Procurement

Clock is running out on procurement reform

Trey Hodgkins

ITI's Trey Hodgkins said acquisition reform legislation "is at an impasse" on Capitol Hill.

The policy prescriptions in IT procurement reform legislation look promising, but the chances of Congress acting don't, according to a top executive at the Information Technology Industry Council.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act "is at an impasse" on Capitol Hill, said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of ITI's Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector, during an Aug. 6 briefing for reporters.

Various versions of the legislation exist, but a concerted effort to bring them together looks less likely as the fall elections approach, he added. It's the same for other procurement reform measures, said Hodgkins and Erica McCann, manager of federal procurement at ITAPS.

"We support reform, but I'm not optimistic because of the timing," Hodgkins said. He and McCann noted that the level of activity on the issue is high among lawmakers, whose interest has increased since the debacle of the HealthCare.gov rollout last year.

McCann and Hodgkins also pointed to the uncertainty that a potential continuing resolution for federal agency funding would bring. Both said a CR was almost inevitable as Congress and the president once again spar over the details of appropriations bills.

Temporary funding that lasts only a few months makes it difficult for agencies to commit to IT spending.

Hodgkins said he is also concerned that even if some of the reform legislation is ultimately enacted, it would not adequately address the deep-seated, multifaceted problems that federal acquisition faces.

"I'm concerned if one bill is passed, everyone will declare victory and go home," he told FCW after the briefing.

He suggested there were some areas that might be addressed in the short term without legislation.

First among them is educating the procurement workforce to take full advantage of existing contracting vehicles and rules to better address fast-moving changes in IT acquisition. Another is to tap into the experience of senior or retired acquisition workers. A third would be for President Barack Obama to issue an executive order authorizing incentives for instituting program management efforts at agencies aimed at coordinating IT procurement and oversight.

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, tele.com 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 mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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