WASHINGTON – The Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS), a division of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), released a letter today to lawmakers offering six key recommendations on behalf of the information technology (IT) industry for Congress to consider to improve how the Department of Defense (DOD) buys goods and services in the $81 billion IT marketplace. That guidance is in response to a request for recommendations from the bipartisan leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and ITAPS notes that the IT market has become a central part of our military’s readiness and capability.
“Today’s armed forces rely just as much, if not more, on the information provided to them from a sensor on an engine, a GPS in an armored vehicle, a ruggedized tablet, or data from the cloud, as they do on the safety and protection that their weapons provide,” said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for the public sector. “There is no single silver bullet to acquisition reform short of a major overhaul similar to what was done in the 1990s, but ITAPS asks Congress to consider these recommendations from the tech sector as it considers ways to improve the Department of Defense’s acquisition system.”
The DOD relies heavily on the private sector for technical solutions to protect the nation. In comments reflecting the IT market’s experience providing hardware, software and IT services, ITAPS offered key recommendations for lawmakers to consider, including:
- Learn from past acquisition reform efforts: Elements of past successful reforms are still relevant today; in particular, the FY 1991 National Defense Authorization Act’s establishment of an advisory panel of experts in procurement law and policy who undertook a systematic review of the acquisition system and developed recommendations in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 (FASA) that reduced procedural complexity and improved the government’s ability to buy goods and services.
- ITAPS believes that as the government again faces procurement challenges, a deliberate, serious and in-depth analytic review encompassing a broad spectrum from policy makers to private industry should be undertaken to explore how to unwind duplication and ineffective policy and fix federal procurement policy.
- Reestablish the commercial item preference in practice: While the DOD’s technology needs have grown to a point where IT is a critical part of mission readiness, the procurement practices have not kept pace with changes in the market. More troublesome, the DOD often does not have a clear understanding of the technology it acquires, impeding its ability to get the best value for the dollar, make the most advanced technology available to our military, and to conduct effective cyber defense of its systems.
- ITAPS believes Congress and the DOD should add commercial item acquisitions to the curriculum at the Defense Acquisition University.
- Congress should require the DOD to redouble its focus on full and open competition for best value solutions that are technology neutral; reliant as much as possible on a commercial good or service; and adopt user-centric licensing models for flexibility in IT licensing and greater use of cloud-based IT.
- The DOD should adopt asset management tools to determine whether a given procurement is necessary and ensure the DOD is not under- or over-licensing for products or services.
- Review all legislative, regulatory, and policy practices: Procurement requirements continue to emphasize how the proposed solution must function rather than what the DOD wants to accomplish. A requirements-based solution often eliminates the possibility for innovative solutions to emerge.
- Congress and the DOD must establish a process for regular review of legislative, regulatory, and policy practices to work in the best interests of the mission and return on taxpayers’ investment. By giving procurement a solution-oriented, mission-based design the private sector can deliver alternatives that solve the problem, often in ways that cost less than a solution-based approach.
- Create a modern, reliable IT budget: One of the most critical elements to improving how the DOD and the government procure goods and services is to provide a regular, reliable budget—interim funding measures like continuing resolutions make this nearly impossible. Furthermore, an appropriations process rooted in the horse and buggy era is being used in the Information Age, so hardware and software products are often two to three generations old by the time they are approved, appropriated, and acquired.
- Congress must pass a reliable budget for the U.S. government to operate under.
- Congress should adopt flexible funding models to encourage rapid IT adoption because unlike funding for major weapons systems—which take years of design and planning—IT can be installed quickly and immediately drive efficiencies.
- Improve and support the changing federal IT acquisition workforce: Like all government agencies, the DOD is having a difficult time recruiting, training, and retaining top talent in an era of sequestration, furloughs, frozen salaries, and government shutdowns. In addition, the millennial generation will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce by 2020, but it is not evident that Congress or the DOD is developing a strategy for engaging and sustaining a multigenerational workforce with sufficient ability to meet future demands and mission requirements.
- Congress and the DOD must evolve its recruitment, hiring, training, and retention practices to adapt to the challenges of employing a multigenerational workforce.
- Rationalize oversight: It is important and appropriate to ensure effective oversight, but in the process, duplicative and redundant requirements are creating barriers to competition and unneeded burdens on businesses—especially small businesses—that want to enter or continue to compete in the federal marketplace.
- Congress and the DOD can identify ways to streamline oversight to make it more effective and reduce the burdens it can create more effective by eliminating duplicative or redundant requirements. This is especially true in cases where firms are required to recreate data for one agency that has already been generated and captured by another government agency.
The letter also shares IT acquisition reform principles developed by ITAPS earlier this year that captures the tech sector’s views on what characteristics and topics reform must include for success.
To view the full letter, click here.
About ITAPS. ITAPS, a division of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), is an alliance of leading technology companies building and integrating the latest innovative technologies for the public sector market. With a focus on the federal, state, and local levels of government, as well as on educational institutions, ITAPS advocates for improved procurement policies and practices, while identifying business development opportunities and sharing market intelligence with our industry participants. Visit itaps.itic.org to learn more. Follow us on Twitter @ITAlliancePS.
About ITI. ITI is the premier advocacy and policy organization for the world’s leading innovation companies. ITI navigates the relationships between policymakers, companies, and non-governmental organizations, providing creative solutions that advance the development and use of technology around the world. Visit itic.org to learn more. Follow us on Twitter @ITI_TechTweets.