Stephen E. Arnold: USG Considers Open Acquisition

Data, Governance
Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

Government Tackles Acquisition Inefficiencies

Given evidence like the vile backlog on veterans’ benefits and the still-operating paperwork bunker in Pennsylvania, one could be forgiven for suspecting that no one in government is even trying to bring our bureaucracy into this century. You may be surprised to know there is plan in place for at least part of the problem, as evidenced by the Integrated Award Environment: the Path Forward from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). That document, which looks suspiciously like a Power Point presentation converted to PDF, outlines the GSA’s recommendations for improving the federal government’s acquisition procedures.

Anyone interested in the details should check out the document, but the list of “our principles” summarizes the organization’s targets:

  • Open (source code, data, APIs)
  • Data as an asset
  • Continuous improvement
  • Effective user experience
  • Measurable transactions
  • Security is foundational
  • Build value over maintaining status quo

The paper expounds on each of these points, defining the implications of each goal, a point or two on maintaining balance, and questions workers should ask themselves going forward. For example, the section on “Open” notes that users must balance the stability of, say, Oracle with the agility of open source solutions and security with openness. For the data-enthused among us, the section on “Data as an asset” reads:

“Accurate, timely, complete, and authoritative”


*Significant effort to manage data quality; implementers must have data-oriented SLAs

*Change control of the data needs to be transparent

*Will follow the data->information->knowledge chain Implies


*Our flexibility has to account for the strong change management of our data Balance

Ask ourselves:

*“How do we ensure that we are providing timely and accurate data?”

*“How are we enabling decision-making through use of our data?”

So, next time you’re tempted to think our government is doomed to be stuck in the 20th century, remember that some folks within the bureaucracy are on the case. Soon, it may be time for them to party like it’s 1999.

Cynthia Murrell, April 06, 2014

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