New horizons for Trail Boss

A group of government and industry officials is trying to revive the Trail Boss program, which the General Services Administration discontinued in 1999.

More than 1,000 U.S. and Canadian government information technology professionals took part in the old Trail Boss program, which provided a network of experts in policy, planning, procurement and implementation.

The new effort, which the organizers are calling Trail Boss New Horizons, is needed as agencies strive to fulfill e-government initiatives, said Steve Kelman, former administrator of the Office of Procurement Policy and now professor of public management at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

"The Trail Bosses are a community of practice, and the bonds of trust they developed made it easier to get things done," he said. "Current intergovernmental e-gov initiatives really need this kind of collaboration."

The original Trail Boss program was part of GSA's mandate to oversee all federal IT purchases under legislation called the Brooks Act, which was repealed in 1996, said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

"It was a way to make sure people in federal agencies had key training to manage their IT acquisitions and to manage their IT assets," thus allowing GSA to delegate responsibility, he said.

"I don't know that reincarnating it would be a bad idea, but the environment's changed a little bit," he said. Agency chief information officers are now responsible for some of the oversight that used to be GSA's responsibility, he added.

The working committee that is trying to renew the program is headed by Kay Ely, a former federal procurement official now with Virginia-based consulting firm Acquisition Solutions Inc., and Ian Rothwell, an IT official in the Canadian government.

The group plans to announce its formation at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C., in April.

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