Kundra: Obama correct, IT purchasing a mess
OMB officials have taken on the challenge of addressing procurement problems
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Apr 18, 2011
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 The president also said that outdated equipment is a problem throughout the government, including the Defense and Homeland Security departments.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.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.