Despite the veto threat looming over it, there is reason to cheer that the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) came in ahead of the December timeframe observers have come to expect. More importantly, the conference report for the NDAA bill, H.R. 1735, that was passed by the House yesterday is chock full of forward-leaning provisions that change the way that the Department of Defense (DOD) acquires information technology (IT). We strongly encourage the Senate to follow suit and for the President to sign the bill into law. Failing that, we urge them to find a way to make these much needed improvements to the acquisition system permanent. We see these as important reforms in building the momentum needed to revamp the procurement process and give the government the IT tools it needs to keep and sustain its technological edge.
Both the contracting community and the government will benefit from the NDAA provisions that enhance the DOD’s ability to do business with the commercial market and leverage innovation developed in the private sector. These provisions are critical to incubate healthy competition among companies already in the market and to attract new entrants. The cost of doing business with the government is steep, but rewarding. There is a lot policymakers can do to sustain the existing industrial base while welcoming innovative companies to the federal marketplace.
Other important provisions take a serious look at the regulations governing how the government buys goods and services and how the vendor community sells them in an effort to reduce compliance costs and burden. Streamlining acquisition regulations, removing duplicative and redundant requirements, and repealing any regulations that do not support the DOD’s mission is critical to modernizing the procurement process and driving efficiencies for the taxpayer.
The NDAA’s procurement provisions, and their potential for success, are a result of bipartisan leadership from both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees who solicited various government and industry stakeholders’ feedback well over a year ago to inform measures Congress could take to help improve DOD’s acquisition process. In response, ITAPS submitted over sixty recommendations and we are pleased to see that the final bill addresses many of the challenges the IT industry has faced in doing business with the government.
As government reliance on technology continues to grow, the systemic dysfunction in the way government contracts for IT goods and services continues to hold all agencies, not just DOD, back from the innovations they need to deliver important services to the public. Next year’s NDAA is a likely vehicle for continuing these reform efforts, but we urge policymakers to also consider how they can extend these improvements to the federal civilian agencies as well. This may require additional legislation or regulatory and administrative action, and since the last major overhaul of the federal procurement process occurred over two decades ago, these needed changes are not going to happen overnight with just one action. However, passage of this year’s NDAA is a strong step in the right direction and ITAPS looks forward to keeping the momentum going into next year.