In addition, alterations to the way agencies’ working capital funds operate have made more money available as well, although many feds are still not used to this very un-federal approach to spending. Agencies tend to operate on a use-it-or-lose-it mindset when it comes to cash; if they don’t spend it, the budgeting theory goes, they don’t need it.
The working capital funds, in their new iteration, give agencies the opportunity to use the savings gained through closing data centers or reducing duplication for other IT projects.
“Some folks can say that’s nibbling around the edges, but nibbling around the edges is better than nothing,” says Dave Powner, the Government Accountability Office’s former director of IT management issues.
Agencies Search for Innovation on Tech Procurement, Hiring
The additional funding gives agencies more money to play with, but does not necessarily speed up the acquisition process. One example: The Interior Department is able to use nearly mint-in-box drones purchased by the Defense Department, but discarded because they were out of date for defense purposes before they arrived.
The General Services Administration is creating new ways for agencies to procure technology at the speed of mission, developing preferred-provider lists that can get cutting-edge IT in-house before it becomes obsolete. The year-old Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, for example, gives agencies efficient access to technology under flexible terms.
And as agencies look for new ways to shop, they’re also searching for new ways to hire. The President’s Management Agenda calls for the construction of a modern workforce “through realigning, reskilling and retaining strategies.”
The Office of Personnel Management is already moving toward that goal, recently issuing a request for information on systems that will make it easier for workers to move from one agency to another, a practice that currently involves layers and layers of bureaucracy — and outdated technology.
While technology remains the challenge, for government, it will also be the solution.