Interagency contracting tops OFPP agenda

Burton and other ELC attendees discuss procurement strategies for 2006

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy will focus on interagency contracting and strategic sourcing in 2006, among other priorities, said Robert Burton, OFPP's associate administrator.

Burton outlined a list of priorities while speaking at the Executive Leadership Conference last week in Hershey, Pa.

To address interagency contracting, in which one agency maintains a multiple-award contract that other agencies can use, Burton said he is organizing a working group of acquisition officials from several agencies.

The group will coordinate with the Services Acquisition Reform Act Panel, which OFPP created earlier this year.

The Government Accountability Office added interagency contracting to its list of high-risk practices in January, but Burton said it can have benefits, too.

"It makes a lot of sense, no doubt about it," Burton said. "But there's no question there are weaknesses."

The General Services Administration has established best practices for governmentwide acquisition contracts, Burton said. They are subject to annual OFPP review, and agencies must justify their renewal. Burton said he wants the new working group to meet by the end of this year and be in full swing by 2006.

OFPP is working with the Defense Acquisition University and the Federal Acquisition Institute to develop training sessions on interagency contracting, he said.

Strategic sourcing is another OFPP priority, he added. A May memo put new emphasis on strategic sourcing, which is broadly defined as finding ways to make the most of the government's buying power. It is not a new idea, however.

Agencies submitted suggestions for commodities that they could buy at a better value, as requested in the May memo, Burton said. OFPP is examining the submissions to identify possibilities for governmentwide initiatives.

"Basically, we're asking agencies to use the enormous buying power of the government to get better value for the taxpayer," he said. OFPP is asking agencies to institutionalize strategic sourcing for what will be the first time for many of them, he said. Under strategic sourcing, agency officials must develop strong negotiating skills, he added.

Another panel discussed the importance of reforming the whole acquisition process rather than just the details of procurement. Too often, the panel members agreed, the emphasis is on how to buy goods and services more efficiently. Agencies should also pay attention to the business reasons for buying those goods and services and the management of contracts after the procurement, they said.

"We can buy it fast," said Mike Sade, director of acquisition management and a procurement executive at the Commerce Department. "The problem is, we're not taking the time to find out what 'it' is."

After the conference, Sade added, "I think we have only implemented the procurement reform parts of the acquisition reform legislation. Acquisition reform includes acquisition planning and contract [or] program management."

"The thing we really need to concentrate on is the task order," said Sandra Bates, former commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service. "We need to focus on [the issue of] what is the real requirement."

The future of procurement

The Future Forum, an initiative that brings together government and industry officials to discuss major issues facing the federal technology community, set three goals for 2006.

  • Develop an enterprise architecture that shows how the federal architecture links with states' architectures. Such an initiative would facilitate collaboration on projects among agencies at different levels of government, said Donna Morea, president of CGI-AMS.
  • Improve the process for developing requests for proposals. RFPs and related documents can do more than spell out programmatic and technical requirements. They ought to provide potential bidders with a clearer sense of an agency's priorities, Morea said. RFPs should also emphasize the value of solutions that are reusable and sharable, she said.
  • Support a new budget process for funding cross-agency programs. Instead of allocating money strictly along agency lines, the budget process should align funding with business goals and the President's Management Agenda, forum members agreed.

Participants included Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget; Jerry Mechling, director of the e-Government Executive Education Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government; Morea; Kimberly Nelson, chief information officer at the Environmental Protection Agency; and David Walker, comptroller general at the Government Accountability Office.

-- John Monroe

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