Robin Carnahan, administrator at the General Services Administration (GSA), said today that the Federal government needs to be a better buyer of technology services and a better collaborator with industry in order to be more successful in its mission and to help rebuild trust in government.

Speaking on July 21 at the MerITocracy American Innovation Forum, Carnahan said that GSA and the Federal government needs to improve its own procurement efforts before bringing in industry experts.

“Government needs to be a better buyer of services, particularly technology services,” Carnahan said. “At the moment, too often, they put contracts out and try to outsource all of the risk of whatever the situation is.”

Carnahan explained that the government will often rely on industry to do the heavy lifting when it comes to prototyping, de-risking projects, and creating user stories and journey maps. However, she said government will be “more successful” if it brings in people who understand how to do this work before bringing private sector partners in “who do this every day for their clients.”

“I am very eager to partner with folks in industry who know how to deliver these digital services in a delightful way and bring you in to help us do better inside the government,” she said. “I think that kind of partnership will really pay off for everyone.”

In addition to being better partners to industry, Carnahan said she encourages her team to “try to use this moment that we’re living in, which is just a moment of profound transformation across the board,” to rethink how GSA delivers services for people and how to do that better in order to rebuild trust.

“I’m always telling people at work, every time somebody has a good experience, that rebuilds trust in government,” she said. “So, our ability to have that interaction with government be a good one is something I think is much bigger than the issue before us. It’s about proving government can deliver and democracy can deliver.”

James-Christian Blockwood, executive vice president at the Partnership for Public Service, during the same forum session said his organization wants to “build a more effective government.” By working with a number of public servants at various levels, he believes that is happening.

“I always like to take the opportunity to say I’m confident in our government because of those interactions,” Blockwood said.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.