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5 keys to improving federal procurement

Guest post from FCW Editor-in-Chief John Monroe.

Rather than bringing more innovation to the acquisition process, the federal government would be better off just trying to get the basics right, according to one reader.

The reader, signed as KRL, was responding to a recent post by FCW blogger and columnist Steve Kelman, who was defending the use of procurement contests or challenges as a low-risk way to solicit new ideas.

KRL, a seasoned veteran of the federal acquisition business, is not against innovation, per se. It’s just that eventually the federal government will need to focus on dealing with more fundamental problems in the procurement process.

“In my 27 years, we have come full circle so many times from the concept of 'innovation' back to the basics in the FAR that I sometimes get dizzy,” KRL writes. “Is today an innovation day or a back-to-basics day?”

The reader outlines five such fundamentals:

1) Hire people who know what they are doing and provide continuous training.
2) Hire outstanding young people then have the ‘grey hairs’ train and mentor them well.
3) Emphasize the importance of well-planned projects.
4) Encourage well-executed projects.
5) Get the politicians out of federal procurement.

KRL is particularly insistent on that last point. “Politicians have no clue how the system works much less what is in the FAR, and their constant playing with funding of programs is the primary cause of wasted dollars as they abuse the system.”

What do you think?

Posted on Sep 02, 2011 at 12:18 PM

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Reader comments

Thu, Sep 8, 2011 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Getting back to basics is what needs to happen to "reform" the acquisition process. Write proper requirements, match proper contract types to risk and requirements, conduct real performance based contracts, and provide governance and oversight to programs. This is the path to successful outcomes. The acquisition workforce, and the inherent weaknesses in the quality and training of the workforce, needs to improve. Numbers have trumped quality, and the vital skills needed to succeed are an afterthought to creating business advisors, not just 1102s. Creating more layers of oversight, misguided policy and directives, and yet more regulations to an already overregulated process by Congress adds to the misery. Why can’t impact analyses and risk assessments be done for implementation of new regulations? Common sense anyone?

Tue, Sep 6, 2011 Peter G. Tuttle, CPCM

Great blog posting John. Agree. Attempting innovative acquisition (let's expand it to business) practices without first knowing the "basics" is a very risky business proposition. It is indeed very helpful for both Federal and industry acquisition professionals to actually understand the rules and the reasons for the rules prior to figuring out how to interpret those rules to streamline or otherwise change the process. Yes, I know I am restating the obvious, but it's true and we all deal daily with skill discrepancies in the greater acquisition community. Gone are the days when you can consistently depend on the other party across the table having equal or greater acquisition or business understanding. The "gray hairs" of the crowd, including myself, must be dedicated to sharing what knowledge we have gained over the years with our fellow professionals so that they can know the basics and have a solid understanding of why the basics are important to business decisions.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011 M. E. Steen

KRL is on point, particularly with respect to his items 1 and 5. However, as it relates to training to yield highly competent acquisition officials, the government fails miserably because training is simplistic/superficial. 80 hours and you are now a fully qualified acquisition official. Regarding politicians, KRL is absolutely on point. They know nothing about the regulations, but think that they are experts purely because they are in DC. They have no clue and no apparent interest in knowing the real cost vs the benefit (or lack thereof) from any given regulation.

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