Government needs EC game plan

Like the Washington Redskins' first win of the season, the government's search for a single-face-to-industry electronic commerce solution is proving to be elusive.

But it is not for a lack of options. The Defense Department has announced it will test a new EC system designed to tie together a multitude of DOD sites that post business opportunities— a worthy goal, but vaguely similar to that of a civilian interagency project already under way. And then there is a private-sector effort to create that all-too-elusive single face to industry.

While it is true that these competing efforts could very well end up as complementary, fully interoperable systems, the proliferation of competing systems does not seem to be speeding up the rate at which EC is integrated into day-to-day government business. While the one-size-fits-all Federal Acquisition Computer Network failed as a larger government effort to sow the seeds of EC within agencies, it did seem to generate a higher level of attention to EC in general. In other words, "While we did not have a very good plan, at least we had a plan."

It is time for the government in general and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy in particular to get serious about EC. A good first step for OFPP is to deliver to agencies guidance on how to develop their EC assessment and strategic plans, which agencies must turn around by Jan. 15. OFPP should continue to push agencies during the year to make EC a priority.

Perhaps more than most other tools, EC has the potential to reinvent the way the government does business. We know the topic is high on newly arrived OFPP chief Deidre Lee's agenda. We are endorsing the effort by Lee to push agencies to make it a reality.

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