Trump and government contractors: Early thoughts
The presidential election is behind us and many across the country are in a state of shock. Hillary Clinton supporters are reeling from an unexpected loss, while Donald Trump supporters are perhaps equally surprised that he pulled it off.
Politics is not an area where Washington Technology traditionally plays, nor should it. But we do have a duty to explore the “what does it mean?” question.
While we would be headed into a transition period no matter who carried the day, a Clinton victory likely would have meant fewer changes. A Trump presidency, however, means that we’ll see deeper and further reaching changes.
But how his policies and priorities translate into the government contractor arena remains to be seen. We don’t know if he’ll push for procurement reforms or what the reforms would be if he does. We don’t know how he’ll encourage modernizing IT systems, or what his cybersecurity priorities will be. Though I think we can be confident that modernizing IT and cybersecurity will be important to his administration.
Frankly, neither candidate went very deep on specific contracting related issues. To be honest, those aren’t typically the kind of topics that drive campaigns.
My assumption has been that a Clinton presidency wouldn’t have been substantially different from Obama’s as far as the relationship with and the role of government contractors.
My assumption also is that being a Republican, Trump’s policies will likely be more contractor-friendly.
One of Trump’s staunchest supporters in the tech world has been Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. He also is the co-founder of Palantir, a software company that recently won a Court of Federal Claims case because the Army ignored federal laws that they consider commercial products over building your own.
So perhaps we’ll see more of a push to bring commercial technologies into the government. But this won’t be a radical departure from what current government leaders under Obama have advocated for several years. Remember, the Defense Department opened an office in Silicon Valley to do just this.
But instead of an 18F, we might see more contract vehicles designed to let agencies buy more like commercial entities.
Industry complaints about compliance and reporting burdens might also find a friendly reception from the Trump administration.
But over the last few months, many people have told me that whoever is president, the role of contractors and the type of support the government needs will not change significantly.
The mission of government remains unchanged. Technologies such as cyber, cloud, mobile, data analytics will all remain crucial to how the government meets that mission.
While budget dollars might get reprogrammed, we’ll likely not see a significant upswing beyond a percentage point or two of spending that goes to contractors.
The thing to watch for going forward is who Trump’s appointees will be. That will reveal a lot about the details and priorities of a Trump presidency. [Here is a Politico story on some of the leading Cabinet candidates. ]
The transition to a Trump administration will likely be a bit slower because we are moving from one political party to another. But Trump will be helped by a GOP-controlled senate, so the appointees theoretically should move forward quickly.
So, right now the best we can do is watch and wait. Stay close to customers. Talk to them. Support them.
As the Trump transition team steps forward over the next few weeks and Cabinet secretaries are designated, we should know a lot more.
Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 09, 2016 at 7:11 AM