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FCW : March 15, 2016
ROBERT COEN is program director of the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center. Commentary | ROBERT COEN Under new Office of Management and Budget guidance on the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act, agency CIOs must be able to provide details about their IT expenditures. The goals are to manage IT re- sources wisely and spend tax dol- lars strategically. With enough data and appropriately flexible contracts, CIOs can pinpoint problems, adjust their approach to buying IT and increase the efficiency and effec- tiveness of IT acquisitions. To help achieve those goals, OMB has emphasized buying IT through consolidated procurement vehicles, particularly governmentwide acqui- sition contracts, blanket purchase agreements and indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts. Most notably, OMB now requires agen- cies to buy workstations and lap- tops through three GWACs — the General Services Administration’s Schedule 70, NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement V and the National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center’s CIO-CS. GWACs negotiate lower prices for products and services based on anticipated bulk purchasing. They also give CIOs, chief acquisition officers and other CXOs the flex- ibility to adjust to changing market needs and new executive orders. In addition, agencies can avoid tedious full-and-open competitions. The original competition period can be as short or as long as needed — 30 days rather than three months, for example. The contracts also give agencies a range of acquisition options, such as fixed price or cost plus award fee, as well as agile or incremental contracting. Every agency uses general IT products, such as laptops and work- stations, and they need cloud ser- vices for today’s IT infrastructures. Yet each agency has a particular set of IT products and services that best serves it in meeting its mission. Therefore, to further assist agen- cies, we at NITAAC let customers add their own terms and conditions to meet any agency-specific needs. It’s like having your own contract without the hassle of putting it together. The client remains in control throughout the acquisition process, and the entire process is accomplished online. Moreover, our GWACs allow for maximum flexibil- ity, depending on what an agency is purchasing. Getting laptops and cloud ser- vices when needed is a major boost for good IT management. Agencies should consider IDIQ contracts or GWACs that can create a custom- ized catalog of most-purchased products and services, including any unique requirements. Think of it as a mail-order catalog just for your agency. The catalog would allow users to pay for those products and services as needed. In addition, the items would be available for fast purchasing. Agencies can minimize their wait time because the line items’ requirements would have been defined beforehand. Data is another key to FITARA’s success. Instead of letting IT resources get lost in the basement, OMB requires agency executives to give a quarterly account of their IT stock. Executives must show how they spent their money. Further- more, they must explain their plans to spend any future IT funds and their reasons for doing so. The FITARA guidance incorpo- rates agency reporting into existing OMB processes, such as Portfolio- Stat, Integrated Data Collection, acquisition workforce planning and the IT Dashboard. All dashboards should give clear visibility into an agency’s IT procurements. For example, NITAAC’s Electronic- Government Ordering System cap- tures spending data and gives line- item detail that is easily available at any time. The system can serve as a database of record because all files are maintained indefinitely. With enough data, agencies can develop clear spending forecasts and achieve FITARA’s goal of spend- ing more wisely. n FITARA’s foundation: Data and flexibility By knowing what they spend and where they spend it, agencies can comply with OMB’s FITARA guidance. And just as important, they can spend wisely. With enough data and appropriately flexible contracts, CIOs can pinpoint problems and adjust their approach to buying IT. March 15, 2016 FCW.COM 11 031516fcw_011.indd 11 2/24/16 9:52 AM
March 30, 2016