Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) spoke to us recently about Capitol Hill’s view of government contractors, what jobs he feels are best left inside the government, compensation for procurement personnel, CIO Kundra’s federal dashboard, and more. Moran told us what the new Armed Services bill means for IT RFPs, and weighed in on who the new Cyber Coordinator should be.
ExecutiveBiz: Where do you feel the balance lies between government insourcing and contracting with respect to driving innovation?
Jim Moran: That is a difficult question because there should always be a constructive tension between the private and public sectors. We tipped that balance in the last few years by outsourcing inherently governmental work, in my opinion. That’s why I support Secretary Gates’ effort to establish 20,000 more acquisition personnel as an example, 9,000 new positions and 11,000 converted from contracting positions. The acquisition process is inherently governmental. It should not have been contracted out, so we are going to bring it back in. There are other functions that can far more efficiently be provided by the private sector and those will continue to be done in that way.
ExecutiveBiz: What role do you think Congress should play in getting the highest quality executives involved in the procurement process and retaining those executives?
Jim Moran: I think that there needs to be more flexibility in terms of compensation for government personnel particularly in the Pentagon’s principle areas of responsibility. The personnel system that was established has merit. I think it needs to be refined but I think we will move forward on it because we have seen that we have lost much too high a quantity and some of the best quality people to the private sector because federal salaries have not been competitive. We need to make those salaries more competitive, taking into consideration the generous benefits package that can be offered to the federal government. I introduced three pieces of legislation on the Armed Services Authorization Bill and hopefully will be incorporated by the Senate that would provide incentives for personnel to come back from the private sector back in to the government. For example, if people want to work part time they won’t be penalized. They’ll be paid consistent with the level of the compensation they received for most of their career. If they made withdrawals from their retirement funds, they will be able to pay those withdrawals back so they will not be penalized after a hiatus spent in the private sector. We will fix the sick leave system so that unused sick leave benefits can be cashed out at the end of a career. These are things that we need to work on, but primarily we need to be more competitive with the private sector in terms of compensation.
“On the whole I’d have to say there is a relatively negative attitude towards contractors and we are working every day to improve that image and to try to discourage the kinds of activities and rhetoric that underscore people’s negative feelings towards contactors. It is a two way street.”
-Congressman Jim Moran
ExecutiveBiz: How do you think Congress should remedy the IT RFP requirements to make them more innovation friendly?
Jim Moran: I think the Armed Services Bill that just passed through the House does some of that. It enables more partnering and provides for some venture capital investments to make bids more competitive. We’ve got ten pilot projects which are designed to find the most effective ways of issuing IT contracts using different acquisition processes. That’s an admission that things need to be improved. The Pentagon can also assign some of its current employees to work with the private sector and can take people in the private sector into the Pentagon so as to enable a contract to be more effectively understood and applied to meet the Pentagon’s needs. There is also a provision that amends their current reporting requirements dealing with the acquisition of software in terms of programs.
ExecutiveBiz: What do you think the consensus view on Capital Hill is of government contractors?
Jim Moran: Well, where you sit is where you stand. In the Washington area I think you would get some pretty positive reviews because that is a large share of the economy that we represent and benefit from. Out in the Midwestern plains areas and much of the south I think contractors have gotten a bad rap and a bum rap. In California I think you will see more support for contractors. The members are normally going to reflect the disposition of their constituencies. On the whole I’d have to say there is a relatively negative attitude towards contractors and we are working every day to improve that image and to try to discourage the kinds of activities and rhetoric that underscore people’s negative feelings towards contactors. It is a two way street. Contractors have to conduct themselves in such a way that it brings honor to the industry and the Congress needs to fair in its assessment of what it expects of contractors. Clearly there was some gross abuse on the part of contractors in Iraq. I think you see less of that in Afghanistan. There was just too much money being made available to contractors with too little oversight and too many connections with the executive branch. It contributed to a negative attitude that was understandable toward contractors.
ExecutiveBiz: We are all still waiting on the announcement of the new position of Cyber Security Coordinator. What kinds of qualifications and what kind of qualities do you feel like that person should appoint and do you have any idea of who it might be?
Jim Moran: It should be a person just like Tom Davis, if not Tom Davis himself.
ExecutiveBiz: What do you think of the job that Aneesh Chopra who is one of your constituents is doing as Federal CTO?
Jim Moran: Terrific, I think the world of Aneesh Chopra. I think he is an example of just the kind of bright, energetic, creative, hard working person we need in the federal government.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan on protecting government contracting jobs?
Jim Moran: By maintaining the funding for the programs for which contractors provide an essential support function and defending them against unfair accusations both in the media and on the floor of the House.
ExecutiveBiz: In meeting the President’s priorities in areas like energy independence, government transparency, and better education, a lot has been made of employing information technology. Do you think that increased centralization of information technology via the internet makes us more vulnerable to cyber attacks?
Jim Moran: I think we need to march forward and not be intimidated by the possibility of cyber attacks. As we march forward even with the centralization of information we need to be conscious of ways to protect the security of that information, to block out cookies, to preclude people from being able to hack into the conduits of information. We are fully capable of doing that. I certainly don’t think we should restrict ourselves from technological progress out of fear of the information going into the wrong hands. We can do both. We can enhance our IT capabilities while doing a better job of protecting the integrity of that information.
ExecutiveBiz: What do you think of CIO Kundra’s new dashboard for IT spending in the federal government? Do you think that the measures to increase governmental transparency in the stimulus spending?
Jim Moran: I think it remains to be seen. The jury is out. I think the intention is great. The follow through has yet to be proven but I think it is too early to reach an assessment.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything else that you want to add?
Jim Moran: Just that all of these issues are ongoing and it behooves the IT contractors particularly to work with my office and with Gerry Connolly’s and Steny Hoyer’s, people who represent large IT defense workforces. The more participation and contact we have, the better results we get for all concerned.