Dozens of Technology Companies Urge the Biden Administration to Open ‎Government to Private Sector Innovation

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should ensure that government agencies are applying well-established commercial preference regulations when it comes to purchasing software, 44 leading technology companies and three alliances wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden today.
The signatories point out that federal law already requires federal agencies to prioritize procuring commercial software, but those rules are not always followed to the detriment of taxpayers and government effectiveness. Companies including Salesforce, Palantir, Splunk, DataRobot and associations including the Alliance for Digital Innovation, the Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government and the Silicon Valley Defense Group are among the organizations calling for the change.
Too often, departments and agencies fail to apply commercial existing preference regulations to software and technology procurement. Instead, the government opts to build systems internally or contract out for complicated bespoke systems. This is contrary to private sector best practices, and with good reason: software development efforts fail upwards of 90% of the time according to some estimates. When these efforts do fail, it is the taxpayer who pays the price. In contrast, cutting-edge software and technology companies offer superior off-the-shelf products that have already been proven in the commercial sector, take advantage of private sector innovation, and, in many cases, can be deployed quickly.
“It isn’t a secret that enterprise software is incredibly hard to build and usually fails before it succeeds — especially when the government tries to build software itself,” said Matthew Cornelius, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation. “When federal agencies procure commercially available software, they buy something that already works, allowing agencies to leverage innovative solutions more quickly. The Biden Administration must double down on commercial solutions as a key to their agenda. Our message to the Administration: buy, don’t build.”
“For years, we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about the urgency of preparing for great power competition. If it is really urgent, and I think it clearly is, the government has to act like it,” said Mac Thornberry, former Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and member of the Silicon Valley Defense Group’s board of advisors. “That means acquiring systems now that are tested and proven and can be readily adopted, rather than waiting — sometimes for years — to build systems from scratch that may never work and are likely to be outdated if they do.”
Technology companies are asking for the OMB to correct this practice by sending clear guidance to agencies and departments that long-standing requirements to procure commercially available solutions also apply to software and technology acquisition. 
“The most innovative technology in the world is being developed by the U.S. private sector but, too often, federal agencies are missing out,” said Dave Vorland, the Executive Director for the Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government. “You find out during a crisis what technology works and doesn’t work and it is consistently commercial software that responds best when government efficiency is most critical — as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In their letter to President Biden, these companies “specifically request the Office of Management and Budget provide clear guidance to federal agencies to ensure the existing statutory requirements for commercial preference are followed. We also encourage the Administration to require any software or technology acquisition to include the opportunity for the private sector to participate in live technology demonstrations alongside any custom-built options. Ultimately, the best solution should always win.”
About The Alliance for Digital Innovation
The Alliance for Digital Innovation (ADI) is an association of commercial companies helping to shape innovation in government. ADI’s mission is to enable American innovation. The coalition was formed to serve as a unified voice for commercial innovators interested in driving existing and emerging commercial technology into the public sector. ADI is focused on driving IT modernization with a focus upon innovative commercial technologies.
About The Silicon Valley Defense Group
The Silicon Valley Defense Group seeks to ensure the U.S. and its allies achieve a durable advantage in the global techno-security competition. To achieve this goal, we create the nexus of pioneering ideas, people, and capital that will unlock new sources of innovation for national security and power the digital evolution of the defense industrial base.
About The Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government
The Alliance for Commercial Technology in Government is a new trade association representing innovative commercial tech startups across the nation, advocating for policy changes to improve how the government does business and leverages modern technology.
The Alliance will serve as a representative voice to policymakers, advocating for funding, procurement processes, and other policies and regulations to make the federal government operate as effectively and efficiently as the modern commercial marketplace, obtaining cutting-edge technologies at the speed of relevance. Success will strengthen our commercial technology sector and the capacity of our government to solve big problems and regain our lead on the world stage.
Media Contact: Robin Applebaum (rapplebaum@hq.alliance4digitalinnovation.org)
Source: Alliance for Digital Innovation (ADI)