Comment -- Acquisition

Penny-pinching strategies sprout from collaboration

Experts propose ways agencies could reduce procurement costs

Saving money is on everybody’s mind, particularly here in government. From President Barack Obama’s recent SAVE Award initiative to new guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, government leaders and employees are looking for good ways to save a few dollars here and there, which could add up to millions or even billions.

On July 29, OMB issued a memo titled "Improving Government Acquisition" that, among other things, requires agencies to “(1) review their existing contracts and acquisition practices and develop a plan to save 7 percent of baseline contract spending by the end of [fiscal] 2011; and (2) reduce by 10 percent the share of dollars obligated in [fiscal] 2010 under new contract actions that are awarded with high-risk contracting authorities."

The 344 members of the GovLoop Acquisition 2.0 Group — who represent federal, state and local governments; the private sector; and academia — are focused on innovation in acquisition and generating ideas for improving efficiency and effectiveness and reducing costs in the acquisition process.

Some great examples are ideas developed by Andy Krzmarzick, a senior project coordinator at the Agriculture Department Graduate School. He suggested using low-cost Flip cameras or podcasting tools, such as or Audacity, to capture the knowledge of retiring contracting officials in a downloadable, mobile format. He also suggested having new employees or interns record interviews with seasoned staffers by asking them a comprehensive set of questions about their work.

Jaime Gracia, a government contracting consultant, recommended using Web 2.0 tools tools to improve communications between government and industry, which could lead to more clearly defined requirements for contracts and more realistic cost, schedule and performance objectives.

Ideas and suggestions posted by members of the GovLoop group are revealing and tend to fall into three areas: strategic actions, tactical actions and those requiring leadership involvement.

Suggestions include instituting unbiased reviews of contract requirements, contract types, activities and deliverables to weed out those that don’t directly contribute to meeting agencies’s missions and redefining ”mission” to ”core mission.” Agency leaders might conduct their own reviews to ensure that contracted activities align with overall mission delivery.

At the leadership level, it will take the combined efforts of agency leaders, chief acquisition officers, chief financial officers and program managers to implement some of the ideas for saving money.

OMB’s memo calls for long-term strategic changes yet describes short-term objectives. I believe one of the most effective strategies would be to better capitalize on our collective buying power for commonly purchased goods and services. The Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative was launched in November 2005 to do just that, and many agencies have come together to define requirements and acquisition strategies for things such as office supplies, express ground domestic delivery services and wireless telecommunications expense management programs.

However, we haven’t been able to negotiate the best deals for the government because we can’t get agencies to commit to using the solutions. We need to hold agencies accountable and review enterprise and interagency contracting actions for duplication and redundancy.

OMB’s memo has set an annual net savings target of $40 billion. I think it’s achievable. What ideas do you have?

About the Author

Mary Davie is assistant commissioner of the Office of Integrated Technology Services in the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above