Why does Collaboration between Government & Industry still matter?

The ACT-IAC Executive Leadership Conference will be held in Williamsburg October 28-30 this year. It will bring together eight or nine hundred government and business executives for relatively intense collaboration in 16 working sessions, and provide plenary addresses from a war hero, an Acting Administrator, a renowned theoretical physicist, a prominent television journalist, and the Federal CIO (and fifty of his counterparts).

The ELC has become something of an institution in the federal technology community. It is large enough that “everyone who is anyone” can attend (not that they all do!) It is close enough – 2-3 hours’ drive, depending on where you start – and popular enough that you can run into a bunch of your former colleagues from that company you all used to work for, before it got acquired by some other company.

In the early Nineties, ELC was a minor blip in the world of large trade shows, in a relative backwater location (Charlottesville) with less than a couple of hundred government and industry attendees. It was Izzy Feldman’s vision that getting government and industry leaders together to talk about tough problems would ultimately make the Machine work better. Things DO work better today than they did in the days of DPAs and Warner waivers.

A few months before that first ELC, Congress began consideration of the “Multiple Award Schedule Procurement Improvement Act of 1991”, HR 3162. This bill was a topic of considerable discussion at the first ELC – it proposed to simplify ordering from Schedule. It allowed the government to use “simplified” procedures for using schedules, and gave vendors relief from onerous price reduction clauses. It met little opposition, coming from a powerful House member and promising better procurement…but included as its centerpiece the following section:

“A Federal agency ordering any supply or service under a Multiple Award Schedule shall, before placing any order over $1,000 and to the maximum extent practicable, enter into negotiations regarding price with a sufficient number of schedule contractors to ensure adequate price competition.”

What that meant, in the practices of that time, was that agencies would have to announce, compete, and negotiate with suppliers for every IT purchase of more than $1,000.00.

The Proceedings of the first ELC were published and were cited on the Hill as the “only industry comment in opposition to HR 3162.” But the Bill never passed. And ACT-IAC was given some degree of credit for stopping legislation that would have made for an extremely inefficient contracting requirement.

Come to ELC 2012, help create better government.

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