Kundra wrong to attack industry
'Cartel' comment reveals simplistic, inaccurate view of government
- By Mark Amtower
- Sep 12, 2011
On Aug. 30, in The New York Times (“Tight budget? Look to the cloud.”), former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra wrote that cloud computing could save the government massive amounts of money that had previously been spent on “inefficient software and hardware that is expensive to acquire and maintain.”
I am not writing here to debate the merits of cloud computing, although I am always suspect of anything where it is implied that a panacea is at hand, things that are “low-cost and maintenance free." We have seen this before with the advent of personal computers and productivity, computer networking and productivity, and other IT innovations along the way since the first mainframe was deployed before most of us were in the business.
I am here to dispute the inflammatory language that opens the opinion piece, openly suggesting that the top government contractors form an “IT cartel” intent on selling the government “inefficient software and hardware.”
The first definition of cartel from the New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd Edition) is “an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition.”
Using this kind of language, Kundra is intentionally perpetuating a myth about the contractor community that is both simplistic and inaccurate.
The “waste” perpetuated by the Kundra’s cartel is often the result of contracts being issued with vague requirements that need to be restated during the course of the contract’s life. The contracts and the statements of work accompanying these contracts were generated by the agencies and were generated by genuine needs of the agencies.
Again, while not arguing the pros and cons of cloud computing, Kundra uses some vague examples to support the use of cloud computing, such as Japan’s “Ministry of Economy and Industry estimates that the cloud computing market is likely to reach $20.1 billion by 2015.” Further, the cloud market in India “is projected to grow to $3 billion by 2015 and create 100,000 jobs.”
Apparently, efforts to migrate U.S. agencies to the cloud is hampered, “because of hypothetical security threats that serve the entrenched interests of the IT cartel.”
It is easy to assign blame when one is merely a short-time visitor to this community, especially when you have the skill to “quickly” discover “vast inefficiencies” in the system.
Were these inefficiencies overlooked by Kundra’s predecessors?
I would suggest that part of the problem is the perpetual parade of part-time and short-time appointees who come in with preconceived notions about the contractor community, and who after a very short period of time discover vast inefficiencies and then propose an instant solution.
If it were only that easy…. Not that I have an opinion.
Mark Amtower is the co-director of the Government Market Master continuing professional education program at Capitol College.