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Acquisition Reforms Will Focus on Oversight

As the lame duck session of the 111th Congress comes to a close, some in the acquisition community are left to wonder what lays ahead for the acquisition reform initiatives of the Obama Administration. According to many experts, the shift in political power may not make much difference for the IT and procurement communities.

I am not sure that is the case, according to plans that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has stated as incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa has said that the Telework Enhancement Act (H.R. 1722) lacks many of the safeguards necessary to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. Specifically, Issa claimed employees can take advantage of the lack of direct manager oversight, does not require agencies to prove how much money they’re saving, and does not create jobs.

Although Rep. Issa continues to draft his agenda for the new Congress, I am not going to hold my breath that this process will not be politicized, when Rep. Issa makes statements such as “I want seven hearings a week, times 40 weeks.” Rep. Issa also stated he looks forward to working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and industry on ways to address wasteful spending from failed government IT programs. I think OMB is really making some important strides on this front, so we’ll either see either a real oversight agenda moving forward or more political witch-hunts as in the past.

On the Senate side, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) remains chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Contracting Oversight Subcommittee. Sen. McCaskill will continue her focus on interagency contracts and reforms to the 8(a) set aside programs for Alaska Native Corporations. I hope these initiatives continue, as Sen. McCaskill has much unfinished work to do regarding abuses in these programs, so I hope that Rep. Issa seizes the opportunity to really craft bipartisan and meaningful relationships with other members on ferreting out waste, fraud, and abuse.

Another important issue is the effect of the midterm elections on open government, transparency, accountability, and the overall Gov 2.0 movement. I believe that significant movement will come on this issue, as politicians move from political use of Web 2.0 for campaigns, to executing Gov 2.0 initiatives to execute transparency initiatives and hold government accountable. Again, I hope that this renewed focus on using Gov 2.0 tools to advance Open Government and allow for more citizen engagement. However, it is hard to fathom considering this hyper partisan political environment where Congress scores so low in providing these services themselves.

I would like to see the latter happen. But I have reason to lack hope. Tim Evans, a program analyst who works on Web analytics and customer service measurement at the Social Security Administration, posted a story by Larry Freed of The Digital Citizen about a recent survey in which ForeSee Results found “a clear and proven relationship between transparency, satisfaction and trust,” and “higher transparency leads to higher citizen satisfaction with government, which in turn leads to higher trust.”

Unfortunately, “when it comes to transparency, citizen satisfaction, trust, accountability, perceived goodwill, competence and integrity, American citizens give Congress the worst scores across the board,” Freed wrote.

Not the most encouraging situation, but let’s give Rep. Issa the benefit of the doubt that he will wield his gavel responsibility to protect the taxpayers and not a political party and its agenda. Change we can believe in? We have heard that before.

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