When reading about NIH's new Chief Information Officer Solutions and Partners (CIOSP) program, we were reminded of the famous quote by a Russian general: "Ever forward, but slowly."
With CIOSP, NIH plans to award between 12 and 15 contracts that will provide civilian agencies with a broad array of hardware, software and technology services. NIH has moved aggressively with CIOSP, with awards slated only three months after the program was announced. To meet this deadline, NIH is letting prequalified bidders help hammer out the details of the statement of work and the request for proposals - an unorthodox approach, to say the least.
While we're excited to see agencies such as NIH moving into the brave, new world of post-procurement reform IT contracting, we're a little worried that they may be doing too much too soon. We'd hate to see NIH, with its track record of successful and innovative IT programs such as the Electronic Computer Store, move outside the boundaries of the Information Technology Management Reform Act (ITMRA) and get into trouble.
We want to encourage risk takers such as NIH, but we urge them be mindful of the rules still in place.
Although agencies are encouraged to form closer relationships with industry under ITMRA, they need to make sure that vendors don't step over the line and dictate what the government will buy.
With the way the pendulum swings in Washington, all we would need is one large procurement to get slapped with charges of inappropriate influence by vendors, and then the whole community would lose many of its new-found freedoms.
Agencies shouldn't forget that the rules were loosened because they promised to show good judgment.