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Whose Visions Are Valid?

In reference to the Nov. 21 Opinion, "Gain-Sharing Contracts Trigger Opportunities and Debate": Both the George Newstrom of EDS and Van Honeycutt of CSC visions of gain-sharing contracts are valid. To paraphrase Newstrom from the article: We will take the cost risks of a systems integration contract if we can share in the gains of improved wealth (productivity) attributed to the contract. And to paraphrase Honeycutt: George Newstrom's risk/gain-sharing vision will never work in the federal government because such systems integration projects and productivity payouts would take multiple years, spanning multiple leadership in the executive branch and that's not "doable" under current appropriation and leadership practices.

Another way of putting the argument is that attributable economic value-added should be distributed to those resources contributing to that value versus the "rules" won't allow such a thing to happen.

Which vision is most appealing and to whom?

Those who support "business-as-usual" government contracting practices, where cash flow not economic value-added product dominate, will prefer and beat the "bandwagon" for the Honeycutt solution. Those who support the economic value-added approach will support the Newstrom solution. However, the Newstrom solution does require overcoming barriers in federal rules and leadership noted by Honeycutt.

The real question that the taxpayer and law-specific customers of federal programs should ask is if the history of federal government software systems integration contract practices led to economic value-adding? I think the resounding answer is no.

If I am correct, what's the problem? Is it the federal appropriation and budgetary rules, e.g., lack of multiyear capital budgets and funding? Is it incentives, e.g., how about gain-sharing for the federal buyer, taxpayer and law-specific customer side (who and what shares) of contracts? Is it leadership (buyer and/or seller)? Is it lack of appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities, e.g., the buyer side? Is it the federal buyer and/or the systems integrator contractor lack of earned value project and contract management? Is it all of the above?

It's hard to change things in Washington. There's a lot of money at stake. The taxpayer is not well-organized to affect change. Law-specific customers and supporting stakeholder groups are better organized, but have considered economic value adding as an entitlement to a share of the federal treasury issue - not a productivity gain-sharing issue.

So who speaks up for economic value adding and gain-sharing? Thanks George Newstrom - now if you can only get Congress and the president interested.

Garrett V. Coleman, PMP, McLean, Va.

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