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GSA Official: Mobile Subsidy Proposal Requires Time, Changes to Acquisition Law

Kathleen Turco, GSA, Photo: gsa.gov, Elnur

Many federal employees carry two mobile devices: one for work and the other for personal use. For federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, who spoke recently at an AFCEA Bethesda conference, that’s one smartphone too many.

He said federal IT departments would benefit by leveraging the power — and the ubiquity — of employee-owned smartphones and other web-enabled devices.

He even suggested, rather than agencies handing out their approved devices, the government could instead contribute a $2,000 subsidy to federal employees to help them buy such devices.

The plan, which Kundra described as the first step in decentralizing agency-level IT departments and allowing the government’s technology to be deployed more nimbly, would represent a move away from “asset ownership” in favor of the more nimble “service provisioning,” the same arguments Kundra has used to bolster his support of cloud computing.

But, for other federal officials, Kundra’s pie-in-the-sky ideas aren’t passing the smell test.

The General Services Administration’s Kathleen Turco, the administrator of the Office of Governmentwide Policy, said Kundra’s proposal would require a change in federal appropriations law, first.

Not only that, she questioned where the money to subsidize such devices would come from.

In other words, federal employees shouldn’t start waiting for those mobile-device subsidies any time soon.

“I think it’s interesting,” Turco said at a telecom conference last week, FierceGovernmentIT reported. But, the system, as it is now, seems to be working,she said.

“I think things are different in the federal government,” she explained. “I think if you need a laptop, you have one. If you need a BlackBerry, you have one. And if you don’t–you don’t.”

Still, Turco wouldn’t rule out the concept entirely.

“I’m not saying, in the future–if there’s another way to do this, we should … I’m just a hardcore budget person,” she added.

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