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Exit interview with Anne Rung

Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

Anne Rung isn't much for hyperbole. After working in federal acquisition for the past seven years and ultimately becoming part of arguably the closest alliance between acquisition and IT efforts, she said she has "accomplished a lot."

That's perhaps an understatement. In just two years as administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Rung has helped rewrite acquisition policies that cover more than $450 billion in annual federal contract spending and the largest supply chain in the world.

Her short assessment belies the billion or so dollars that her acquisition strategies have saved. For instance, she launched the category management initiative almost two years ago to expand the use of data-driven procurement practices across the federal government. The effort fuels the General Services Administration's strategic sourcing initiative to develop electronic "hallways" for a host of IT products with the goal of centralizing information on product pricing, contracting and other aspects of procurement.

Rung was also behind innovative acquisition assessment tools such as Acquisition 360, the first mechanism to allow agencies to identify weaknesses in their acquisition processes, including pre-award activities and post-award debriefings.

She is leaving the government for the private sector on Sept. 30, and she will begin a new job on Nov. 1 as global leader of public-sector sales at Amazon Business in Seattle. In a Sept. 29 interview with FCW, Rung credited a closer relationship between acquisition and IT officials as a key to continued progress on the improvements she helped initiate.

"We issued major guidance with the [U.S.] CIO on computers, software and mobile," she said. "There had been bits and pieces" of that kind of management in the past, but the joint memos issued by her as federal chief acquisition officer and U.S. CIO Tony Scott solidified them.

In close coordination with Scott, Rung helped sort out duplicative spending on computers, software and mobile devices with a series of groundbreaking purchasing guidelines. She also helped bring some order to the dizzying array of individual agency IT contracts and helped develop roadmaps for acquisition managers to follow for better contract results.

Tom Sharpe, commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, told FCW that "under [Rung's] leadership, the federal government has made significant strides in moving toward the category management model to reduce contract duplication, share best practices and drive additional value on behalf of the American taxpayer. FAS has partnered with Anne and her team throughout this transformational initiative, and we look forward to continuing the good work we've begun."

The growing momentum for category management practices can be seen in the steadily expanding use of GSA's Acquisition Gateway, Rung said.

"Gateway users have passed 10,000," she added, noting that the number was the year-end goal for 2016. That's up from 6,500 in May.

Category management as a concept is taking hold, and initial concerns from some vendors about it "only being focused on lowest cost" have been addressed, Rung said. "Category management is about total cost and value."

She said she is confident that progress will continue after her departure, and she has been busy helping plan for the program's future.

"We're developing the next phase of the [category management] plan and setting targets and goals for next year," she said, and she has been participating in meetings right up to her departure date.

Developing dashboards to gauge progress on guidance related to workstations, software licensing and mobile technology is part of the work that needs to be done, she said. Although a dashboard to monitor the effectiveness of workstation rules has been completed, similar dashboards for software licensing and mobile technology are still underway.

Rung said OMB's guidance on centralizing and streamlining the purchase of workstations has dropped prices by as much as 50 percent.

"The goal for next year is $3.6 billion in savings" through the programs, she added.

Rung said she is also pleased with efforts to develop the acquisition workforce during her tenure. The Digital IT Acquisition Professional Training and Development Program, established by OFPP and the U.S. Digital Service in 2015, graduated its first 60 students last May. Another group will graduate in the coming months, and they will all spread deeper knowledge of more efficient acquisition practices across government.

"There's so much energy underway" with that educational effort, Rung said. And some of that energy is propelling another project at OFPP, USDS and the Department of Homeland Security.

She said the three agencies have kicked off a "contract jam" aimed at simplifying federal contracts. The plan is to get contracting officials, experts and lawyers in the same room to strip federal contracts down to their bare functional bones using clear language and better design. The first meeting will take place in October.

The number and complexity of the projects Rung has been involved with in the past two years has been the hardest part of the job, she said.

"It's a vast space," she added. "It's the largest supply chain in the world. The challenge was to stay focused on results."

Her advice for her successor is to play "small ball" at first: "Think of every effort. Start smart and focus," she said.

Rung added that category management will likely survive the presidential election because "it's smart business practice. It's not a partisan issue." And the policy foundation she helped establish is by no means rigid. "It's a process that can evolve," she said.

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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