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Government shutdowns are no way to do business, Mason's GovCon Center says

January 29, 2019

McGinn, Hillen

The recent partial federal government shutdown should prompt the government to change the way it conducts business, at least in the budgetary process, a George Mason University executive said.

“The message is that the impact on the business of government and the operations of companies that support the government is too great to have this shutdown brinksmanship again without having some kind of fail-safe that allows operations to continue,” said Jerry McGinn, executive director of Mason’s Center for Government Contracting. “It’s a $500 billion ecosystem that dramatically impacts our region, and we can’t have that happen. It’s no way to run a railroad.”

In an essay on the website Washington Technology, McGinn and John Hillen, chairman of the Center for Government Contracting’s advisory board and a professor of practice in Mason’s School of Business, put forth two proposals they said will help prevent future government shutdowns.

First, ensure that the government continues to operate as the executive and legislative branches negotiate annual appropriations bills for government operations. That is part of a bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, which, in case of a budgetary impasse, calls for a 120-day period in which the government can continue to fund programs, projects and activities provided for in the previous fiscal year. Sen. Mark Warner,D-VA, introduced similar legislation. 

Second, government and industry should work closely together to address the challenges that impact the business of government, such as simplifying the acquisition processes, helping small businesses transition and grow from government set-aside programs and creating new frameworks for intellectual property collaboration in high technology areas.

This increased collaboration will help make government operations more effective and responsive to the U.S. taxpayer, thereby reducing some of the sources of friction in the budgetary process, McGinn said.

“We can’t hold the business of government and the companies that support the business of government hostage in budget negotiations,” McGinn said. “I get that the government needs to work their stuff out, but doing it at the point of a gun in front of the government workforce and those who support it is not tenable anymore.”

“To make government more responsive and effective and help alleviate future disconnects, government and industry have to work together for more effective operations,” he added. “It requires acquisition reform. It requires bringing new entrants, new companies, into the government contracting ecosystem. To channel ‘Spinal Tap,’ we need to take those efforts and take them to 11.”

Jerry McGinn can be reached at 703-993-4156 or jmcginn5@gmu.edu.

John Hillen can be reached at 703-993-8657 or jhillen@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at 703-993-9118 or dcristod@gmu.edu.

About George Mason 

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 37,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.