- By Bruce McConnell
- Mar 03, 2002
What do the Girl Scouts, Save the Children and the March of Dimes have
in common? Each organization is having a gala benefit this month in Washington,
D.C. Ranging from opening night at the circus to a celebrity cook-off featuring
30 Cabinet members, senators and representatives, these kinds of events
are a longtime tradition and an important source of funding for charitable
In recent years, the federal information technology community has begun
to join this tradition from Web pages to the society pages, if you will.
Last month, AFCEA International's Bethesda, Md., chapter sponsored an inspiring,
sellout benefit for the Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health.
Next month, the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils
and the Industry Advisory Council will sponsor the "Connect for a Cure"
black-tie gala to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
These events are salutary in two ways. First, they help the beneficiary
organizations while providing enjoyable networking. Equally important, they
signal the growing maturity of the federal IT community. This could not
come at a more appropriate moment.
The global IT community suffered a big shock in the dot-com crash. Surviving
firms, because of the recession and the aftermath of Sept. 11, increasingly
look to the federal marketplace. Sales targets are up for established federal
vendors, and many other firms are now approaching the federal government
as a potential customer for the first time.
Longtime members of the government IT community understand that federal
agencies are different from commercial customers. Indeed, understanding
the nuances of culture and process inside agencies can be an essential edge
in an increasingly competitive marketplace. But the government is different
in another, much more important way mission.
America's founders created a government to "establish justice, insure
domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general
welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
These are not the bottom-line reasons that motivate firms. The concept of
public service includes a dimension of stewardship of the commons, working
to the benefit of all.
There is much talk today about public/private partnerships. Sound partnerships
are based on mutual interest, not charity. But unlike purely private partnerships,
public/private ones must respect the mission of government and understand
the concept of service. Leadership groups such as those mentioned above,
the Council for Excellence in Government and the Private Sector Council
are demonstrating the potential of these partnerships. All of the members
of the federal IT community, newcomers and old-timers alike, should take
the time to combine and build on the best talents of the private and public
sectors. As a nation, we need them both.
McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at the Office
of Management and Budget, is president of McConnell International LLC (www.mcconnellinternational.com).