Policy issues dominate 2011 landscape

Contractors face a year ripe with legislative and regulatory topics

The government market has no shortage of hot-button issues in 2011. We’ve asked some of the leading executives and industry officials to give us their top concerns for the year.

Greg Baroni
Chairman and CEO of Attain LLP
  • The question marks of the fiscal 2011 budget. What happens to the many omnibus bills could produce a break in the budget deadlock. If the continuing resolution is unresolved through March, it will be necessary to raise the debt ceiling. That will produce concessions on both sides for lifting that ceiling. Also, the outcome of the Defense Department supplemental — its timing and amount — will be watched carefully. Other important barometers will be the CIO Solutions and Partners 3 contract and the Homeland Security Department's Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions II, as well as the outcome of some big awards protested in 2010.
  • The new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This is the Sword of Damacles. I’m sure the new chairman, Darrell Issa, will put WikiLeaks at the top of his investigative list. Also, there will be an emphasis on wartime contracting in Afghanistan as well as the failures of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. I think he will also look at where government regulations are preventing job creation, specifically with regard to small businesses.
  • Government officials to watch in 2011. In addition to Rep. Issa, it will be interesting to watch what federal CIO Vivek Kundra does. He laid out his 25-step program on IT initiatives, but he faces a conundrum. On the one hand, he recognizes that technology brings great opportunity for innovation and savings. On the other hand, there are numerous examples of IT initiatives that have gone awry. But I think you’ll see a lot of activity this year in his cloud-first initiative — including data center consolidation — because he has said everything possible needs to move to the cloud and every agency CIO has it on his agenda. Another one to watch is DHS CIO Richard Spires because he’s got so many initiatives going on there, including information sharing. This is the year we see real information sharing take center stage.

Matthew Calkins
President and CEO of Appian
  • Need for more cloud computing in government. The tenure of the typical government CIO is perhaps 13 months. Of course, it takes longer than that to get a substantial new program rolling, so many CIOs don’t ever see their own programs into production, never mind the needed decisions to shape and preserve them. Cloud can help because you can more quickly roll out a program and make decisions easier because you just rent the hardware. Cloud creates a more experimental way of running government departments and programs. It liberates and empowers [CIOs] to control their programs so their decisions have more impact. Cloud puts the agency CIO in charge, not the forces of inertia.
  • Place more emphasis on work mobility. Work should be mobile everywhere — or to be precise, some work should be mobile. But heretofore none of it has been, except in very special circumstances. We’re going to liberate that part of work that wants to be mobile to actually be mobile. The government, of course, is a little bit behind the curve on this. I think there are some good reasons for this, partly because of the aversion to being on the bleeding edge and partly because there would be security concerns and partly because there would be diversity of standards.
  • Increase transparency through social process. There is an onrushing wave, especially in the commercial world, of a social way of working, which is more collaborative, more open. It provides unprecedented transparency and allows people to contribute at nearly all junctures of the process. It is going to appeal to government because of its transparency. But people in government aren’t talking about it today because it’s too new. The time has come to introduce social methods of collaboration into the [government] workplace. We’re going to have to adopt technologies that allow us to be more transparent and allow constituents to understand their government. That will create participation.

Mac Curtis
President and CEO of Vangent
  • Unintended consequences. We have a changing demographic on Capitol Hill, and there is a lot of legislation brewing about things like conflicts of interest and insourcing. I worry about Congress putting legislation out there without a dialogue with industry and the agencies and the people affected. If you can’t see the cause and effect, you need to have a dialogue. For example, fixed-price contracts. They are great. They give agencies predictability into their costs, but you can’t just do it wholesale. If you don’t have the service-level agreements and well-defined requirements, it’ll be a disaster.

Olga Grakvac
Executive vice president of the public sector at TechAmerica
Trey Hodgkins III
Vice president of national security and procurement policy, TechAmerica
  • 2012 budget submission. We’ll be looking to see how the Office of Management and Budget’s 25-step plan is reflected in the 2012 budget requests. What kind of funding will there be to support the new policies? Will there be funding support for cloud computing? We are always looking for cybersecurity. What are the new priorities? What will the cuts to NASA look like, and how will they affect research and jobs?
  • Defense Department initiatives. On insourcing: The reality is that the Defense Department doesn’t possess enough IT skills to perform its mission.

NEXT: Jim Sheaffer, president, CSC's North American Public Sector

Jim Sheaffer

President of Computer Sciences Corp.’s North American Public Sector

  • The new Congress. The focus on value for money that the Congress will have to have opens the potential for a more cooperative exchange with industry over the potential solutions to some of the problems. And there seems to be a change, at least in the early stages now, in the administration to try to reach out more to business and say we need to work together to find solutions rather than look for culprits of past problems.
  • Revitalizing the federal acquisition workforce. I’ll be looking to see if there are some changes in the way government goes about acquisition and management of IT programs. My concern is we’re paying the price for a couple of decades of neglect of the acquisition side of the government workforce — lethargy and the very slow pace of procurement. The heart of the issue is we’re seeing increases in the volume of acquisitions, and we have an acquisition workforce that has degraded over time. It needs to be revitalized, and we’ll be looking for evidence of efforts to do that this year. All of the [indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity] contracts we’re seeing all suggest increasing numbers of acquisitions. 
  • Data center consolidation. The move toward consolidation of infrastructure and managed services has been a way of life in commercial enterprises worldwide for a while now. The government has tried it in spots. But this comprehensive program to try to increase the efficiency of the use of IT with a focused program is clearly one of the things needed to get greater return on the IT investment in government. On a large scale, there aren’t a lot of companies around with the requisite experience in dealing with those kinds of initiatives. The economics of government are forcing the government to move in this direction. The opportunity for real savings is there, especially with the introduction of new technologies like the cloud.
Tom Simmons
Area vice president at Citrix Federal
  • OMB’s 25-step IT management reform initiative. This will accelerate the move to new technologies and solutions — virtualization, data center consolidation and cloud computing. This administration is more tech-savvy, and the government needs to move in this direction to hire and retain people. The initiative also is a positive move toward the government getting more return on the IT investment it has made over the past 15 years when the solution to problems was to buy more computers and more bandwidth. We can’t do that anymore.
  • Security. WikiLeaks has shone a bright light on the vulnerabilities in our systems. Most of the work that has been done has been on outside threats. WikiLeaks, particularly for civilian agencies, has focused attention on internal threats.

Stan Soloway
President and CEO of the Professional Services Council
  • The federal budget quandary. There are so many unknowns, not only relative to the continuing resolution but, of course, in terms of what happens to the president’s budget and the appropriations process for 2012. Also, how will the various Defense Department acquisition initiatives, some of which are being looked at from a governmentwide perspective, begin to play out?
  • The future of the government workforce. This issue is as important for industry as it is for government. We have a government pay freeze now, and the potential exists for a hiring freeze. I’m not sure either of those is the right answer at the right time. This may be a time when the government should invest more in the workforce in certain critical areas, not less.
  • How can we implement austerity? The central question for the government, government employees and contractors alike is: How are we going to go about doing this? Are we going to have a collaborative process to really drill down into what government is doing and will continue to do to find sustainable efficiencies? That’s where the real savings are, but you can’t do it arbitrarily. Collaboration is at a low ebb in Congress, but it’s also at a low ebb between the government and its suppliers.

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