HISTORY OF ACT-IAC
The story of the American Council for Technology (ACT) and Industry Advisory Council (IAC) opens in the 1970’s. Since that time ACT-IAC has played a unique and important role in helping government to understand and take advantage of these new technologies. A brief history of ACT-IAC is provided below.
The federal government’s investment in information technology began when the first general purpose computer was delivered to the Bureau of the Census in 1951. By 1960, there were exactly 524 computers in the government’s inventory – only 70 of which were in the Washington, DC area. In 1965, Congress enacted P.L. 89-306 (the Brooks Act) to govern the acquisition and management of this new technology. The Brooks Act assigned policy and fiscal oversight to the Office of Management and Budget (then known as the Bureau of the Budget) and gave the General Services Administration acquisition oversight and authority. The National Bureau of Standards was tasked with the responsibility to develop technology standards. In 1966 President Johnson issued a memorandum directing all Federal departments and agencies to “…explore and apply all possible means to use the electronic computer to do a better job and manage computer activity at the lowest possible cost.” By 1975, the government had 8,600 computers, employed 100,000 workers and spent $3 billion annually on IT. At that time, the Federal government owned 5 percent of all the computers in the entire country.
Most of the government computers were at regional offices and on military bases outside the Washington, DC area. The responsibility for acquiring and managing these computers fell primarily on the shoulders of government executives in the field. Although the Brooks Act put in place a regulatory regime to control government IT investments (e.g. agencies had to get permission from the General Services Administration before buying a piece of computer equipment), there was little in the way of best practices or policy guidance to help government IT managers. There were no Chief Information Officers or best practices. There was no email, internet or social media.
The regional managers who had most of the government’s computers formed local ADP (automated data processing) councils where they could share information and collaborate. By the late 1970s there were almost 20 ADP councils around the nation. In 1978, 16 of the ADP councils in the US met in Atlanta and signed an agreement to create the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils (FGIPC). FGIPC was created as a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization to provide a national forum where government executives from all levels could exchange information and collaborate on IT issues. The creation of this national organization was supported by officials from the Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration. In 1982 OMB sent a memorandum to agency information resource management (IRM) officials acknowledging the role played by OMB and GSA in creating FGIPC and urging agencies to take advantage of this unique collaborative forum.
To provide support for the fledgling organization, GSA permitted Ginny McCormick, an employee in the GSA Atlanta office, to serve as FGIPC’s permanent secretary and program director. She performed this role for the next 15 years. The first official FGIPC activity took place in 1981 when the first annual Management of Change conference was held in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
During the first 10 years FGIPC was primarily a forum for government executives. However, during the 1980s there was a growing desire to have an objective and vendor-neutral forum where government and industry could collaborate and exchange information. The need for such a forum grew more urgent as the government’s regulatory oversight structure for information technology grew more restrictive and precluded much government to industry communication.
In 1989 the FGIPC Board of Directors created the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) to bring the private sector IT industry into the collaborative forum. In creating IAC the FGIPC leadership affirmed that government issues would drive the organization’s agenda; that all activities would be objective, ethical and vendor-neutral; that business development and lobbying would be prohibited; and that neither FGIPC nor IAC would accept government funding. There were twenty (20) charter companies in the IAC membership. In 1991 the first Executive Leadership Conference (ELC) was held in Charlottesville, Virginia with approximately 100 attendees. Today there are approximately 500 companies in the IAC membership and ELC is the premier event for the government IT community with total attendance limited to about 850 senior executives.
Over the years FGIPC and IAC continued to grow as an increasing number of government and industry employees became engaged in the organization. The range of programs also grew each year. In 2004 FGIPC changed its name to the American Council for Technology. In 2009 ACT celebrated its 30th anniversary while IAC celebrated its 20th. In 2012 ACT-IAC created the Institute for Innovation as a think tank on game-changing issues.
ACT-IAC has been called an example of how government and industry can work together. Today, ACT-IAC continues to provide an objective and vendor-neutral forum that is trusted by both government and industry. The programs on the organization’s agenda have grown and evolved as the government and the technologies it uses change. The mission, however, has not changed. ACT-IAC remains committed to creating a more effective and efficient government by providing a forum where those who share this vision can work together.