Kundra: Obama correct, IT purchasing a mess

OMB officials have taken on the challenge of addressing procurement problems

President Barack Obama will get no argument from his CIO about the poor state of IT purchasing. 

“The president is absolutely right. When we came into office, federal IT was undeniably broken,” Vivek Kundra, the federal CIO, said on April 18 in a statement responding to a news report on Obama's complaints about how the government buys IT. “These problems weren’t created overnight, and they won’t be solved overnight,” Kundra said.

Obama complained at a reelection fundraiser that the government buys IT that's “like 30 years behind” the technology curve, CBS News reported on April 15. “Our IT purchasing is horrible.” The president also said that outdated equipment is a problem throughout the government, including the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

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“That’s why we are aggressively cracking down on wasteful IT spending and turning around poorly performing projects,” Kundra said.

Kundra and other officials in the Office of Management and Budget have taken on dealing with procurement problems. He and the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Daniel Gordon, issued a 25-point plan in December to revamp many aspects surrounding IT, including faster and more flexible ways to buy IT.

Kundra and Gordon want Congress to consider more flexibility in the budget process, so agencies can buy more IT in a faster and reasonable way.

The budget process has officials considering technologies for projects several years in advance, and the procurement process is a careful and deliberate exercise to be fair and find the best deals. In contrast, the evolution of IT happens fast. New technologies are old very quickly, and that plagues IT purchases, experts say.

OMB officials want to propose new budget models to lawmakers in order to speed up the buying process, as well as attempt to convince them to consolidate the spending money on IT commodities under agency CIOs purview.

The plan lays out OMB’s steps to improving the IT buying system, and the other issues surrounding IT, during the next 18 months.

“From consolidating data centers and moving to the cloud, we’re closing the technology gap between private and public sectors,” Kundra said.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Thu, Apr 21, 2011

ITVendor1- they agree with you- they have 2 buying portals, GSAadvantage, and DOD eMall. Mostly the same goods and vendors and allowed range of customers. Why they need 2 buying portals instead of one is another question my bosses won't answer...

Wed, Apr 20, 2011

Yeah, I agree with my boss a lot too. It would be unwise not too. Lucky for me my boss is not a politician who is inclined to say things that,. . . well, a politician might say.

Wed, Apr 20, 2011 ITvendor1 DC

As an employee of an IT Vendor, I can testify to the need for improvement with Government & DoD procurement of IT products. As a Taxpayer, it concerns me greatly that there is not more capability for all Government procurements to be consolidated so that the Government can track all purchases and negotiate greater discounts on total procurements from each vendor. Another issue I catch is with duplicate software licenses and maintenance contracts being procured when Agency IT contracts switch over from prior services contractors to new contractors where product licensing and maintenance contract records were poorly managed. In my view, the Government as a whole will always struggle with inefficiencies while Agencies continue to run internal "mini-GSA's". Although GSA has consolidated pricing structures, there are still numerous independent contracting vehicles created by Agencies to accomodate their "specific" needs. What is needed is a managed platform similar to Amazon, that: 1) Centralizes all authorized Gov Buyers and Funding; 2) Requires authorized Vendors to maintain their own "stores", with competent product descriptions and GSA negotiated prices, along with a list of Authorized Resellers; 3) Handles all procurements and vendor payments (using EFT); 4) Provides GSA with instant access to all Agency and Vendor procurement data, AND automatically enforces contracted price reductions as procurement quantities increase; 5) Allows Gov customers to see atleast 3 years of their Agencies procurement history for every product, and shows who within every Agency has procured the product; 6) Encourages Gov consumers to openly discuss Technology, Products, and Vendors.

Tue, Apr 19, 2011

I hope he had the guts to have a closed-door session with POTUS, and told him that while he would be a good little soldier in public and agree with what he said, that if the president ever blindsides him like that again, he is out the door.

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