PHILADELPHIA — A senior Office of Management and Budget official pledged to remove structural impediments hindering the federal government’s ability to adapt to changing technology and workforce needs.
OMB Deputy Director of Management Margaret Weichert, speaking Oct. 22 at the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council Imagine Nation conference, said that current government procedures are preventing the government from being agile. Therefore, her priority is to find those areas where government policies prevent modernization and fix them.
“While I’m here, I’m going to continue to look for those real cases where we have a use case that we need to get something done in government and there’s something structural in the way," Weichert said.
As an example, she cited the federal government’s cyber reskilling academy’s inability to place its graduates into cybersecurity jobs in government because of requirements in OPM’s general schedule for employee hiring.
“We have people who want new jobs, and we have jobs, but we have a very old, well-intentioned code related to fairness in hiring,” Weichert said. “It’s not agile; it’s not responsive to the needs of the 21st century.”
Weichert said the “long journey” of implementation phases of different projects, like shared services, are areas where industry can find the structural challenges and report them to government.
“We need [industry] help to help us identify other places where we need to update our thinking,” Weichert said. “We need [industry] help to actually look through these use cases where we’re not getting it done the way we need to.”
The idea of agility in the federal government was established in the president’s management, which laid out the Trump administration’s priorities for IT modernization.
“In the 21st century, agility powered by IT, powered by data and powered by people is how leading players execute, differentiate and build trust,” Weichert said.
Weichert also pointed to the Technology Modernization Fund, a pool of money doled out for modernization projects for federal agency, as a successful and “agile” program.
“They’re making the investments in incremental, agile ways, not spending billions spending low millions on critical IT,” Weichert said. “And then coming back for more appropriately when they’ve proven it out,”
But IT modernization cannot be the singular focus of the government. It must also build in a customer focus, agility and IT service quality.
“[If] we only think about modernizing technology ... we’ll fix something for a time that will then be outpaced by change in technology in the broader community,” Weichert said.
Ultimately, Wiechert wants industry to help the government identify areas where the government’s effort to improve are impeded by its policies.
“I really appreciate and welcome additional input about structural impediments because agility and trust in the 21st century aren’t about one thing or not about it modernization or data or people — it’s about all of it working together,” Weichert said.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.