August 06, 2014
by Mark Rockwell, Federal Computer Week

The policy prescriptions in IT procurement reform legislation look promising, but the chances of Congress acting don't, according to a top executive at the Information Technology Industry Council.

The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act "is at an impasse" on Capitol Hill, said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of ITI's Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector, during an Aug. 6 briefing for reporters.

Various versions of the legislation exist, but a concerted effort to bring them together looks less likely as the fall elections approach, he added. It's the same for other procurement reform measures, said Hodgkins and Erica McCann, manager of federal procurement at ITAPS.

"We support reform, but I'm not optimistic because of the timing," Hodgkins said. He and McCann noted that the level of activity on the issue is high among lawmakers, whose interest has increased since the debacle of the HealthCare.gov rollout last year.

McCann and Hodgkins also pointed to the uncertainty that a potential continuing resolution for federal agency funding would bring. Both said a CR was almost inevitable as Congress and the president once again spar over the details of appropriations bills.

Temporary funding that lasts only a few months makes it difficult for agencies to commit to IT spending.

Hodgkins said he is also concerned that even if some of the reform legislation is ultimately enacted, it would not adequately address the deep-seated, multifaceted problems that federal acquisition faces.

"I'm concerned if one bill is passed, everyone will declare victory and go home," he told FCW after the briefing.

He suggested there were some areas that might be addressed in the short term without legislation.

First among them is educating the procurement workforce to take full advantage of existing contracting vehicles and rules to better address fast-moving changes in IT acquisition. Another is to tap into the experience of senior or retired acquisition workers. A third would be for President Barack Obama to issue an executive order authorizing incentives for instituting program management efforts at agencies aimed at coordinating IT procurement and oversight.

This article originally appeared in Federal Computer Week and can be found here.