Critical Read

How to open up federal IT acquisition

a man grouping items by shape

What: "Delivering Results: A Framework for Federal Government Technology Access and Acquisition," a white paper by the Professional Services Council and the Technology Councils of North America that offers guidelines the two groups say should be adopted across government to take full advantage of technology development and advancement in the private sector.

Why: The two groups signed an agreement on Dec. 1 to focus on developing new business relationships, public/private partnerships, policy coordination, and innovation in the government technology and services sector. PSC represents federal technology and professional services contractors, and TECNA represents technology trade organizations in the U.S. and Canada.

The gap between how government acquires technology and how the private sector develops and provides it is getting larger. PSC and TECNA say the federal government needs a new attitude when asking for technology solutions from commercial providers.

"Our message is simple: Government must remove the high hurdles to participation and innovation for all so that firms from across the nation can compete on a level playing field," PSC Executive Vice President Dave Wennergren said when the paper was released on Dec. 8.

The document outlines how the government can open acquisition to a wider pool of commercial providers and provides recommendations on how to increase government/industry collaboration, inject flexibility into the contracting process, balance risk, and strengthen the federal IT and acquisition workforces.

Specifically, the two organizations recommend requiring all significant federal programs to be led and managed by an "integrated accountability chain" that includes representative of all key internal stakeholders. Other actions include adding an "innovation template" to requests for proposals when innovation is a goal and inserting an "emerging technology provision" into solicitations to allow contractors to integrate new or evolving technology into their solutions.

The paper also suggests amending the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act to give OFPP statutory authority over the entire acquisition workforce, including clear authority over program managers.

To increase government and commercial collaboration on IT acquisitions, the two organizations recommend explicitly authorizing and requiring continuous communications -- within the bounds of procurement integrity laws -- between agencies’ program and contracting offices and between agencies and contractors.

Read the full report.

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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