Editorial: Relishing the spotlight

The government IT community has an opportunity to share its ideas for making agencies more effective and efficient.

The operation and management of government agencies are typically not issues in presidential elections. Often candidates debate whether there should be more or less government, or whether government should be bigger or smaller. But the business of government is usually not a high-profile topic during presidential campaigns. That’s mainly because running on a platform of good government doesn’t win candidates many votes.But the road leading to the November 2008 election appears to be different. Government performance issues could become fodder for presidential campaigns because of controversies surrounding the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, its conduct of the war on terrorism  and, yes, procurement issues.A speech this month by Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) is the latest and most obvious example. Speaking at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, Clinton outlined a 10-point plan for reforming the government. Like many such plans, Clinton’s contained some good ideas, including a proposal to establish a public service academy. Other ideas, however, were mainly geared toward satisfying political interest groups, including her proposal to cut 500,000 government contractor positions.But because such issues will be in the spotlight, the government information technology community must be prepared to speak out about the ideas that work, those that don’t and what can be done to address any concerns. We have repeatedly called for a debate and strong leadership on some issues, especially those related to the federal workforce. And although we do not believe the federal procurement system is broken, we agree that there is room for improvement.The system has a handful of true leaders, people like Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Jim Williams, commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service. And we were pleased to learn that Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has been asked to come up with some procurement reforms that could be included in the upcoming Defense spending bills. But the White House needs to show some leadership on this issue, too — something that hasn’t happened since Steve Kelman left the federal government.The government IT community has an opportunity to share its ideas for making agencies more effective and efficient. If our community is going to be in the political spotlight, let’s take advantage of it.