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Kundra's 'IT cartel:' Fact or fiction?

Does a “cartel” of contractors exert inordinate control over government contracting, encouraging agencies to stick with dated technologies and slowing the move to cloud computing and other updates?

Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra thinks so, and said so in an editorial he published in the New York Times. Our report on his comments drew fire from readers on both sides of the argument.

“Darth Vader Mentor” admitted being “not a fan of Kundra” before partially agreeing with Kundra’s argument.

"Many CIO's think that big firms are good for government," Mr. Vader wrote. "The result is more often than not the inverse. Unfortunately, this statement is typical Kundra. He points out the flaw, but never the solution. The solution lies in re-educating the upper management or replacing it if they cannot be unbiased to big firms.”

“I don't entirely agree with [using] ‘the cloud’ for everything, but I do absolutely agree with the concept of the contractor cartel holding up agencies from maximizing taxpayer dollars on IT projects,” another reader wrote. “Having spent my career doing federal IT, both as a contractor and a fed, I know first hand the woes and dysfunctions of this relationship.”

Other readers dismissed Kundra’s allegations.

“Kundra's most recent comments are much like most of his other contributions to the government IT community: looks good, sounds good and does no good,” one critic wrote. “I find it difficult to see how the IT contractor cartel, a creation of the government’s own ludicrous contracting machinery, is holding back new technology. They thrive not only on change, but even more on thrash.”

Another reader agreed there’s a problem, but disagreed with Kundra’s diagnosis of the cause. “For at least 20 years, government has allowed contractors to create a monster of processes and controls and boards that require even more contractors to keep track of,” that reader wrote. “Over-dependence on profit-minded contractors instead of maintaining a technically competent government workforce has gotten the government where it is today.”

Kundra’s tenure as federal CIO was polarizing – some hailed him as a visionary, while others thought his ideas were academic and impractical – and in his departure, he’s no less divisive.

“Nice of Kundra to take strike a few low blows on his way out the door,” wrote a reader in the latter camp. “It appears his cloud-first policy was not going as smoothly as he would have liked, so he leaves and blames the ‘IT cartel’ for his shortcomings. There are multiple impediments to moving government to the cloud and contractors play a role in that, but they are certainly not the root cause.”

Posted on Sep 02, 2011 at 12:18 PM


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