IT acquisition reform's time is now

Promising examples abound, but real leadership focus is needed to achieve meaningful digital government services and security.

Shutterstock images (by Ingka D. Jiw and Oberon): ballot box, budget/costs concept.
 

I recently testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on actions the government could take to modernize its IT acquisition process. The hearing covered a lot of ground, but much of the discussion focused on how much of the IT budget goes to operating and maintaining legacy systems and on ideas to significantly improve federal acquisition.

Since that hearing, we’ve already seen some progress. Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) introduced the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017, which would authorize new funding mechanisms for agencies that will result in long-term savings, less duplication of effort and systems designed with cybersecurity in mind. As I stated in a letter to Hurd and Kelly, the MGT Act will give agencies the flexibility and funding resources they need to modernize legacy systems while taking advantage of governmentwide resources.

I was pleased to see that House lawmakers passed the bill, and I’m optimistic the Senate companion bill will advance, too. There is also good alignment between the MGT Act, the recent cybersecurity executive order, the Trump administration’s budget proposal and the objectives of the recently established American Technology Council. Each recognizes that modernization, risk-managed governance and shared services are foundational to achieving meaningful digital government services and security.

Although the broader acquisition system is badly in need of significant overhaul, there are some good initiatives that can build momentum for a modern digital government. Language in the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act requiring the development of IT acquisition cadres within agencies is helpful. The fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act seeks to limit the Defense Department’s reliance on lowest price, technically acceptable for professional and IT services — an approach that should be expanded governmentwide.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security’s Procurement Innovation Lab and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Buyers Club are excellent examples of forward-looking solutions that encourage innovation.

A few examples, however, are not enough. Urgent leadership focus is needed to deliver broad and comprehensive IT acquisition reform that is aligned with positive outcomes for our citizens. Recommendations from me and the other hearing panelists covered a broad spectrum, with some urging a complete overhaul and others calling for the proliferation of best practices and cultural change.

And with agency transformation plans under development, the emergence of a draft defense acquisition reform bill from Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), insight into the Section 809 Panel’s findings at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing and the release of the Cloud Center of Excellence’s guidance on buying cloud services, there’s likely to be much more to discuss.

So what are the critical success factors federal agencies should consider as they seek to modernize IT and reform the acquisition system? I suggest:

  1. Foster communication and collaboration through improved governance — within government and with industry partners.
  2. Institutionalize agile acquisition methods as the default, along with the use of statements of objectives and the adoption of standard innovation templates in solicitations to incentivize new ideas.
  3. Accelerate key leadership appointments for open positions to provide executive sponsorship of high-priority initiatives.
  4. Increase leadership commitment to acquisition and IT workforce training initiatives and the establishment of procurement innovation labs at every agency.
  5. Actively engage key industry organizations to encourage collaborative efforts between government and industry to adopt IT acquisition best practices from the government and the private sector.

Undoubtedly there are others, and I would urge you to join the conversation.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.