Reps. take new aim at IT procurement reform

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­As the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act awaits action on the Senate floor, four members of Congress are taking a different approach to federal IT procurement reform.

2014_07_Rep_Anna_Eshoo Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.
Source: Wikimedia

Introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology Act (RFP-IT Act) aims to reform the federal IT procurement process by making it easier for innovative businesses to compete for government projects and establishing a new office to improve federal IT accountability.

Eshoo is a ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee in the House Energy & Commerce Committee and co-chairs the Congressional Internet Caucus.

One of the bill’s provisions would establish the U.S. Digital Government Office within the Office of Management and Budget under the leadership of the Senate-confirmed U.S. chief information officer. Tasked with coordinating all federal IT policy, the DGO would replace the Office of Electronic Government and provide an area for agencies to conduct pilot programs to test high-priority federal IT projects before implementation.

“The launch of healthcare.gov had many troubling aspects to it,” Eshoo, whose district contains Silicon Valley, said in a release. “It also opened the floodgates of concerns and comments from small companies and entrepreneurs in my district who have important technologies, yet cannot compete in the federal procurement process because it is too complicated, too slow and often simply not worth the investment of time.”

In the release announcing the bill, Eshoo referred to the RFP-IT Act as a bipartisan “sweeping reform” for how the government purchases IT.

The initial version of the bill works to enhance competition by raising the simplified acquisition threshold to $500,000 for IT purchases not covered under the Federal Acquisition Regulation. According to Eshoo, raising the threshold would lower barriers for small businesses to compete for government contracts.

Elsewhere, the RFP-IT Act will codify the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and require the General Services Administration to recommend to Congress how it can streamline IT Schedule 70 processes.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.

Eshoo, along with co-sponsor Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., circulated a draft version of the bill in January that contained many of the same provisions. Connolly also co-sponsored the similar IT reform FITAR, which he described as complementary to the RFP-IT Act.

“Incremental improvements in federal IT management have been completely eclipsed by large-scale federal IT disasters that waste taxpayers’ dollars and jeopardize our nation’s ability to carry out fundamental constitutional responsibilities,” Connolly said.

Joining Connolly and Eshoo in sponsorship of the bill are Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.; Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.; and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

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Agencies, Anna Eshoo, Congress, Eric Swalwell, Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), Gerry Connolly, Government IT News, House of Representatives, Innovation, Internet Caucus, Management & Budget, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), oversight, Procurement, Reform, RFP-IT Act, Richard Hanna, Suzan DelBene, Tech
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