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Federal Programs to Encourage Private Sector Engagement in the IT Sector

By John K. Higgins

April 20, 2018 5:00 AM

The US government has launched two new programs to modernize and improve the IT performance of federal agencies. Each program will involve significant involvement of private sector suppliers as consultants and contractors for equipment and IT services.

The first program provides for the creation of a Federal Information Technology Modernization Fund to facilitate investment in efficient and advanced computer operations. Congress finally approved a budget for the Modernization Fund in the Appropriations Act of 2018 last month, also known as the Omnibus Budget Act.

As a result, organizations will be able to tap into a $ 100 million revolving fund to make initial investments in IT modernization.

The program eases the gap in IT spending

The ITMF was authorized by the Government Technology Modernization Act (MGT), which was passed at the end of last year after several versions of the financing plan were proposed to Congress and by Trump administration.

Since federal agencies spend more than 80% of their budgets solely on the maintenance of existing computer systems, called "legacies," there is not much left for investments in modernization. The ITMF will allow agencies to access funds for computer upgrades, and then return funds from these investments to the fund to provide a renewable resource for additional IT investments in the ITMF. entire government.

It is not surprising that the technology sector has strongly supported the program. The MGT Act funding through the ITMF "is a crucial step in protecting our country's computer systems against cyberattacks and ensures that the government is using cutting-edge technologies to better serve our people," he said.
Linda Moore, CEO of TechNet. TechNet, an association of computer companies, has published open letters to congressional leaders in support of the program, most recently last month.

The White House is looking for commercial technology

The program is expected to enhance opportunities for private sector involvement in federal computer operations.

ITMF projects should be "executed with a sound project management approach aligned with industry best practices and incorporating, as far as possible, commercial technology solutions", wrote Mark Mulvaney, director of a memorandum sent to federal agencies earlier this year.

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Organizations will apply for funding from the ITMF by submitting proposals to a council of seven federal IT administrators, chaired by Suzette Kent, Chief Federal Information Officer. However, financial support from the Omnibus Budget Act Fund will only be available for fiscal year 2018, ending September 30th. The level of support of $ 100 million was well below the $ 500 million Trump funding. administration.

The initial funding level of 2018 is "a good first step to launch this IT modernization effort," said Alex Burgos, vice president of federal policy and government relations for TechNet.

"In the future, there will be a sustained and multi-year commitment to fully fund and enforce the law in order to achieve its ultimate goal of modernizing the federal government's computer systems with safer technologies," he said. he told the E-Commerce Times. "As we wait for the next appropriation bill scheduled for September 30, TechNet is urging Congress to provide the full funding needed to ensure that we are making every effort to modernize the computer systems of our federal government. »

The MGT Act also empowers agencies to set up their own internal working capital to invest in IT modernization.

Centers of Excellence Focus on Computer Upgrades

The second program includes the creation of IT Modernization Centers, which will provide federal agencies with consulting and computer engineering services to dramatically improve the way agencies design services and interact with their clients. according to the Federal General Services. Administration, who will manage the program.

GSA launched the program last month by selecting four IT capabilities providers to implement the first phase in five specific IT categories. All of the initially selected vendors will help the US Department of Agriculture modernize the department's computer operations. The USDA serves as the lead agency for the implementation of the program.

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Each of the companies receiving a contract in the first round of vendor selection will focus on USDA support in each of the five IT categories. Among the selected companies and focus area: SIE Consulting Group, for cloud adoption; McKinsey & Company, for the optimization of the IT infrastructure; and Kaiser Associates, for contact center operations. A company,
ICF has been selected to provide assistance in two areas: customer service and service delivery analysis.

The initial contracts "mark an important step in the implementation of the federal effort to modernize large-scale IT administration," said Joanne Collins Smee, acting director of technology transformation of the GSA.

GSA has appointed a person outside the agency to implement the program.

Robert DeLuca, former director of information for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, will implement the day-to-day operations of the Council of Europe initiative, said the GSA .

GSA did not disclose the specific value of the contracts. However, the ICF has stated that its two contracts have a combined value of several million dollars and a maximum duration of three years.

For each center of excellence, the company will initially work with the USDA to assess the current landscape and develop a roadmap for the implementation and management of centralized functions, indicated l & # 39; ICF. Once these goals are achieved, the ICF will recommend scalable best practices for adoption across the government.

"These awards represent the accumulation of what the ICF can bring to the federal IT," said senior vice president Kris Tremaine.

"We are not only experts in the field: we understand the mission of each agency, how the work is done and how data can inform and transform the customer journey," she said.

The objectives of the CoE program are:

  • Establish and develop identity and authentication services that integrate with the operations of the agency;
  • Provide a portfolio of cloud services across multiple vendor offerings, and implement flexible solutions for providing cloud capabilities;
  • Using centralized contact center services to facilitate and make more accessible to the public access to federal services
  • Improve access to data so that government leaders can better manage agency missions and improve public transparency.
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GSA emphasized the importance of reaching suppliers. The desired industry support includes a wide range of activities, such as project management consulting, serving as a catalyst for carrying out activities, creating a centralized approach to follow up progress and support of Agile project management.

"Federal agencies serve many audiences through complex missions The type and type of technology that provides compelling citizen experiences is just as complex," said ICF's Tremaine at the E-Commerce Times. "It's not easy to bring them together: the EC is signaling that GSA will take bold and informed action to address these challenges in a data and user-driven way."

The Council of Europe initiative was launched to support the agenda of the US Office of Technology White House created by President Donald Trump last year.

John K. Higgins has been a reporter for the ECT News Network since 2009. His main areas of interest are the US government's technology issues such as IT contracts, cybersecurity, privacy, cloud technology, big data and e-commerce regulation. As a freelance journalist and professional writer, he has written for many publications, including
The Body Report and Business Week .
Email John.