Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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3/10/2009
05:11 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Is Fed CIO Kundra Flouting Obama's 'Buy American' Plan?

Newly minted federal CIO Vivek Kundra plans to scour the globe for great ideas: "I want to make sure we're leveraging innovations from throughout the world." But hold on a second -- wouldn't such an approach cut against the grain of President Obama's "Buy American" platform and his "our jobs" anti-outsourcing stance?

Newly minted federal CIO Vivek Kundra plans to scour the globe for great ideas: "I want to make sure we're leveraging innovations from throughout the world." But hold on a second -- wouldn't such an approach cut against the grain of President Obama's "Buy American" platform and his "our jobs" anti-outsourcing stance?Kundra made that comment about "leveraging innovations from throughout the world" in an interview yesterday with BusinessWeek, and in a vacuum it seems like an ideal plan: with the extraordinary challenges he's facing in trying to bring some sense of strategy and cohesion to the federal government's IT expenditures of $200 million each and every day, he sure as heck should be open to hearing productive ideas as well as procuring the best products and services from around the world.

But Kundra's not operating in that tranquil vacuum -- quite the opposite. While Kundra has become a very high-profile figure within an Obama administration that is attempting to portray him as an unfettered agent of change, two manifestations of the president's strongly stated leanings toward economic protectionism could stifle Kundra's efforts.

First, the "Buy American" regulations President Obama and Congress have been angling to infuse into their new spending plans could limit Kundra's ability to tap into commercial "innovations from throughout the world." And second, the pledge by the president to punish, in his words, U.S. "corporations that ship our jobs overseas" via outsourcing could tie Kundra's hands should he attempt to leverage some of the many innovations outsourcing has offered to global customers for 20 years.

Then again, Congress has a long history of creating laws and policies that apply to the rest of us but not to it, so we shouldn't exactly be shocked if federal CIO Kundra ends up endorsing the spirit of his boss's protectionist policies even while flouting them in practice.

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