Kundra helps in search for procurement policy leader

CIO wants to simplify buying process

Vivek Kundra, the country’s chief information officer, said today that he has been working closely with the official in charge of finding a candidate for the administration’s top procurement policy job.

Jeff Zients, whom the Senate confirmed June 19 as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, has been evaluating possible candidates for administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. The position has been vacant since September 2008.

Kundra has been a vocal advocate for simplifying the government’s buying process, an effort that he said should include reforming parts of the General Services Administration. The government needs to do a better job of using technology to make the whole process easier, he said during a discussion today with 1105 Media reporters and editors.

“Everyone in government shouldn’t have to have a Ph.D. in procurement,” he said. “Why is it so complex?”

Kundra wants a speedier, simpler acquisition process, and he said the candidates for OFPP administrator should understand the overall challenges in government procurement and be able to speed up the acquisition of rapidly changing technologies.

The OFPP administrator should “recognize we can’t treat technology procurements in the same way we do buying buildings,” he said.

The top procurement position has been vacant since Paul Denett left the job last year and remains unfilled despite Kundra's advocacy for information technology procurement reforms and President Barack Obama's emphasis on much broader governmentwide procurement reforms.

One of Kundra's biggest pushes is the IT storefront. He has proposed a virtual marketplace where agencies could quickly purchase cloud-computing services, for instance. He said GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules program has many benefits, but there’s a faster way to work. Each time an agency wants to buy IT, it should not have to start a two-year procurement process, he said.

However, industry experts are skeptical that the IT storefront model is a good fit for the government unless procurement practices change. And some say the storefront would be redundant given the existence of the online GSA Advantage.

Kundra said government employees “still need to have a lot of background" to buy for the government, even with the GSA offerings.

"You need to have a deep understanding of everything that’s involved,” he said.

About the Author

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

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