What if federal contracting professionals were empowered to use more innovative approaches for buying goods and services? And what if the acquisition workforce specialized in specific areas, such as IT, to gain expertise and better understand the market?
Courtesy: Commerce Department
If you’re familiar with government contracting issues, these ideas should sound familiar. They’re not new — they are actually happening in pockets of the government, just not to the extent administration officials would like. Driving innovation and equipping the contracting workforce are key priorities for the president’s pick to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy: Anne Rung.
At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing last month, Rung told members she would “work hand in hand with the federal CIO, the federal CTO and other key government leaders to streamline the acquisition process for agencies and industry, particularly small businesses, and break down the barriers that can keep innovation out of federal government procurement.”
DIA’s Innovative Procurements
The good news is there are examples of innovative procurement models that the next OFPP administrator can learn from. If the Defense Intelligence Agency can find a way to streamline the acquisition process and embrace disruptive technologies from innovators “outside its usual vendor circles,” why can’t other federal agencies do the same?
While the Senate committee has approved Rung for the position, the full Senate will have to vote on her nomination. (On Sept. 11, the Senate confirmed Rung as the next OFPP administrator by a voice vote). Private-sector organizations like the IT Alliance for Public Sector have urged for a speedy confirmation, considering the fact that Congress, the administration and agencies are examining how to reform the acquisition process, Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of public sector for ITAPS, wrote in a July letter to committee leadership. As OFPP administrator, Rung would have the authority to rescind agency acquisition rules that are inconsistent with administration policy, as long as the Office of Management and Budget agrees.
Training the Acquisition Workforce
Rung also wants to see new ways of training acquisition professionals and the creation of specialized areas within the acquisition workforce, she told senators.
The Federal Acquisition Institute, for example, recently created a new specialized core plus training where “they take the acquisition workforce and focus their skills on just IT, IT project management,” Rung said. “This is an area I think we can do more in.” Rung noted that she would also solicit industry input on building and training the workforce.
In 2011, then-OFPP Administrator Dan Gordon released guidance for designing and developing specialized IT acquisition cadres and best practices for addressing IT procurement challenges. The memo provides training courses and other career experiences that lead to specialized IT acquisition skills. But that hasn’t happened yet across government.
In its 2012 IT Acquisition Workforce Strategic Plan, the Defense Department illustrated the pitfalls that must be addressed to build successful IT cadres.
The DoD IT acquisition workforce grew 19 percent in fiscal 2010 and an additional 7 percent in 2011, bringing the total to more than 5,500 personnel at the time. To measure the health of the IT acquisition workforce, the department looked at what percentage had college degrees and certifications, in addition to the turnover rate.
While DoD saw growth in the size of the workforce, supporting human capital management programs lagged behind, the plan noted. “For example, while the community was growing, training utilization did not keep pace, contributing to a low certification rate (percent of people meeting the education, experience and training requirements for the position they occupy).”
In addition to focusing on the workforce and procurement processes, Rung said she would also focus on category management and strategic sourcing, in which the government uses its purchasing power to buy in bulk and receive discount pricing.
What priorities are you hoping the next OFPP administrator will address?