FEDCAC will connect IT puzzle pieces

Ron Decker defines his new job as Washington's matchmaker.


As the incoming administrator of the General Services Administration's Federal Computer
Acquisition Center, Decker will be responsible for expanding FEDCAC and creating a local
presence in the nation's capital. Unlike his predecessor, Stephen Meltzer, Decker will
work in Washington.


"Right now, most of FEDCAC's resources are in Boston, where we have had a very
positive history with large contracts," he said. "But the truth is that most of
the business is in D.C."


FEDCAC evolved from a former military systems buying shop, the Air Force Computer
Acquisition Center in Lexington, Mass. When GSA absorbed the center in the early 1990s, it
maintained the center's digs near Boston and kept Meltzer as chief. He retired from
government in December.


Decker wants to use FEDCAC to match federal agencies with companies selling information
technology products. And he is not afraid to use innovative approaches to breathe new life
into FEDCAC.


"The reality is that the economy has changed," he said. "The government
is doing less and less business through large federal contracts. So we are going to move
in some pretty unique directions."


Decker is looking for companies that can inexpensively provide services to federal
agencies. Use of electronic commerce, the Internet and smart cards can lower the cost of
transactions when the government buys information technology, he said.


"In the past when the government bought $100 worth of software, it was buying
maybe $50 in software and the rest was transaction costs," he said. "I want to
see that $100 for software buy $100 in software. More taxpayer money needs to go to the
product instead of services to get it."


Decker developed this view in his last job as the Federal Telecommunications Service's
assistant regional administrator for GSA's Region 6 in Kansas City, Mo. In that job, he
helped agencies throughout the midwest buy and use telecom services.


A GSA employee since 1979, he has held several systems and telecommunications posts.
Decker began his federal career in 1975 at the Housing and Urban Development Department.


Any company is welcome under the FEDCAC umbrella, he said. Although Decker wants to
keep good relations with the largest IT corporations, he is also looking to work with
small and midsize companies.


There is some resistance to that way of thinking, Decker said, but he is no stranger to
controversy.


In 1983, he was called to Washington to manage GSA's change to office automation. Back
then, he said, computers were thought of as a waste of money.


"People did not think computers should be in government," he said. "I
wrote a paper that said we should have one computer for every three users, and they made
me change it to say we should have one computer for every seven users." And this was
after a yearlong audit.


But computers in government survived. Decker said he learned that the innovative
approach often works.


For FEDCAC, Decker sees two options for government agencies. First, if an agency knows
it needs to automate a process but does not know exactly what it wants, FEDCAC can find
the right company to help, he said.


"When programs have failed in the past, it was not necessarily anyone's
fault," he said. "It may not have been a good match."


Secondly, FEDCAC can help a government agency that knows exactly what hardware,
software or service it needs by finding the most inexpensive way to get the product.


"We can be in this process as much or as little as an agency wants," he said.
"We want to be your personal buyer."


About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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