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Using Information Technology as a Strategic Weapon to Strengthen the Economy and Drive Change for America



The United States is the global leader in information technology, but that leadership has been slipping. While it is up to the private sector to invest and innovate, the federal government has a major role to play in spurring the development of cutting-edge technologies through its annual $100 billion investment on information technology products and services.

The U.S. government is the world’s single largest user of IT, but it has no comprehensive strategy to guide its investments. Federal IT spending is fragmented and relies on risk-averse decision-making and acquisition policies that discourage private-sector innovation. Instead of using its financial clout to foster new thinking, unleash new products and better deliver services to the public, the government policies and practices have discouraged innovation and promoted trailing-edge technologies.

As the administration of Barack Obama takes office, it must overhaul the government’s policies and practices, and better leverage the annual $100 billion federal IT investment. A strategic view must be taken of IT spending across all federal agencies and departments. Policies must be implemented that foster innovative IT solutions to benefit government, the IT sector and spur economic growth. Old thinking must be jettisoned and some new risk-taking must be encouraged instead of being punished.

The new administration must recognize and acknowledge the impact that the government’s IT investment has on the U.S. economy, and work to build consensus for a national strategy that could be directed by a senior IT leader within the Executive Office of the President who will have strong decision-making authority.

The new administration must identify high reward investment areas, focusing initially on a small number of items where the federal government’s spending can have a significant job retention and economic growth impact. There also must be a consolidation and better coordination of many parts of the federal IT infrastructure to achieve economies of scale including data centers, networks, administrative applications, desktop systems, and help desks.

A new relationship must be fostered with industry that maintains the goal of fair competition for taxpayer dollars while encouraging companies to submit innovative and potentially high reward cutting-edge solutions. In addition, the new administration must enhance the skills of the government’s IT and management workforce, ensuring that top people are placed in key positions to manage and direct the new strategy.

The Obama administration is coming into office promising change, and that must include IT policy. As the new president looks for ways to deal with the current economic meltdown and lays the groundwork for long term economic growth, there is a golden opportunity to strengthen

U.S. competitiveness and bolster an important job-creating IT industry. This will mean harnessing the power of the federal government's IT spending as a strategic national asset. Implementing this approach will have positive consequences for the economy and for restoring faith in the government’s ability to solve problems and serve the public good.

This report was prepared as part of the 2008 Presidential Transition Project.

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ACT-IAC Report