A Change in the Air

Have you ever considered buying that fancy new media console from IKEA, but after taking a glance at the manual and all the complicated instructions that come along with it, thought twice about it?

Some manuals and processes are so complex they prevent us from moving forward with something before we even really get started. For the same reason, this sentiment has been prevalent in commercialized information technology (IT) procurement within the federal government for a while now. But there might be a hint of change in the air.

Erica McCann, Director of Federal Procurement at the IT Alliance for Public Sector, sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINISDER to discuss the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2016 and how it will better help our federal government more efficiently procure IT.

The NDAA is a federal law that determines the budget and expenditures for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In other words, how the DoD is allowed to spend its budget-in our case in manners of IT procurement. It has seen no real pushback from the U.S. Government and a lot of this can be contributed to both a unified approach from within USG and from being pro-active in its outreach.

McCann stated that the FDAA has “bipartisan and bicameral support to the bill every year. In particular, we saw in this year’s bill, both chambers starting to work on getting stakeholder feedback as early as Spring 2014. The chairman of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and the ranking members issued letters requesting feedback from the DoD, different trade associations, and think tanks around D.C.”

In other words, our government asked those who would be affected (i.e. DoD) what the best approaches moving forward would be. “The success coming out of Congress was definitely insured in this open approach,” McCann said.

However, you may be asking “Why are these revisions and updates of the federal procurement process towards IT so important?”

“There are many regulations on the books that are either duplicative, redundant or outdated and when you are talking about procuring acquisitions of the technological type the life-cycles are much faster than when these provisions were written. So, in order to keep them timely and up-to-date, we really need to constantly review to make sure that the regulations also fit with what’s available to them in the commercial market,” McCann said.

We can expect two main differences coming out of the NDAA. The first comes from Title 8, which focuses primarily on the policies around procurement. As such, Title 8 is being revised to “really streamline the acquisition process at the department, specifically around the acquisition of commercial items,” according to McCann.

Second, the NDAA will implement a revisory panel. One such advisory panel will be made up of nine people from both private and public sectors who will rotate out every two years. They will review all of the regulations that impact DoD, such as the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

Additionally, McCann pointed out that some of the “provisions in this year’s bill will really give the training and the guidance that is necessary for program managers and contracting officers to perform better market research before they make a procurement. It will also give them the ability to make commercial item determinations in a much more streamlined fashion.”

This panel alone will better help DoD stay updated and current in IT procurement policies and best practices.

“There are rules today that are being generated out of a reaction to an outside threat when the threat may not be pervasive over the next five or ten years,” said McCann “So, the advisory panel hopefully will take a look at those types of regulations and contract clauses that may be hampering the defense’s market ability to stay innovative.”

So bundle up – procurement change is coming!

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