Federal CIO Vivek Kundra Warns of IT Vendor Cartel

Friday, July 22, 2011

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In what could best be described as a proclamation reminiscent of President Eisenhower's famous admonition of the powerful "military industrial complex", outgoing Federal CIO Vivek Kundra recently issued statements warning of federal security risks compounded by "an IT cartel" of vendors perpetuating big contract boondoggles.

The statements were made last week during a meeting of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, President Obama's committee that makes policy recommendations on technology issues.

Kundra warned "that we almost have an IT cartel within federal IT" consisting of "very few companies" which dominate Federal IT budgets "because they understand the procurement process better than anyone else... not because they provide better technology."

Kundra echoed sentiments that have been trumpeted by numerous private sector technology leaders who have long complained that the federal process for contracting information technology services is dominated by a few large companies, and is too restrictive to allow the kind of rapid implementation of innovative solutions offered by smaller organizations.

"How do we get some of the most innovative companies, the most innovative people, to actually come in and compete for federal contracts?" queried Kundra.

Kundra's pronouncement amounts to a curtain-call warning, as the Obama appointee announced his intentions to leave his current post in mid-August to pursue a position at Harvard University. Kundra was appointed as the first Federal CIO in 2009 after having served as an advisor on Obama's transition team.

Kundra is probably most known for his role in developing the 25-point plan for federal agencies to govern information technology acquisitions and for advocating a transition to cloud-based systems for the U.S. government, a strategy that relies heavily on private sector vendor services.

In May, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a draft of the organization's guidance for businesses on the adoption of cloud computing services.

The document, titled DRAFT Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations, was inspired by Kundra's request that the NIST provide the necessary leadership to foster the blossoming cloud services industry.

Kundra previously served as Director of Infrastructure Technology for Arlington County, Virginia and as Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology for Virginia before becoming the Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia.

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Vulcan Mindm3ld "...warning of federal security risks compounded by "an IT cartel" of vendors perpetuating big contract boondoggles."

This is exactly the concern I tried to express in my comments on the recent Infosec Island article: "DoD Releases Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace"

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