Ross Wilkers

INDUSTRY

What industry wants to see in federal acquisition and the infrastructure package

The past week has seen groups of commercial companies and government services contractors alike give U.S. leaders ideas of what businesses want to see happen with regard to technology in the federal environment and what an infrastructure package should include.

More specifically: how the government should think about buying technologies and from whom, and what cyber and IT funding if any should be part of an infrastructure package.

Here is what these businesses and groups have said to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders.

Reimagining software & tech acquisition

Dozens of technology companies and three alliances that represent businesses like them want the government to put more emphasis on going to the commercial world for buying IT products and solutions.

That is the message of this letter sent to President Biden on Monday signed by 44 companies, the Alliance for Digital Innovation, Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government and the Silicon Valley Defense Group.

The signers claim federal acquisition rules “are not always followed” when it comes to agencies having to prioritize and procure commercial items “to the maximum extent practicable over custom development.”

What should the Biden administration do in the signers’ eyes? Make sure the preference is followed through market research that is required by the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, which put in place the commercial item preference, before agencies make acquisition decisions between commercial and custom-built solutions.

The Office of Management and Budget should also give agencies clear guidance to make sure the existing commercial preference requirements are followed, the signers say.

“Meeting the complex challenges of our time will require the best technology solutions -- business as usual when it comes to government contracting is no longer acceptable,” the letter says.

“We also encourage the Administration require any software or technology acquisition include the opportunity for the private sector to participate in live technology demonstrations alongside any custom-built options.”

Which company with its name to the letter stands out to us? Palantir Technologies of course. This letter states the very case Palantir has tried to argue over several years in several forums including the courts, where they won by citing the FASA law.

Cyber & IT are infrastructure too

Both the Solarwinds and Colonial Pipeline cyberattacks over recent months have further advanced the topic of cybersecurity into mainstream conversation.

Particularly the second incident given the long lines to get gasoline amid supply shortages caused mainly by panic buying and how it was the operational technology of key infrastructure affected versus information technology.

In the wake of those events, the Professional Services Council sent a letter May 21 to House and Senate majority and minority leaders that called for making cyber and IT a priority in any infrastructure package they work on with President Biden.

That message from the GovCon industry trade group also comes in the wake of Biden’s May 12 executive order on shoring up cybersecurity across the federal government.

“The need for resources to adapt and operate securely in the continuously changing threat environment continues to grow. PSC and our member companies support funding to match these needs and requirements,” wrote David Broome, PSC executive vice president for government relations.

“This includes funding for (the Homeland Security Department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) and the Technology Modernization Fund, as well as agency specific funding to modernize outdated programs and legacy systems.”

CISA received a $650 million funding injection in the $1.9 trillion economic relief law enacted in March, while the TMF fund that supports IT upgrades for civilian agencies got a $1 billion boost.

Biden has called for $2.3 trillion in infrastructure spend and the administration is negotiating with Senate Republicans, whose counteroffer had a $1.7 trillion price tag.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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