

The Cohen Act could have significant effects on how vendors conduct business as well, said Donald Scott, vice president of government relations with GTE Government Systems. And streamlining procurements would likely reduce vendors' costs as well as the government's.

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