The Avue Government Advisory Board, whose members have extensive Federal Government experience, counsels the company’s leadership on the alignment of business opportunities with the critical need for broader technology solutions within the federal government.
In addition to advising Avue, their insights from a career in the Federal Government are valuable in helping determine the way forward for all institutions, public and private sector.
This conversation is with Robert Burton, a 30-year veteran of federal procurement law and policy development, including more than 20 years as senior acquisition attorney with the Department of Defense; Karen Evans, national director for the U.S. Cyber Challenge who spent 28 years in federal government leading information technology at the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Energy and Department of Justice; and Gary Krump, Executive Vice President at Cassidy & Associates and one of Washington’s leading experts in Federal contracting, and former chairman and chief judge of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We asked each of them this question: In Federal Procurement, why can’t the government get rid of redundant services?
Robert Burton: “It goes back to the point that agencies like to be in control. They don’t like to pay fees to other agencies; they don’t like the other agency doing the work for them because they want to keep control of everything; they don’t really trust the other agency.
“And so I don’t know that the government has a luxury though to continue down that road anymore. I do believe that in 2005 we rolled out a very aggressive strategic sourcing initiative for government-wide strategic sourcing. There had not been much emphasis on government-wide strategic sourcing, a little bit with respect to agency specific strategic sourcing. But government wide strategic sourcing is here to stay, because again, the government has no choice but to go that route. Leveraging the enormous buying power of the Government effectively, it has to be done, and agencies are just going to have to realize that someone’s going to have to take the lead. On certain commodities or services certain agencies are going to have to take the lead. But I do believe that the government has to get rid of all of these duplicate vehicles. They have to be reduced to number.”
Karen Evans: “Because I think … this is my personal opinion from watching it from the inside for over 28 years and now being on the outside, is that when you take a look at it the people who are down on the ground, internally within the agencies, this is their job; they came into the government for a very specific purpose: public service, making a difference for the nation. And the piece that they do, which would be very well duplicative of the same piece that’s being done in 26 other agencies, for example, let’s take grant making; and that’s very duplicative. That process is a pretty straightforward, simple process. But they view it as different, because of the program they are supporting, and the program is what gets them really jazzed up. And I think the difference that you see in the government versus private industry, when a CEO stands up in front of a group of people in his company and says, ‘Look you two guys are doing the same thing, one of you has got to stop doing it,’ they can see the direct alignment because they are all trying to make the company profitable. In the case of the Federal Government it’s a little bit more difficult because the same two people, when they’re looking at it, their outcome is different because it’s a program. We’re trying to deliver this service and the idea of doing it more efficiently or at the most cost effective way, that’s not the primary purpose for them. That’s where I think it becomes very difficult, because you’re appealing to a different set of values of trying to get people to work together.”
Gary Krump: “And there are ways are in which you can approach the government and say, ‘Look, I think I have a better mousetrap. I think it will achieve your objectives. I’m willing to do that and split the savings with you.’ That’s particularly useful when you’re dealing with engineers and IT people, because they understand outcomes. It’s tougher when you’re dealing with HR people, or sometimes when you’re dealing with finance people, is I can build you a better system for less money if we split the savings and the finance guys tend to say well if that’s the case I’ll just take all the savings. But if I’m the offerer, if I’m the vendor, if I’m bringing that value engineering change proposal to you or that business process enhancement to you then I’m going to want to have some compensation for, not necessarily thinking of it, but figuring out how to make it work. And that’s one of the things that very often the government doesn’t understand, is when the private sector company comes in, they are coming in but the bottom line with a private sector company is they have a bottom line. Government guys, at the end of a fiscal year want to have spent every penny they had, so that they get more next year. Private sector guys want to save every penny they can so that they have some to get started next year. There’s a radically different viewpoint in how the money flow works.”