Change is hard, especially for the federal government.
In presenting a “New Management Agenda” for the federal government, President Obama said we need to “bring a government built largely in the 20th century into the 21st century.”
Hopefully everyone in the federal government involved with communications was listening intently.
Much of the federal government’s communications core management and operations hasn’t changed since the General Services Administration created the Federal Telecommunications Service in 1960.
When Congress created the Office of Management and Budget in 1970 to efficiently and effectively manage the government’s resources, radio spectrum was not covered.
Shockingly in 2013, there remains no accountable federal manager of radio spectrum.
That unaccountability remains despite the fact that spectrum is the 21st century’s most valuable natural resource, and the essential fuel of the mobile technology revolution of smart phones, tablets and the Internet of things.
Equally shocking is that the federal government’s spectrum inventory management system hasn’t changed materially since 1992 when there were only eleven million wireless connections compared to 330 million wireless connections today.
Maybe most shocking is that representatives of the federal communications bureaucracy wrote the FCC last week to go slow on the “IP transition” from the obsolescent public switched telephone network to a modern Internet Protocol communications infrastructure.
That’s because much of the Federal government is still using obsolescent, copper- voice-telephone, TDM technology from the 1960’s, including: the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Social Security Administration, Forest Service, Farm Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.
We have a 1G government in a 4G world.
We need to bring a federal government — that is clinging to 20th century communications management, operations and technology — into the 21st century.
As Pesident Obama said,“It’s up to…every one of us to make it work better; we can’t just stand on the sidelines.”
“We should all want a government that’s smarter, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people,” he said.
To best achieve that wise vision, there are two overriding modernization tasks to bring federal government communications into the 21st century.
The first is to accelerate the spectrum pipeline, to get under-utilized government spectrum to auction and use by the private sector and consumers — soonest.
The second is to facilitate the IP transition from an obsolescent limited telephone network to a modern communications infrastructure with constantly-improving functionality.
Without achieving the goals of modern government spectrum management and a fully-modernized national communications infrastructure, we can’t bring America fully into the 21st century.
Much more than most appreciate, government communications management obsolescence now has become the communication sector’s primary problem and long-term barrier to growth, adoption and innovation.
That’s because government inefficiency and dysfunction is denying the private sector both the critical resources and business flexibility necessary to fully adapt to, and meet, the constantly changing needs of the American people and economy.
In closing, the solution to this growing communications management dysfunction in the federal government is surprisingly simple. Think carrots; financial incentives.
The government needs to enable spectrum auctions to become a budget mechanism to fund more of the cost of modernizing federal government communications.
That’s the best way for a 1G government to catch up to the 4G world.
Scott Cleland is Chairman of NetCompetition a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests and President of Precursor LLC, a research consultancy for Fortune 500 companies. Cleland served as Deputy U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy in the George H. W. Bush Administration.