Welcome side effect
In just a few days, the Information Technology Management Reform Act will take effect
and the Brooks Act will disappear. Numerous groups have issued reports on the new law,
from the Association for Federal IRM (AFFIRM) to the Industry Advisory Council of FGIPC.
The act builds on reforms already passed, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Acts.
But unlike FASA I and FASA II, the ITRMA is specifically about computer systems and how
agencies use them.
Some have termed the ITRMA "revolutionary." Perhaps, but don't expect to wake
up Thursday morning and find a completely changed landscape. In many ways, the new law
ratifies what already is going on. Though GSA had statutory authority over systems
acquisition, it never was a particularly strong overseer. Mainly what it did was slow down
acquisition and development at the beginning of the process, with the now-defunct
delegation of procurement authority.
Similarly, the demise of the GSA Board of Contract Appeals, right or wrong, eliminates
something that affected relatively few procurements. And the majority of its cases were
decided in the agencies' favor--although some will argue that's because GSBCA kept the
Others have called the new law an experiment. That's off the mark too, since it's
unlikely Congress will reverse itself anytime soon. It's doubtful GSA ever will be back in
the IT oversight saddle. The ITRMA experiments are associated with how to implement it.
Even now, this still is being hashed out by the administration.
While it's not a revolutionary experiment, ITRMA nonetheless is a landmark law that
will have far-reaching effects. One of the most important, I believe, is something not
even written into the law.
Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I think that when agency managers are more in charge of
their own technology future, government service can become more attractive to talented
systems people. They'll see that a federal career can be a thing of challenge and pride.
With a faster approach to procurement and more focus on the benefits to be gained by
technology investments, the federal government will really start to be more businesslike.
That can help the government as an employer compete for those relatively uncommon people
who want to be at the forefront of technology yet perhaps serve their country, too.
Wouldn't that be a welcome outcome?