Fed CIO helps search for new procurement policy leader

Kundra wants to simplify buying process

Vivek Kundra, the country’s chief information officer, said today that he has been working closely with the official in charge of finding a candidate for the administration’s top procurement policy job.

Jeff Zients, whom the Senate confirmed June 19 as deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, has been evaluating possible candidates for administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. The position has been vacant since September 2008.

Kundra has been a vocal advocate for simplifying the government’s buying process, an effort that he said should include reforming parts of the General Services Administration. The government needs to do a better job of using technology to make the whole process easier, he said during a discussion today with 1105 Media reporters and editors.

“Everyone in government shouldn’t have to have a Ph.D. in procurement,” he said. “Why is it so complex?”

Kundra wants a speedier, simpler acquisition process, and he said the candidates for OFPP administrator should understand the overall challenges in government procurement and be able to speed up the acquisition of rapidly changing technologies.

The OFPP administrator should “recognize we can’t treat technology procurements in the same way we do buying buildings,” he said.

The top procurement position has been vacant since Paul Denett left the job last year and remains unfilled despite Kundra's advocacy for information technology procurement reforms and President Barack Obama's emphasis on much broader governmentwide procurement reforms.

One of Kundra's biggest pushes is the IT storefront. He has proposed a virtual marketplace where agencies could quickly purchase cloud-computing services, for instance. He said GSA’s Multiple Award Schedules program has many benefits, but there’s a faster way to work. Each time an agency wants to buy IT, it should not have to start a two-year procurement process, he said.

However, industry experts are skeptical that the IT storefront model is a good fit for the government unless procurement practices change. And some say the storefront would be redundant given the existence of the online GSA Advantage.

Kundra said government employees “still need to have a lot of background" to buy for the government, even with the GSA offerings.

"You need to have a deep understanding of everything that’s involved,” he said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Tue, Jul 28, 2009

How many Ph.D.'s in procurement are there in the Federal Government? Mr. Kundra's arrogance about his own procurement wisdom is shocking. He has shown little interest in learning the realities of the system he suggests be tossed in the trash. I am all for making dramatic improvements in the Federal procurement process. But Mr. Kundra's college dorm view that everything is free and fast on the internet so let's do that in the Federal Gov displays phenomenal ignorance of that realities of large scale enterprise procurements for an entity the size of a United States Federal agency. Throwing Wikis and cloud computing capability at Federal Agencies achieves nothing beyond giving those agencies more work to do as they try to figure out what they are supposed to do with these things. That's not how IT deployment is done. The Dashboard is a gee-whiz bang bit of flash that has already had the result of publicly exposing, as questionably competent, managers struggling with the real challenges associated with major IT deployments. While some may have fallen behind out of lack of attention, poor cooperation within their organization or even because the task was beyond them, most of those managers are simply dealing the the huge and often unanticipated challenges of the task. But now that great public fanfare has been made we can be sure that many others will redouble any efforts to keep the door closed on the proceeding they face so they too are not blind-sided as they try hard every day to do the best they can. We need a mature, and knowledgeagle IT leader at OMB who has the wisdom to recognize when he or she needs to learn about the realities of a system they seek to replace.

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