Letters to the Editor

Attrition in the acquisition workforce
Regarding “Acquisition leaders concerned about eroding workforce” [FCW.com, Dec. 1, 2008]: Good article on the erosion of the acquisition workforce by not only attrition, but overzealous and untrained Government Accountability Office auditors and inspectors general.

As a retired General Services Administration and Defense Department manager with more than 35 years of logistics and acquisition support services experience, including Navy supply systems IG experience, I can personally attest to the lack of not only specific but general acquisition experience required by auditors and inspectors to effectively carry out their duties.

The consequence is an obviously flawed process that continues contributing to high attrition of government contracting professionals, along with alienating those younger candidates seeking to make the acquisition profession a career of choice and opportunity. The bottom line is that only a few bright candidates currently consider the government acquisition profession a career of choice.

Although I stand behind efficient and effective government, I submit that overzealous GAO/IG acquisition-review tactics have contributed negatively to our current economic downturn by making it more difficult to do business with the government.

The negative impact on both small and large businesses has been significant in the past four to five years due, in part, to long delays or cancellations of both commodity and service orders by virtue of the fear factor in issuing the orders.

Acquisition professionals are reluctant to pull the trigger when reviewing and approving orders on even those [contracts] that are less complex or of insignificant dollar value. 

This, my fellow acquisition professionals, is not good government.
Bob Gill
Retired consultant

Innovation is overrated
Regarding “Acquisition leaders concerned about eroding workforce”:

Stan Soloway says we need more innovation. What an absurd thing. He has no idea the innovation we are seeing at the working end of procurement. We have innovation coming out our ears, and it is what is keeping us from having an accountable procurement process. If people want accountability, they have to have stability. You can’t measure or evaluate a moving target.

What procurement needs is someone to read the rules Congress has set before us and then hold some feet to the fire. Everyone in industry wants an accountable government that gets the best value for his or her tax dollar. Unfortunately, we get people like Soloway representing businesses that have brought us innovation by not enforcing the Buy American Act so our jobs and national security can go overseas to slave labor while maximizing contractor profits.

They have brought us innovation:

  • In contracting out government services, which typically fails because the requirements were ill-defined.
  • In contract law, where ambiguity is resolved in favor of the contractor, meaning the government has to pay despite receiving nothing but grief for our time.
  • In illegal substitutions being made because we removed inspectors from contractors’ plants, allowed self-oversight programs and direct-submission policies under alternate release procedures, and accepted certificates of conformance that aren’t worth the paper on which they are written.

We need more oversight, more control, less innovation and more stability in the process.

Contracting and acquisition haven’t changed. We still need the right item at the right price and on time. So-called innovation has damaged those principles while ensuring that the risk falls on the government instead of the contractor.

There’s no time like the present, with a diminishing market in America, to hold fast to the requirements and let contractors weed out who is and isn’t capable through competition. We should stop coddling the people who say, “Oversight costs too much. I can’t take it anymore.” Let them find other customers. Let’s stop selling national defense and security down the river for contractor profitability. We can develop new contractors, and we can nationalize the defense industry.

Let the big boys go their way.
Name withheld by request

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