Industry says ambitious White House IT reform plan is doable

OMB officials unveil 25-step plan

Industry members are praising the Obama administration’s 25-step implementation plan for IT management reform, saying that many of its action items align with popular commercial practices.

Officials released the reform plan Thursday morning and detailed the federal government’s goal to engage more with industry, shift to a “cloud first” policy, and its intent to terminate inefficient IT systems within 18 months. Despite the scope of the plan's ambition, management advocates in the industry community said it seems feasible.

“None of it seems undoable,” Andy Robinson, chair of the Industry Advisory Council, said. “I didn’t see anything that struck me as impossible to accomplish. Industry is ready for it to happen.”

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Federal CIO Vivek Kundra provided an overview of the report at a White House event, which was attended by federal agency leaders and industry members. Kundra highlighted elements of the report, such as redefining the role of agency CIOs and removing barriers to entry for small innovative technology firms. He also stressed the government’s bottom-line goal of execution.

To ensure the measures outlined in the report are actually being achieved, Kundra said the government will issue six-month progress reports on individual action items. Action items are also assigned to “owners” or specific federal agencies to increase accountability.

Tim Young, a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting and a former Office of Management and Budget official, said he doesn’t think the government’s plan is overly ambitious, it just incorporates new ideas.

Young also said that many of the steps the government will take are consistent with leading business practices, including an iterative IT transformation, implementing shared services and emerging technologies, and integrating IT management. He added that it is imperative for the government to be transparent in its execution of this reform strategy.

Further, Young said he thinks the administration’s biggest challenge in IT reform will be sustained implementation. “The gap that exists between strategy and implementation is big and requires constant focus,” he said.

Sources generally agreed that working with Congress to develop flexible budget models that align with modular development will also be one of the most arduous tasks the administration undertakes.

Trey Hodgkins, vice president of national security and federal procurement policy at TechAmerica, said budget reform will be difficult because it requires buy-in from all stakeholders, along with approval through the legislative process. “Appropriations is a touchy subject on the Hill,” Hodgkins said. It is "a closely guarded realm of the Congress.”

Still, the industry advocates said they think flexible budget models are feasible if OMB, federal agencies and Congress work collaboratively. They also said stakeholders must also articulate the value of such models to Congress.

The government’s effort to better engage and utilize the private sector was also met with positive industry response. As part of the plan, the government will create an interactive platform for pre-RFP agency-industry collaboration and launch a “myth-busting” education campaign to eliminate artificial barriers to private-sector engagement.

Hodgkins said the government’s outreach will allow industry to be more aggressive in making suggestions on how to solve problems. It will also encourage new conversations with industry about which technology the government should buy or what integration it should pursue, he said. Hodgkins added the report’s emphasis on program management, including the creation of a program management career path, is critical.

John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, also gave kudos to Kundra and the administration for stressing the importance of a specialized IT workforce and the creation of a technology fellows program.

Kundra said at the Thursday event that the plan was drafted with input from the federal IT, acquisition, and program management communities, as well as industry experts and academics. Hodgkins noted that the government’s plan closely mirrors proposals made in a report released earlier this year by TechAmerica Foundation’s Commission on Government Technology Opportunity in the 21st Century.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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