OAI: A jump start for procurement innovation

This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.

On Monday, President Donald Trump established the White House Office of American Innovation (OAI). The OAI “will make recommendations to the President on policies and plans that improve Government operations and services, improve the quality of life for Americans now and in the future, and spur job creation.” OAI will be responsible for launching initiatives with a focus on innovation, coordinating implementation of any resulting plans and creating reports of the President setting forth policy recommendations.”

In furtherance of its mission, OAI “will gather information, ideas, and experiences from other parts of Government, from the private sector, and from thought leaders and experts outside of the Federal Government.”

The OAI is a timely, strategic and necessary effort. Although there are many processes of government, the federal procurement process underpins all that the government does to serve the American people. Unfortunately, too often that procurement process increases costs, reduces competition, and serves as a barrier to access best value commercial products, services and solutions. The risk is that day-to-day government operations become suboptimal, i.e., not efficient or effective in meeting mission requirements.

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OAI can drive procurement streamlining that will create a dynamic, innovative and responsive federal procurement marketplace. To jump-start this innovation in procurement, the OAI can embark quickly on a Procurement Innovation Initiative (PII) encompassing the following:

  • Identify best practices in procurement, share lessons-learned, and leverage centers of excellence and innovation, like the General Services Administration’s FEDSIM and the Homeland Security Department’s Procurement Innovation Lab.
  • Tap the unfulfilled potential of GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program by streamlining the contracting process to increase access to the dynamics of the commercial marketplace. Currently, the program is weighed-down by backward-looking, burdensome data reporting and pricing compliance requirements that increase costs and reduce access to new commercial innovations in products and services.
  • Streamline and reorganize the Veterans Affairs Department’s procurement operations, especially the VA’s MAS program, to ensure, timely, cost-effective access to the latest commercial medical products, services, pharmaceuticals and technologies to support veterans’ health care. The Coalition will be conducting a survey of VA industry partners to identify additional recommendations to improve the procurement process. The results will be shared with key stakeholders in furtherance of our common goal to support veterans’ health care.
  • Put “commercial” back in commercial item contracting by creating an environment that mirrors, as closely as possible, the commercial market. By so doing, the government increases the incentive for commercial innovators to enter the public space with cutting edge technology and the benefits of robust competition.

The procurement system provides OAI with a strategic opportunity to truly create a 21st century Government, responsive to the needs of the American people, and, by delivering timely, best value commercial products, services and solutions to customer agencies and the American people, these PII initiatives offer a “quick win” for innovation and reform.

The Coalition looks forward to supporting and working with the administration’s new Office of American Innovation.

Roger Waldron is the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and host of Off the Shelf on Federal News Radio.