Message heard loud and clear at trade show

Vance Coffman

Solutions-oriented purchasing and homeland security were the two drivers of this year's FOSE government IT trade show, held March 19-21 at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center.

The 30 percent increase in pre-registered attendees over last year - totaling 28,000 - indicated a strong government interest in information technology, which received a 15 percent boost in funding in the president's proposed fiscal 2003 budget.

Even with more funding, federal employees told integrators and vendors they still feel pressure to keep costs down.

"The government is definitely in the mode of doing more with less," said Chris Behrens, federal sales executive of FrontRange Solutions, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo., developer of the Goldmine customer relations management software.

FOSE is run by Washington Technology publisher PostNewsweek Tech Media.

On the government side, speakers hammered home a message to vendors: Don't just sell us equipment - solve our problems.

"That's an obligation contractors have. You need to tell us how to do it right, not just give us what we ask for," said Scott Hastings, associate commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service during one talk.

Vendors and integrators must also form more partnerships to offer broader solutions, said Michael Sledge, vice president for federal, civil, state and local agencies for consultant Robbins Gioia LLC, Alexandria, Va.

Companies go the hint.

"We're going more toward the solutions and partnership approach," said Bruce Klein, national federal sales manager for Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif.

Security solutions in the real world were the focus of several exhibitor demonstrations. Intermec Technologies Corp., Alexandria, Va., a vendor of bar-code equipment, showed off a radio frequency tag-based system that gate houses of military bases can use to check identifications of incoming vehicles.

As for homeland security, Vance Coffman, chief executive officer and chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md., challenged private industry to create nondisruptive solutions that highlight the activities of potential terrorists but maintain the privacy citizens.

"Information technologies are capable of doing that today," Coffman said.

Not surprisingly, the wide display of new IT solutions at FOSE, which featured more than 400 exhibitors, left government attendees at times wondering where the money would come from to pay for these solutions, or even where they would find the time to think through their possible uses.

That's why contractors need to think more creatively about addressing agency needs said Chris Hassler, vice president at SM&A, Herdon, Va.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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