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FCW : August 15, 2014
August 15, 2014 FCW.COM 19 HHS and OMB are creating new tools to help procurement of cials innovate without breaking the rules BY MARK ROCKWELL R THE FAR From the General Services Administration s 18F technol- ogy incubator and the Department of Health and Human Services emerging Buyers Club to the Of ce of Manage- ment and Budget s TechFAR guide, federal procurement of cials have been busy launching plans to reshape the way government thinks about buying and developing IT. They are hoping the programs will spur the conservative, risk-averse federal procurement workforce to more smooth- ly navigate existing regulations and take more chances in IT acquisition. The dense Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) issued by the Defense Department, GSA and NASA is a primary target of the new programs. More than a few federal of cials and technology vendors have grown disillusioned with the FAR --- or rather with how it has been used. They argue that it offers more room for innovation than users seem to realize. Frustration with stagnant, staid FAR thinking spurred HHS to develop its Buyers Club program this spring. The website launched in late June, and Bryan Sivak, HHS chief technology of cer, told FCW that of cials plan to acceler- ate the effort in the coming months. He said the program s goal is to blaze new trails through the FAR that HHS contracting of cers can follow to more ef cient, innovative and successful IT procurement. He cited a Standish Group estimate that roughly 90 percent of federal IT procurements valued at more than $10 million fail and said it was obvious that the old ways of thinking were no longer valid. "Even if that estimate is a little on the high side, the num- bers are still way too high," he said. "With those numbers, what s the risk of trying to do something new?" Through the Buyers Club, HHS plans to develop detailed templates, checklists and other guidance documents that contracting of cers and program managers can use to more creatively and ef ciently navigate the FAR. 'Flexibility in the FAR' OMB, meanwhile, is developing TechFAR, a document with a broad reach across federal agencies. It gathers pertinent technology and IT-speci c sections of the FAR to give IT procurement of cials quicker, more ef cient access to the portions of the FAR that are directly applicable to their work. Although it s a couple of months behind schedule, Mathew Blum, associate administrator of OMB s Of ce of Federal Procurement Policy, said TechFAR "is an effort to make sure the [FAR] speaks to contracting of cers, program people and lawyers." In remarks at a recent forum on governmentwide acquisi- tion contracts, Blum defended the FAR against accusations that it crushes innovation. "There is a lot of exibility in the FAR," he said. "The challenge is, it isn t used within the [procurement and acquisition] culture. TechFAR isn t new regulation. It s guidance on how to tease out the FAR s exibility." The idea, which came after U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel outlined his smarter IT delivery agenda to Congress in May, has signi cant support among contracting professionals who work with federal procurement teams. But some say the effort does not go far enough.
July 30, 2014
August 30, 2014