View from the Top
Bill Zielinski Talks Performance, Risk,Markets and Innovation
Bill Zielinski is the deputy assistant commissioner for IT in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. Prior to joining GSA, he served as CIO at the Social Security Administration and served in the office of the Federal CIO. “My goal is to really help agencies move out on their technology and initiatives in a fast and efficient manner,” he says.
Q: Alliant 2 is an extension of its
predecessor, Alliant 1. What’s new?
The Alliant family of vehicles
are the next generation of
contracts for IT services. Building
on the successes of its predecessor,
Alliant 2 really helps agencies by
putting in place a series of IT service
providers that have demonstrated
experience and track records in
bringing IT service capabilities
to agencies – just about any type
of technical capability that might
support their missions. It sets in place
a floor for pre-competed terms and
conditions for Alliant2 providers and
a ceiling for prices.
Q: IT evolves quickly. How will
Alliant 2 remain viable?
The team made sure that for
Alliant 2 they will have the ability
to on board providers and technical
capabilities as necessary to reflect
changes in the marketplace. And
because it is a pre-computed vehicle,
agencies are able to move to a
contract award and start executing on their technical capabilities much
faster than if they’re trying to do this
on the open market and starting from
Q: How does Alliant 2 fit with the
President’s Management Agenda
and IT Modernization?
There’s about $100 billion spent
each year on technology in the
government. About $58 billion
of that goes through contracts.
And part of what this President’s
Management agenda attempts to
do is: No. 1, it puts that focus on
technology. No. 2, it really asks
agencies to keep their eye on the ball
of modernization –future technology
and capabilities that will ensure that
we’re modernizing for the future. No.
3, it asks agencies to take more of a
governmentwide approach, rather
than reinventing the wheel at each
For those places in which there
are already technical solutions
built, we should leverage those. In
the particular case of the Alliant 2 vehicle, it allows agencies to execute
on their technical requirements much
Q: Alliant 2 is a Best-in-Class vehicle,
Yes, Alliant 2 is defined as a best in
class vehicle. We, as the government,
have the ability to understand
what we’re buying, from whom
we’re buying, how much we’re
spending on those things, and to
really use the data that comes from
the vehicle to put more leverage
into the marketplace to improve
outcomes and to improve prices. So
there are many ways in which the
Alliant 2 vehicle really does meet the
President’s Management Agenda of
utilizing something that’s already in
place, leveraging best practices that
are there, utilizing providers on this
contract that have a proven track
record of delivery and allowing
procurement of new and emerging
Q: Contracting is more than a
transactional vehicle for facilitating
acquisitions. It’s also a policy tool,
What I’m seeing in federal IT
for the better part of the last 15
years is the realization that letting
agencies buy whatever technology
they want and then try to figure
out how to make it IT compliant or compliant from a security standpoint
is probably not the most successful
strategy. There is this growing
recognition that we, collectively as a
community, can buy down the risk
that’s associated with the deployment
of technology, whether that’s from a
national security standpoint or from
a compliance with policy standpoint.
Q: How do you get there?
As we talk about acquisition
strategy and putting governmentwide
acquisition contracts in place, we’re
implanting those requirements into
the vehicle itself. When we compete
these vehicles, they have baked-in
requirements, whether it’s compliance
with cyber security requirement,
federal acquisition regulations or
other policies that are out there.
Q: You’re using the contract to get
ahead of known challenges?
When we pre-compete the vehicle,
that means that we are getting
agreements from providers of those
services. When agencies use Alliant 2,
they have a level of surety that all the
terms and conditions are going to be
fully complied with, putting them in
the best posture.
Q: How does a vehicle like Alliant 2
have a broader impact?
I’ll bring up small business
interests. In government, we have
aggressive small business utilization
goals. The Alliant 2 contract has an
ambitious goal of 50 percent of all
subcontract dollars performed by
small businesses over the life of the
Q: The Technology Modernization
Fund was created as a way for
agencies to finance critical IT needs.
What bearing does Alliant 2 have on
Over 15 years you’ve seen a
sharper focus on modernization. I
think things like the Modernizing
Government Technology Act and the
associated Technology Modernization
Fund are tools agencies have to do
that. Alliant 2 provides an avenue
for agencies to modernize their IT
infrastructure and provide highly
qualified contractors to agencies’
needs, so agencies can incorporate
Alliant 2 within their acquisition
planning to meet their TMF goals.
Q: What are the challenges for a
long-term contracting vehicle like
Alliant was highly successful, wellliked
and utilized by agencies. But
we took a lot of time in working both
with agencies and conducting market
research and receiving industry input
for the development of Alliant 2. A
hallmark of the program is its caring
for the customer and the outcomes
that they want. We also have very
direct relationships with industry
partners. We’re finding out from
them what works and doesn’t work.
Q: What is the impact of those
We heard from them that Alliant
2 should have the ability to bring to
bear leading edge technology. That
feedback was highly influential.
Those insights from industry allowed
the team to better understand agency
requirements and to reflect those in the final product.
Q: Alliant 2 is barely out of the gate.
How’s it going so far?
Alliant 2 is off to a very brisk start.
Q: Other than volume, what are the
benchmarks for Alliant 2’s success?
We have to take a look at the
performance and the ability of
providers on the vehicle to execute
successfully on the customer
requirements. We do customer
surveys and get customer feedback
that tells us how well the vehicle
is performing for customers. We
look at things like ease of use. We
look at the likelihood of customers
recommending Alliant 2 to others
. We take a look at the value of
what’s paid for versus what’s being
Q: Anything else?
I’d love to to do some
benchmarking against the broader IT
market and be able to assess whether
the services and products that are
being delivered through Alliant 2 are
in alignment with the needs of the
federal IT community. To me, that
would be the reflection that we’re
actually getting into their hands the
services, the products, the capabilities
that agencies actually need to carry
out their mission.