IT lobby optimistic about defense bill

Shutterstock image: Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

The IT Industry Council’s public sector arm is more optimistic about the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bills than last year’s version because of what the lobby says are business-friendly provisions and forward-looking approaches to acquisition reform.

“There’s a lot in here to like for innovative companies that are either in this space or believe they have capabilities … that would benefit the government and its missions,” Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of public sector at the IT Alliance for the Public Sector, said of the Senate and House bills. He added that his organization would like to see some of the IT provisions in the measures applied throughout government “because we don’t think we can fix the problem [with IT acquisition and management] if we only focus on DOD.”

Measures to develop the acquisition workforce included in the defense bills are an example of a policy that should be replicated across government, he said in a May 27 briefing with reporters. 

That broader application of IT reforms could come from amendments on the Senate floor rather than separate legislation because the annual measure “is frequently a vehicle for government-wide change to procurement and acquisition” requirements and processes,” he added.

The House on May 15 passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill, while the Senate version still awaits a floor vote that Hodgkins, citing Capitol Hill sources, said will likely come before the Independence Day recess.

The Senate bill would go further on some IT reforms, Hodgkins said. One reason for that, he speculated, could be that Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) may have the gavel only through the end of 2016 and is therefore motivated to leave a lasting mark.  

McCain and his counterpart on the House Armed Services Committee, Texas Republican Mac Thornberry, are seeking to reform the process by which the Pentagon spends tens of billions of dollars on weapons and IT annually, and they cite as motivation the dwindling U.S. edge over adversaries in defense technology.

Erica McCann, director of federal procurement at ITAPS, welcomed an acquisition review panel included in the Senate report on the bill. The advisory panel would include acquisition experts from government and industry, and would conduct a two-year review of acquisition regulations to identify those that are overly burdensome, she said.

The last such review panel took place in the early 1990s. “From a technology standpoint, the way that the government not only acquires but what they acquire has changed so drastically over those 20 years, and now is the right time to do this review,” McCann said.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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