IT innovation might be at risk under new Congress, former Rep. Davis warns

Obama administration's new IT programs may be "collateral damage" to cost-cutting

The Obama administration has ushered in a wave of innovation and risk taking by agencies, but some of those ideas may become “collateral damage” when the House is led by Republicans, former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said at a conference today.

As the new GOP majority in the House seeks to reduce the budget, cutting-edge IT programs will be “fair game” for increased scrutiny, oversight and cost reductions, Davis said at the Adobe Government Assembly conference for government and industry officials in Washington.

“It is a new environment,” said Davis, who heads federal government relations for Deloitte LLP. The new House “will change operations. I imagine some of the innovations will be collateral damage along the way.”


Related story:

Tom Davis: the exit interview


Republican leaders are expected to be eager to identify possible “over utilization” and “self promotion” elements among ongoing administration IT innovation programs, Davis added.

He also cautioned that while many new technologies ushered in by the Democratic administration and Congress have been “wonderful,” the penalties for failed risk-taking are likely to be higher with a politically divided Congress.

“Many times I’ve seen someone step outside the box, but those best efforts are not always successful, and the [executives in charge] can get laid out for it. That creates a chilling response,” he said.

The danger is that fewer government executives would be willing to take risks of innovating, and that would be unfortunate, he added.

“Responsible members of Congress will understand the situation,” Davis said. “But some people might pop off.”

“There will be fits and starts, ups and downs,” Davis said “In the agencies, there is a lot of innovation. There will be mistakes.”

Davis predicted that large weapons and complex programs at the Defense Department, as well as large enterprise modernization programs at other federal agencies, are likely to be targets for cuts.

He also anticipates that large IT programs will be “chunked” into smaller and more manageable pieces.

But other conference speakers were more optimistic about the prospects for continued innovation in IT.

Gwynne Kostin, co-director of the Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement at the General Services Administration, outlined progress on several fronts by using cloud computing, social media, innovation challenges and contests to foster open government, collaboration and public participation.

“We will not turn back,” Kostin said. “The future is really bright.”

“The benefits [of IT innovation] for homeland security are very clear,” said Alan Cohn, deputy assistant secretary for policy and strategic planning at the Homeland Security Department. “Engagement is critical.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

Reader Comments

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 Robert Kilburn UTAH

"Dumbing down IT" is about the dumbest thing that could be done by the U.S. Gov. I suppose they think that hackers are going to take a vacation while they get their "stuff" together?

Thu, Nov 4, 2010

Hey Lobbyist! Your opinion doesn;t matter much. It is bought and paid for.

Thu, Nov 4, 2010

Does this mean the taypayer will be benefit from this cost cutting measure or will the funds be allocated to some Republican backed initiative

Thu, Nov 4, 2010

We definately need to crack down on the failures of Government programs. There are far too many failed Government programs and the main reason is that the people dreaming them up really do not care about the wasted money, just making themselves look important. I see a lot of these wasteful projects bound for failure which most of us knew would fail even before they were implemented. Many failed programs are considered successes early on, awards are given to the people who made them up, and then when the failures are evident to all, the incident is forgotten and these dreamers move on to create another bad program and the cycle repeats itself. These people should be fired as well as the people who assist in covering up these failures and giving awards for projects and programs that should in reality be investigated under the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse program. Cuts are needed in order to reduce this waste because the people in charge of these programs are not responsible for the hard earned money the taxpayers had taken away from them to pay for these irresponsible experimenters.

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 mike tucson

Innovation should be done in the private sector with private $$, all you guys that rely so heavly on sucking govt $$ need to wise up and start doing things on your own with private investors and then sell a good product to the government. Quit sucking the rest of the country dry for all those failed projects.

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