Why procurement reform hinges on industry help

Jaime Gracia is president and CEO of Seville Government Consulting, a federal acquisition and program management consulting firm. He is also the industry chairman of the Better Government IT initiative, a joint effort by the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and the General Services Administration to improve government/industry communication and collaboration in the IT acquisition process and implement items 24 and 25 of OMB’s IT management reform plan.

The Office of Management Budget recently hosted a forum on transforming federal IT management at which Federal CIO Vivek Kundra discussed progress on the agency’s 25-point plan to reform IT management.

When an audience member asked a question about execution and accountability, Kundra said effective communication between industry and the government is essential for ensuring real change. In effect, Kundra was referencing the engagement strategy in points 24 and 25 of OMB’s plan. The effort requires changing a government culture calcified through misinterpretation of procurement policy, risk aversion and a tendency to continue acting in ways counterproductive to effective program outcomes.

To improve the state of communications between industry and government, we must overcome artificial barriers. Although the Federal Acquisition Regulation encourages robust exchanges with industry early and often in the procurement process, they rarely occur. The result is poor market research, few true opportunities for competition and even greater obstacles for small businesses that want to participate in federal contracting.

In addition, programs break down and experience cost, schedule and performance issues as a result of requirements that are not properly spelled out early in a procurement.

One solution is the creation of a governmentwide, online, interactive platform for obtaining industry participation in the development of project requirements, which is Point 25 of OMB’s plan. That effort, spearheaded by the General Services Administration, will be an important tool for breaking down the artificial barriers in the acquisition process. With that tool, the requirements-development process and industry/government communications would be moved as far left of the acquisition cycle as possible, creating a needs-identification phase that is completely open and transparent.

As a result, the government will open the door to badly needed innovative solutions and capitalize on industry’s technical knowledge. In addition, small businesses would be given an opportunity from which they would otherwise be excluded, thereby further expanding market research efforts with the goal of increasing competition and developing better requirements and performance metrics during contract execution.

The interactive platform and subsequent discussions would have an impact on other far-reaching, long-term goals that center on the use of fixed-priced contracts and the ability to create performance-based contracts and focus on outcomes.

It is a fact that industry is more knowledgeable about the use of technology than the government is, so it is incumbent on the government to capitalize on industry’s knowledge and combine it with mission capability to create solutions that are delivered on time and within budget. Further, the government rarely knows what it truly needs, so opportunities exist for allowing industry to propose solutions based on requirements developed in an open, transparent environment, thereby creating a level playing field for all to participate and compete.

The requirements-development process would create a partnership with industry that is vital to changing the current environment of poor communications, misunderstood or erroneous requirements, and program outcomes that are unacceptable in a time of fiscal constraints and desperately needed improvements in performance. Although innovation is needed in how the government buys, it is equally important for government to innovate in the way it communicates with industry and break down the artificial barriers that plague performance at taxpayers’ expense.

About the Author

Jaime Gracia is president and CEO of Seville Government Consulting, a federal acquisition and program management consulting firm.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group