ACT-IAC released its 2021 agenda today listing priority issues that government will face next year including the need for citizen-centric services, transforming national infrastructure, and creating an agile government.

“Our Agenda 2021 Steering Committee has laid out an outstanding set of issues that will resonate with both industry and government and offer important opportunities to deliver effective mission outcomes across government.” ACT-IAC CEO Dave Wennergren said. “In the days ahead, we will be engaging with a broad range of stakeholders to expand the dialogue on these issues.”

Industry leaders on the steering committee worked with a bipartisan group of former senior government officials to develop the agenda. Later this summer, ACT-IAC will release follow-up papers in line with the main themes of the 2021 agenda.

“Our goal is to provide actionable recommendations that can be adopted to help move the nation forward as quickly as possible,” Robert Shea, principal of strategy, marketing, and government affairs at Grant Thornton Public Sector LLC and co-chair of the steering committee, said.

The 2021 agenda focuses on the current moment as critical to the Federal government’s future. The COVID-19 pandemic and the long recovery that the country will face as it abates are driving government leaders to re-imagine how government operates and meets public needs, ACT-IAC said. “Delivering outcomes is fundamental to citizen trust and confidence in government,” said Jim Cook, Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Partnerships at MITRE, and leader of the ACT-IAC project.

ACT-IAC broke its agenda into three themes – delivering citizen-centric services, transforming both the physical and digital national infrastructure, and creating an agile government – that can each be approached through tech investments. Many of these investments, it said, should center around data as the “catalyst for decision making.”

The paper describes the Federal government as one of the largest producers of data in the world, and the center of the “data tsunami.” Strategies for efficient and purposeful data use are necessary to government’s 2021 strategy, the committee wrote. ACT-IAC is calling for other key advancements including optimizing the Federal workforce, investing in cybersecurity, driving intelligent automation, and creating private-public partnerships.

Long term, ACT-IAC and project leaders wrote that they hope the agenda can improve service delivery, manage risk, and adapt to inevitable change.

“These are nonpartisan, good-government issues that need to be addressed for agencies to carry out their mission and serve the public effectively and efficiently,” Dan Chenok, executive director of IBM’s Center for the Business of Government and co-chair of the project’s steering committee, said.

The steering committee ultimately makes four concrete recommendations to the Federal government for 2021 – leaders should build outcome focus into all aspects of management at all levels, create a governmentwide acceleration and change strategy, create a governmentwide enterprise risk officer at the Office of Management and Budget, and establish a new workforce and leadership model for the digital workforce.

Alan Balutis, a member of the ACT-IAC Agenda 2021 Steering Committee and senior director of North American Public Sector at Cisco, added that the recommendations included in the agenda push government to address tech as critical infrastructure.

“A key aspect of this is the recommendations we make around looking at technology as a key part of our national infrastructure in the same way we’d look at roads and bridges,” he said in an interview with MeriTalk.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Balutis shared as an example, technology was a “key enabler and force multiplier” to the nationwide response to the crisis. Looking ahead, he said that he hopes there’s more attention on Federal management and implementation.

Often, the mechanics of government are behind the scenes and don’t receive much public attention, Balutis said, but those issues are “really pivotal to the success of our government, and they’re really pivotal to the ultimate success of any candidate who aspires to lead that government.”

Balutis commended the “exceptional team” behind the agenda and that it came out early enough to be considered by leadership ahead of the 2020 election.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.