Technology companies, associations urge Biden administration to push for more commercial products

By Marjorie Censer / May 26, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Dozens of technology companies today sent a letter to President Biden arguing the government needs to do more to prioritize commercial buying.

According to the letter, the federal government has for too long "prioritized building its own technology solutions over procuring commercial products."

These solutions "are almost always more expensive on the front end, difficult and costly to maintain, and quickly become obsolete," the letter contends. "Federal acquisition rules already require agencies to prioritize and procure commercial items, to the maximum extent practicable, over custom development. But those rules are not always followed."

The signers call for the administration to ensure the preference for commercial items is followed, including "conducting appropriate market research, as is required by the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA), prior to making any acquisition decisions when considering comparable commercial and custom-built items."

"We specifically request that the Office of Management and Budget provide clear guidance to federal agencies to make certain that the existing statutory requirements for commercial preference are followed," they add.

The letter was signed by more than 40 tech companies, from Anduril Industries to Palantir to SparkCognition Government Systems to Splunk. It was also signed by the Alliance for Digital Innovation, the Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government and the Silicon Valley Defense Group.

In an interview with Inside Defense, Matthew Cornelius, the executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, said the letter comes after technology companies have played a key role in helping government through the pandemic.

Returning to the status quo acquisition process, he said, would be a mistake.

The companies "believe that if they have a fair chance to compete and if we move to that sort of show, don't tell model, rather than these massive, 1,500-page requirements documents . . . that they're going to have a chance to not just win work, but to drive better value and better outcomes," he said.