A group of Congressmen have introduced legislation that dramatically changes how the federal government purchases IT goods and services. The bill is being drafted primarily in response to the botched launch of the HealthCare.gov website.
The Reforming Federal Procurement of Information Technology (RFP-IT) Act (H.R. 5255), was introduced by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee. Original cosponsors are Reps. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA).
Main components of the legislation include the following:
- Enhances competition for federal IT contracts by expanding the number of contracts that use a simplified process which makes it easier for small and innovative companies to bid. This will shorten lead times on contracts, lower administrative costs, and produce a broader pool of bidders for federal IT contracts.
- Promotes innovation in the federal government by codifying the successful Presidential Innovation Fellows program, by improving the quality of solicitations issued for IT procurements, and by adding the Small Business Administrator to the FAR Council, which sets federal procurement policy.
- Strengthens accountability by establishing a new, high-level Digital Government Office to coordinate Federal IT policy and to partner with agencies to address high-priority or failing IT projects.
“The launch of healthcare.gov had many troubling aspects to it. It also opened the flood gates of concerns and comments from small companies and entrepreneurs in my district who have important technologies, yet cannot compete in the federal procurement process because it is too complicated, too slow, and often simply not worth the investment of time,” said Eshoo, whose congressional district is home to Silicon Valley. “The federal government should be seeking out the best value for the taxpayer dollar, not the company that can best navigate thousands of pages of procurement regulations.”
Connolly added, “Incremental improvements in federal IT management have been completely eclipsed by large-scale federal IT disasters that waste taxpayers’ dollars and jeopardize our nation’s ability to carry out fundamental constitutional responsibilities, from conducting a census to securing our borders to caring for our dedicated veterans in a timely manner. The bipartisan RFP-IT Act recognizes that transforming federal IT procurement requires enhancing competition, attracting innovative new vendors, and strengthening accountability.”