Federal acquisition needs enterprise architecture, official says

The federal government needs enterprise architecture to fix its acquisition system, the top General Services Administration official said today.


The government needs to standardize its acquisition system and join its various parts to provide consistency, said Jim Williams, acting GSA administrator.


“There needs to be a vision. There needs to be some common way of looking at things,” he said during a speech at the 2008 Vision conference.


Enterprise architecture takes a holistic view of the way parts of a related group work together. It attempts to break down divisions where that is feasible.


A vision would center around how the government looks at a system comprised of people, complex processes and a variety of technologies, he said. Williams said officials with a stake in procurement must synchronize the numerous contract vehicles and electronic tools for purchasing.


A vision shared by those officials would also be a check on anecdotal fixes to anecdotal problems, he said.


“Right now, I don’t think we have any way of judging,” he said. “It’s just, Congress hears something and says, ‘I want to fix it.’ And it makes great print in the media to say, ‘I’m standing up for truth in federal contracting and improving transparency.' ”


However, Williams said experts in industry and especially in the government should  consider the effect those fixes on the procurement process. Those changes can evolve into policies that may cause problems in one sector, causing deeper problems, he said.


“Good intentions don’t always translate into good policies,” Williams said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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