E-commerce group partners with DOD

By Colleen O'Hara

The nascent Federal Electronic Commerce Coalition last month announced that it has formalized a relationship with the Defense Department to help promote electronic business between industry and the government.

The Federal EC Coalition, an alliance of 18 industry organizations, was organized early this year to give industry a single voice with which to speak to government on electronic business issues. Under the deal with DOD, the coalition's first government customer, four working groups were formed to address electronic commerce issues across various functional domains in the department, such as procurement and finance.

"The working groups will develop recommendations for DOD that may have to do with process re-engineering or internal DOD regulation modification or perhaps even recommendations to go to the Hill for legislative changes," said Howard Stern, co-chairman of the Federal EC Coalition and vice president of government partnerships for onehealthbank.com. "The idea is that these teams will act as consultants to DOD senior management in the implementation and utilization of (electronic commerce) within the department."

Specifically, the working groups, which will be composed of DOD and industry representatives, will focus on incentives for the adoption of electronic business, information security, performance measures, and software quality and interoperability. The groups will address issues that came out of recommendations made at the May 1999 Electronic Commerce Conference hosted by deputy Defense secretary John Hamre.

The DOD would not be able to achieve its goal of moving major weapons systems to paperless contracting by January 2000 without industry participation, department officials said in a written statement. "We anticipate that commercial 'best practices' identified by our industry partners will be valuable models for us," the statement said. This is the first time the department has partnered with industry groups in the electronic commerce area, according to DOD.

Although the coalition is speaking with one voice, each association represented within the organization also must speak for its members on specific issues, said Michael Mestrovich, president of Unlimited New Dimensions LLC. Mestrovich represents the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association on the DOD/Industry Steering Group, which oversees the working groups.

"[AFCEA members] are interested in a consistent set of processes, a consistent set of services and a consistent set of policies in how to deal with DOD electronically," Mestrovich said. "It will give clarity to members from the standpoint of how to be an electronic business partner with DOD. And at the same time, it will help them as they do their internal re-engineering to make sure that they're aligning properly with where DOD is going."

The coalition provides a forum for industry to communicate with other agencies, most of which share the same concerns as DOD, said Robert Sturm, vice president of business development at eFed Inc. and co-chairman of the Federal EC Coalition. Common issues relate not to technology but to business process concerns, such as electronic interface standards, he said.

Through the coalition, industry hopes to help agencies improve their procedures and to build and create government solutions, Sturm said. "We also want to prevent restrictive government requirements and procedures that inhibit widespread electronic commerce," he added.

Industry wants to avoid another failure like the Federal Acquisition Computer Network, which was established to give agencies a standard method to buy from vendors using electronic data interchange. The project never took off in part because it was too restrictive.

The coalition already is looking for more government partners and has spoken with the General Services Administration's Office of Electronic Commerce, the CIO Council, the Commerce Department and others. For more information, go to www.eccwg.org.

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