Coalition forms to keep federal IT reform on track

Thursday - 7/22/2010, 3:28pm EDT

Phil Bond, president and CEO, TechAmerica

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We've been telling you about the fact that the Office of Management and Budget wants to reform federal IT processes and cut waste.

The ultimate goal is to scrutinize agency IT spending.

Not everyone agrees that OMB is going about this the correct way, however. Many in industry voiced concerns as soon as the policies were released, and DorobekInsider wrote an open letter to the agency, taking issue with Director Orszag's assertion that the private sector is managing IT better.

A new coalition was just formed, however, in the hopes of ironing out some, if not all, of the concerns.

Phil Bond is the president and CEO of the TechAmerica Foundation, which just formed its Commission on the Government Technology Opportunity in the 21st Century (GTO-21).

He explains why the group was formed, and why some in industry have been so worried.

"The concern is driven not by any desire to do anything but ensure that taxpayers get maximum return on their technology investment. The industry feels that a lot of reforms and other things need to be done so that the government can really be a smart buyer and really deploy these technologies so that they can deliver better services."

About 150 people from industry turned out for the dialogue, where Bond says Kundra explained his memos are not about cutting spending, so much as they are about enhancing success.

Some in industry, however, feel that OMB is wielding the sledgehammer when it comes to the federal IT budget, rather than carefully examining the problem.

Bond explains that getting everyone on the same page was one of the purposes of the town hall style meeting.

"Nobody wins when programs fail. The taxpayer doesn't win, the government doesn't win, the contractor doesn't win -- nobody wins. Everybody wants to get to a success model, but in that regard, there are ways in which the government proceeds that just don't make sense and actually undermine the program. That's where I think we have some common ground."

Thus, TechAmerica's commission.

The group will be co-chaired by Linda Gooden, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin's Information Systems & Global Services and Dr. Steve Kelman of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Renato (Renny) A. DiPentima, former CEO of SRA International Inc. and a senior adviser at Providence Equity Partners, and Christopher Yukins, co-director of The George Washington University's Government Procurement Law Program, will serve as co-vice chairs. Bond says the group will come up with suggestions, and they won't simply be directed at the administration.

"I think they're going to extend to Capitol Hill in some cases, too, because we're looking at everything. It has to do with having the right people -- so you've got personnel issues. It has to do with how those people are trained -- so there's education issues. It has to do with the size and scope of the projects, and then, importantly, how they're managed."

He adds that the committee also wants to examine oversight and whether or not IT managers have for too long been erring on the side of caution.

"Everything is fair game. We're going to look at . . . and try to identify the biggest challenges and where government could move ahead."

Another goal of the group is to get the conversation started and keep it going.

"I think that a lot of these ideas have been around for awhile. What we're going to try to do, in part, is to first of all bring a higher profile to it . . . But then also to be very specific [and say] -- 'Okay, if you're going to do this here, these are the steps you need to take'."

The TechAmerica Foundation is taking applications for seats on the commission from academia and industry. More information is available at http://www.techamericafoundation.org/gto21.

Email the author of this post at dramienski@federalnewsradio.com