IT Alliance for Public Sector sets sights on growing, influencing reforms

Friday - 1/24/2014, 4:48am EST

Jason Miller on the Federal Drive.

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The Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector is the newest industry association in the federal community.

And as the new kid on the block, ITAPS is facing two uphill battles. One is common among all industry: How to influence the coming changes to the federal procurement system.

The other only ITAPS faces is the need to attract new members while defending itself against a $5 million lawsuit from rival association, TechAmerica.

ITAPS, which spun off from the IT Industry Council in November, is making progress on attracting new members, with six so far and conversations with as many as 55 other IT, communications and Defense Department contractors.

As for the lawsuit, ITAPS and the three senior executives who left TechAmerica must wait until Feb. 7, when the judge makes his first ruling about whether to dismiss the claims or move ahead with discovery and possibly a trial.

"There were no contractual relationships between any of the employees. There were no non-competes in place for any of the employees who chose to come to ITI, and no illegal actions occurred," said Trey Hodgkins, the senior vice president for the public sector at ITAPS. "In time, that will be borne out by the facts."

TechAmerica sued the IT Industry Council, which ITAPS is an off-shoot of, and three of the four former employees that went to the new organization — Hodkgins, Pam Walker and Carol Henton — in November, alleging they stole proprietary information, including membership data, and violated their contracts. A fourth employee, Erica McCann, wasn't involved in the lawsuit.

TechAmerica wants $5 million in damages and for ITAPS to give back and not be able to use any data it alleged the employees took with them.

ITI Council filed a motion to dismiss in December, claiming the allegations don't meet the standards of law.

Transparent membership dues

Hodgkins said the ITAPS is trying to expand the types of and number of companies it wants as members.

"The memberships are separate. We did that intentionally because we want to bring in a broader scope of companies facing the public sector market, not just technology companies, which is the narrower focus of ITI," he said. "The specific sectors we are looking at are the Defense industrial base, the IT sector and the communications sector. If you look at the technologies, cloud computing, mobility, big data and big data analytics, mobile data and cybersecurity, those things are being deployed and innovations are occurring every day from companies in those three sectors, and so those are our primary focus and the types of sector companies we are going after."

He also said ITAPS' membership fees structure is transparent. It charges anywhere from $5,000 a year for a business with less than $30 million in revenue to $50,000 a year for companies with $1 billion in revenue or more.

ITAPS' goal is to facilitate the collaboration, coordination and understanding of these technologies.

ITAPS hopes to play a big role in one of the most significant issues every vendor is facing: reforms to the way agencies buy technology in the wake of the HealthCare.gov debacle.

Hodgkins said there is strong indication President Barack Obama will mention IT procurement reform in his State of the Union speech next week. If he does that, that sets the tone in terms of importance of the effort.

ITAPS took part in a wide-ranging industry meeting in December with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Office of Management and Budget's E-Government office, where they talked about short-term and long-term reform ideas.

"We are looking at things that might be impacted by an Executive Order or perhaps the issuance of guidance by the federal CIO or OFPP, or initiatives that could relatively quickly move through bodies like the federal CIO Council," Hodgkins said. "So one of the areas that has emerged that is of great interest certainly for industry, and I think HealthCare.gov is a great teaching moment on this point, is management. There was some movement of the needle around management in the 25- point plan. The Office of Personnel Management created a specific career path for IT management, but we believe it's now time to pick that up and move it further."

Restoring commercial item preferences

He said it would include training of federal workers on new and leading edge technologies so they understand what they are buying and how best to put together the contracting requirements.

ITAPS, of course, is paying close attention to what Congress is doing with IT acquisition reform. Lawmakers failed to pass the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), but the authors, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), likely will reintroduce the bill later this year. Additionally, the Senate is jumping on the bandwagon to push forward IT reforms.