Davis to feds: Don't dodge the big decisions

belt tightened

Agencies that haven't adopted shared services and begun the moving of data centers are "going to get reamed," said Tom Davis, the former chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, speaking to an audience of federal IT managers.

"Innovation is key," Davis said at satellite telecommunications provider Hughes Government's June 16 technology summit, titled "Meeting the Network Needs of Tomorrow with the Budgets of Today."

Davis, who chaired the committee from 2003 to 2007 -- before Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) added "oversight" to its name and mission -- said he did not see an end to the nagging federal budget problems and sequestration cuts anytime soon. The era of temporary funding through congressional continuing resolutions is just beginning, he predicted, and federal IT managers must learn how to survive in the new reality.

"Politicians aren't coming to the rescue" of IT managers expecting to get firm funding for their projects in the coming years, he warned.

"In private industry, IT is an investment," Davis explained. But "in government, it's a line item" -- vulnerable to the blunt federal budget axe.

Small agency fixes, such as cutting contracting costs or moving personnel around won't help, said Davis, who now is director of government relations at Deloitte.

"Agency heads are in denial…They're not making the big decisions that are required. You have to adapt. Companies have to change their business models. Agencies have to change their spending models."

Changing spending models is very much on Mary Davie's mind. In her remarks to the conference, Davie, assistant commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service, pointed to GSA's new uniformly priced packages of wireless services for federal users as one of her agency's many efforts to more effectively track costs and reduce multiple contracts.

GSA and Davie have said the program will save $300 million over five years and as an expected $1 billion moves through it. "Agencies have said this will be their vehicle when they transition out" of old wireless contracts, she said.

GSA's effort to transition federal agencies further into cloud service is progressing as well, she said. According to Davie, GSA is moving to become a cloud broker in which it becomes the source of cloud solutions for federal agencies. Although the move would provide a clearer path for cloud migration for the government, her agency is still working through the idea's implications. GSA's initial cloud broker RFI, she added, drew thousands of pages of response.

"'Cloud broker' is confusing," Davie admitted. "Is it an integrator, government or industry?"

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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