SENATORS SEEK TO STREAMLINE IT ACQUISITION
The theory in Congress must be that federal IT acquisition needs new legislation every 25 years or so to undo many of the rules Congress implemented on acquisition since the last reform bill was passed. Federal IT acquisition now has another shot at being legislatively streamlined, thanks to the AGILE Procurement Act, co-sponsored by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA). This Act would require the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration to streamline the ability of the federal government to purchase commercial technology and to provide specific training for IT and communications tech acquisition. In addition, the bill would create a working group to reduce barriers for federal contractors and would allow the Department of Defense to pilot a contracting program to incentivize employee stock ownership plans. Ensuring that government customers get the technology they need, when they need it, at great values is essential to a well-running government, no matter what the mission. We used these exact same words in the mid-1990’s, though, when Congress passed the Clinger-Cohen Act to streamline federal IT acquisition. It worked for a while, with federal agencies actually having access to commercial solutions at the same time as their private sector colleagues. Gradually, though, new rules proliferated to meet a host of real or perceived acquisition challenges. One result is that we now have an acquisition system that routinely allows non-FAR based acquisitions, a not-so tacit acknowledgement that the rules have gotten to be too much. While the Agile Procurement Act could bring welcome relief, Senators and Congressmen will undoubtedly need to be reminded why the reforms were necessary before they load up the acquisition process with still new rules. That’s a great mission for industry.