PROCUREMENT

TechAmerica: Procurement is underfunded, outdated

Now is the time to get serious about reform

In light of the Healthcare.gov debacle, many are claiming that the procurement process is broken, and TechAmerica’s Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president, global public sector, says now is the time to get serious about fixing how the government buys goods and services.

The first issue is the funding process. “We use a horse and buggy era funding process to fund innovation at the leading edge of technology, and it simply doesn’t keep pace with innovation and the changes in technology,” Hodgkins said.

The process isn’t flexible enough, he added, with lead times often averaging around three to five years.

The other major problem is with the procurement processes that the government uses. “We literally used Cold War-era processes,” Hodgkins said.

“Largely we still buy technologies, certainly the bigger programs, based on processes and protocols that were created a long time ago, that have not been transitioned and do not conform to the development of technology,” he said.

Most of these processes fail to incorporate staples of a modern world. For example, many of these processes were developed when the internet was in its infancy, and long before mobile data, cloud computing, big data, and other big market trends, Hodgkins said.

This isn’t to say that the government hasn’t tried making changes to the procurement process; however, most of the changes over the past several years have been reactionary “to a headline about some egregious activity that one particular contractor may have undertaken in a particular situation,” Hodgkins said.

“We craft wholesale change to the process, and frequently, those changes are not beneficial to everyone involved, and make the process more cumbersome,” he added.

That’s why the solution involves a more intimate and personalized look into the procurement process. Hodgkins called for an end-to-end assessment of the processes that are in place today.

“We did this in the late 80s, and it led to a series of proposals in the mid-90s that wholesale changed the way the government acquires things; it opened up access to commercial items and commercial products and services, including technology, and it changed the way the government buys,” he said.

Many of the things that the government can’t live without came from the progress that occurred during this period.

“We think now is a good time to revisit this, take a wholesale look, and make the changes that make sense,” Hodgkins said.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at mhoover@washingtontechnology.com, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

Reader Comments

Tue, Oct 29, 2013 VA field worker

You can't build state of the art systems without good material and proper talent. The procurement process in the Govt as the article describes is from the early days of computing. It takes 6 months or more to do even small buys in the VA. Need a disk drive? They can rush an order in 6 weeks. You can't run efficiently with these kinds of handcuffs.

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