Acquisition workforce needs own category, analyst says

The new government series should include program management, contracting officers, and a new function named 'requirements management'

Federal officials should create a single employment series for government acquisition employees, matching the structure of the workforce to the nature of the work, a former procurement official has said.

The new government series should include program management, contracting officers and a new function called “requirements management,” which, in essence, would be “a professionalized super COTR,” or contracting officer’s technical representative, David Litman, a member of the board of directors at the Federal Acquisition Innovation and Reform Institute, wrote in a recent paper titled “A Call to Restructure the Acquisition Workforce.”

The series would build a team mentality, he wrote. Currently, contract specialists are in the 1102 series, and acquisition program managers have no dedicated series, although they have unique training and certifications.

Meanwhile, COTRs are often taken from the ranks of technical staff and their training on monitoring contracts helps little, wrote Litman, former senior procurement executive for the Transportation Department and former chairman of the Federal Chief Acquisition Officers Council’s Human Capital Working Group.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, said Litman's approach is on the right track. It emphasizes that acquisition includes more than just signing contracts, he said. It's also about defining requirements before issuing a solicitation, and about managing the contract after the award.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Thu, Jul 30, 2009 mike.mcmanus wpafb, oh

A step in the right direction. The contracting officer merely places the requirement on contract. He does not define or establish it. Note that the term "COTR" refers to the "Contracting Officers TECHNICAL Representtive". It is critical that the CO have a representative who understands the technology underlying the contract. The contracting officer is required to understand the BUSINESS side of the contract, not the technical. I've often argued that the program manager should be the person who signs the contract. That way when the IG or GAO comes hunting for a head 5 or so years later the name and phone number of the program manager will be easy to locate (it would be on the front page of the contract he/she signed) for an explanation of why he signed the contract!

Wed, Jul 29, 2009

This suggestion kind of sounds like a another updated version of the DoD Acquisition Corps. So, how's that initiative working out these days? Oh, we still have all these pesky acquisition problems within DoD. Hmmmmmm. Draw your own conclusions.

Wed, Jul 29, 2009 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

Starting out with poorly defined requirements will often lead to poor acquisition outcomes. It is a simple formula. The current process needs to be an interactive and collaborative one, where the use of social media tools and technology are the drivers for exchanging knowledge. Organizing the acquisition community into a fully integrated workforce will also help organize and manage data and drive an effective needs development process that includes all stakeholders and has a focus on quality, technological maturity, and feasibility for cost and schedule realism. This is opposed to the current process which is often declarative, and serves the end-user or the warfighter poorly.

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