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2/15/2006
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Profile: Government Short-Sighted On IT Says Senate Hopeful Miller

The candidate for U.S. Senate encourages industry to inspire change.

The federal government needs to stop thinking in a stovepipe and start recognizing the potential that comes with innovative IT solutions, says Harris Miller, former president of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and current candidate for Virginia's U.S. Senate seat. To make that happen, he says, the private sector needs to break down more doors with big ideas.

Government consistently falls behind industry by remaining shackled to the old way of doing things--whether in incorporating IT into health care, or leveraging broadband to expand education beyond the classroom, Miller says.

"While many in the government are willing to look to more creative solutions, the government as a customer tends to be conservative," he says. "They're afraid something will go wrong and a headline will appear that says, 'Government Contract Fails.' But these are not crackpot ideas from the IT community. Let the government take risk, but let industry take risk, too. They're willing to; they're out there saying, 'We're willing to be paid for performance, and we're willing to share in the benefits our solutions offer.' But the system is designed to be as sporadic as possible."

While federal acquisition of IT goods and services improved under the Clinger-Cohen Act with the introduction of performance-based contracting, industry innovation is still shoved aside by change-adverse people on the Hill, Miller says. Solution providers and integrators need to change that, he maintains.

"They have to be more out front with their solutions," Miller says. "Sometimes the technology community hides its own light under a bushel; they're not aggressive enough to say, 'If you, the government, allows us to be more innovative, we can really do some neat and cool things.'"

While on the campaign trail, Miller says many of the demands he's hearing can be met with proper use of technology. As electronic-voting systems rapidly gain momentum across the country, for example, people have made it clear they want a paper trail--even if it means higher cost.

"The voters feel more comfortable with a paper trail; it's part of the voter confidence," Miller says. "So we need to deliver. Across the board, people are making demands, and it's up to government with industry to get in the habit of listening."

Look for more with Miller in an upcoming issue of GovernmentVAR and on GovernmentVAR.com.

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