Cobert tees up IT management plans

Beth Cobert_FOSE 2014

OMB's Beth Cobert said the government is looking for ways to work within existing regulations while also expanding the options for agile procurement.

Even as the federal government seeks to streamline IT acquisition to include more technology startups, a plan is afoot to capture existing knowledge about how to best use Federal Acquisition Regulation guidelines to support agile procurement, said Beth Cobert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, during a keynote speech May 13 at 1105 Media's FOSE conference.

"We want to make it easier to find solutions that already exist in the frame of regulations at the same time [that] we look to adapt and streamline those regulations," Cobert said. The goal is to unearth the highly dispersed pockets of acquisition knowledge "so it isn't just the few" who know how to apply creativity and flexibility to federal procurement.

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Changes to IT procurement and deployment play a big part in the Obama administration's overall management agenda. Some specifics include the development of a "digital services playbook" of best practices in IT procurement, design and deployment. The goal is to identify best practices and share them across the government.

Those lessons will be reinforced by the deployment of two specialized teams: the digital services team at the U.S. CIO's office, which is seeking funding to help agencies with high-profile IT projects, and the 18F team at the General Services Administration, which helps agencies build websites and other public-facing federal IT projects.

Cobert is also soliciting advice from the contracting community. OMB recently worked with GSA, the CIO Council and the Chief Acquisition Officers Council to conduct an open dialogue with stakeholders that has yielded more than 100 ideas on streamlining reporting and compliance, bringing industry best practices into government, and increasing participation by nontraditional government contractors. Cobert said officials will share specific solutions in the coming months.

She also stressed the importance of attracting top IT talent to federal service. Right now, IT professionals face a 100-day government hiring cycle compared to one or two weeks in the private sector, Cobert said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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