Agencies take advantage of beltway IT boom

Agencies take advantage of beltway IT boom

The proximity of IT companies to agencies in Washington strengthens the entire community, Jim Flyzik says.

By Shruti Dat'
GCN Staff

Federal agencies are reaping rewards from the growth of the information technology sector around the beltway, government and industry officials say.

'Absolutely, the growth of the IT companies around Washington brings into the area more skilled contractors and IT talent,' said James J. Flyzik, the Treasury Department's chief information officer and vice chairman of the CIO Council.

The Washington area is home to nearly 9,000 technology companies. Federal agencies reported obligating almost $14.6 billion to those companies between the second quarter of fiscal 1998 and the first quarter of fiscal 1999, according to Input of Vienna, Va.

Virginia ranks first in the nation with almost $8 billion worth of federal IT obligations, Maryland second with $3.7 billion and Washington fourth with $2.8 billion. In all, the government spent $32.6 billion on IT during the period.

Federal agencies have spurred the growth of the beltway IT industry, said Renato 'Renny' DiPentima, president of government systems for SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va.

'Just drive down the Dulles Toll Road, and you will see that the federal government is a magnet for IT companies,' the former Social Security Administration deputy CIO said. 'We are a prime IT spot. Washington ranks third' in the overall IT industry, 'right behind Sunnyvale, Calif., and Boston.'

Changes in acquisition laws as the need for automation of federal systems increases have attracted vendors to the area, DiPentima said.

'In the last eight years, the federal work force has been reduced by about 300,000,' he said. 'Fewer people mean the government has to be more efficient. You have to automate to do that.'

Recent federal laws and regulations, such as the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996, have also helped ease the business process between government agencies and IT vendors.

'The procurement system has evolved. We are looking for more governmentwide solutions,' Flyzik said. 'There is pressure to expedite the process.'

DiPentima said that since 1996, federal managers have been able to coordinate their needs with the vendors' capabilities on a more functional basis.

Flyzik said the proximity of the IT companies'whether regional offices or headquarters'helps strengthen the community.

Robert Deller, president of Markess International Inc. of Chevy Chase, Md., said local vendors know how to meet federal customers' demands because they can build a personal relationship with government users.

Strut their stuff

'Almost every integrator around the beltway has a demo lab to invite government officials to come look at their products, because most information resources management officials are located here,' he said.

Marvin Langston, the Defense Department's deputy CIO, said: 'My personal preference is always to go straight to the companies. We often go to the companies around the beltway for strategy. There is more interest around the beltway, which creates a rich and competitive market.'

He said he believes that Washington-area companies have helped federal agencies but that the government also does business with vendors outside the region.

Flyzik and DiPentima said the emergence of industry associations has also helped gel the IT community.

The Industry Advisory Council of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils, the IT Association of America and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association bring the community together, Flyzik said.

'It is important that the [vendors] are embedded in the community and that you belong to these associations,' DiPentima said. 'You have to go to their breakfasts so you have the opportunity to listen to what the CIOs want.'

Flyzik said local companies understand 'how to get it done' because they interact with federal IT officials regularly.

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