Acquisition workforce may grow

OMB officials consider ways to reallocate employees to meet the contracting and oversight demands of the stimulus package.

As the economic stimulus law hands a lot more money and responsibilities to the acquisition workforce, officials may consider a large-scale recruiting initiative, according to a recent memo.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and Chief Acquisition Officers Council would commence planning the effort if several agencies say they need to hire a substantial number of people through various hiring flexibilities, according to the memo from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag issued Feb. 18.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is starting to flood billions of dollars into agencies, which need to be spent quickly. Agency officials and industry experts say they recognize the overall workforce likely isn’t large enough to handle the workload, which includes many contracting and transparency requirements.

“The administration is committed to investing Recovery Act dollars with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability,” Orszag wrote. Agencies must track where dollars are spent and on what products or services. They must describe contracts or even task and delivery orders for a special section of Recovery.gov Web site, he said.

OMB officials noted the workforce concerns in the memo about the handling Recovery Act funds. They suggest an agency try first to reallocate its own resources to fill any gaps. However, if officials can’t fill the need from inside but still have immediate and temporary need, OFFP and the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) can help to solve staffing issues with other resources, the memo states.

Assistance could come in a variety of forms, the memo states, and OMB recommended agencies work together and team up to do the work.

Agencies also have several hiring flexibilities to quickly find people. They can use direct hire authority, as authorized by the Service Acquisition Reform Act. After an agency head determines there is a shortage of acquisition employees, the authority allows the agency to announce jobs, rate applications by people interested in the jobs, hold a large-scale event with agency employees to conduct interviews, and then offer jobs the same day as the interviews.

Other hiring flexibilities allow agencies to hire federal retirees, people with disabilities and veterans.

While those hiring authorities have been available, agencies still have struggled to find people to fill procurement jobs that are already available. Officials from various departments have told Congress the people aren't there. To help, FAI and other acquisition executives have an ongoing campaign called "Be America's Buyer," and an intern coalition. FAI also has training sessions to help officials learn how to market their agencies to the public and convey to interested people that government acquisition will be a hot place to work in the future.

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