Kundra's IT cartel theory: Arguments for and against
- By John S. Monroe
- Sep 26, 2011
Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra deserves credit for giving people the opportunity to voice their frustrations, whether you agree with him or not.
In the most recent example, Kundra wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he alleged that a handful of companies — what he called an IT cartel — were blocking innovation in government to protect their financial interests.
The response among Federal Computer Week readers was strongly divided. Some believed Kundra was saying out loud what they had been thinking for a long time and praised him for having the courage to speak truth to power. But others saw the article as further evidence that Kundra never did grasp the dynamics of federal procurement.
Here is a sampling of reader comments on both sides of the issue. The comments have been edited for length, clarity and style.
On the one hand: Truth at last
At last somebody like Kundra is speaking the truth. IT contracts in the federal government are a terrible waste of tax dollars. Politicians limit salaries, and hence, agencies cannot hire top IT professionals. The result is a bunch of buffoons leading government IT contracts and getting no results from the consulting companies. Consulting companies have no interest in delivering the results if they get paid regardless. It is all about politics and planned incompetency in government.
I take exception to the statement above that says it took courage to say what [Kundra] said. It didn't take courage, it just took frustration. Courage would have been to do something about it when he had a chance. Peanut-gallery comments do nothing.
Cartel, indeed, Kundra! All of the snazzy sales consultants are selling solutions that will never work in the federal government. You know it, we know it, but you still keep subsidizing the game.
— testpilot, DC
On the other hand: Come again?
Did Kundra ever hear of the Federal Acquisition Regulation? A contractor cannot change course and do work that is out of scope for the contract. So I guess if we blow off the FAR, task orders and contracts, we could move to the cloud in rapid order, and then let the lawsuits begin.
— Mike, California
When I was a GS-14 senior technical staff member, I rarely met the competent federal IT manager who could read through the smoke screens that contractors put up. It was always like pulling teeth trying to get these managers to understand that what the contracting firms were proposing was contrary to the long-term benefits of the agency. And God forbid I try to help the managers avoid IT decisions that the users didn't care about and that the so-called managers thought would aggrandize their stature in the agency.
Depending on profit-minded contractors instead of maintaining a technically competent government workforce has gotten the government where it is today. Government managers provide little to no technical oversight and too much emphasis on tasking, schedules and budgets.
John S. Monroe is the editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.