Guest post from FCW Editor-in-Chief John Monroe.
Rather than bringing more innovation to the acquisition process, the federal government would be better off just trying to get the basics right, according to one reader.
The reader, signed as KRL, was responding to a recent post by FCW blogger and columnist Steve Kelman, who was defending the use of procurement contests or challenges as a low-risk way to solicit new ideas.
KRL, a seasoned veteran of the federal acquisition business, is not against innovation, per se. It’s just that eventually the federal government will need to focus on dealing with more fundamental problems in the procurement process.
“In my 27 years, we have come full circle so many times from the concept of 'innovation' back to the basics in the FAR that I sometimes get dizzy,” KRL writes. “Is today an innovation day or a back-to-basics day?”
The reader outlines five such fundamentals:
1) Hire people who know what they are doing and provide continuous training.
2) Hire outstanding young people then have the ‘grey hairs’ train and mentor them well.
3) Emphasize the importance of well-planned projects.
4) Encourage well-executed projects.
5) Get the politicians out of federal procurement.
KRL is particularly insistent on that last point. “Politicians have no clue how the system works much less what is in the FAR, and their constant playing with funding of programs is the primary cause of wasted dollars as they abuse the system.”
What do you think?
Posted on Sep 02, 2011 at 7:26 PM3 comments
Does a “cartel” of contractors exert inordinate control over government contracting, encouraging agencies to stick with dated technologies and slowing the move to cloud computing and other updates?
Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra thinks so, and said so in an editorial he published in the New York Times. Our report
on his comments drew fire from readers on both sides of the argument.
“Darth Vader Mentor” admitted being “not a fan of Kundra” before partially agreeing with Kundra’s argument.
"Many CIO's think that big firms are good for government," Mr. Vader wrote. "The result is more often than not the inverse. Unfortunately, this statement is typical Kundra. He points out the flaw, but never the solution. The solution lies in re-educating the upper management or replacing it if they cannot be unbiased to big firms.”
“I don't entirely agree with [using] ‘the cloud’ for everything, but I do absolutely agree with the concept of the contractor cartel holding up agencies from maximizing taxpayer dollars on IT projects,” another reader wrote. “Having spent my career doing federal IT, both as a contractor and a fed, I know first hand the woes and dysfunctions of this relationship.”
Other readers dismissed Kundra’s allegations.
“Kundra's most recent comments are much like most of his other contributions to the government IT community: looks good, sounds good and does no good,” one critic wrote. “I find it difficult to see how the IT contractor cartel, a creation of the government’s own ludicrous contracting machinery, is holding back new technology. They thrive not only on change, but even more on thrash.”
Another reader agreed there’s a problem, but disagreed with Kundra’s diagnosis of the cause. “For at least 20 years, government has allowed contractors to create a monster of processes and controls and boards that require even more contractors to keep track of,” that reader wrote. “Over-dependence on profit-minded contractors instead of maintaining a technically competent government workforce has gotten the government where it is today.”
Kundra’s tenure as federal CIO was polarizing – some hailed him as a visionary, while others thought his ideas were academic and impractical – and in his departure, he’s no less divisive.
“Nice of Kundra to take strike a few low blows on his way out the door,” wrote a reader in the latter camp. “It appears his cloud-first policy was not going as smoothly as he would have liked, so he leaves and blames the ‘IT cartel’ for his shortcomings. There are multiple impediments to moving government to the cloud and contractors play a role in that, but they are certainly not the root cause.”
Posted on Sep 02, 2011 at 7:26 PM21 comments
Federal Computer Week's editorial offices are on the seventh floor of a building in Falls Church, Va. We were working on the regular mix of things on a quiet, ordinary Tuesday afternoon when the floors began to vibrate.
Most of us thought little of it in the first couple of seconds because there has been construction and furniture moving on the floor above us recently and rumbles and noises aren't unusual. But then it grew more intense, and furniture started to sway and some of us wondered: earthquake, or bomb?
When everything stopped shaking -- the longest 20 seconds of our lives -- we stood up as one and headed for the stairs, winding our way down seven flights and emerging in the front lobby. We still didn't know for certain what had happened, but people using smart phones were quick to begin reporting some information.
After about 15 minutes the building management let us return and try to get our minds back to work.
Where were you when the earthquake hit?
Posted on Aug 23, 2011 at 7:26 PM10 comments