Rescuing a good idea

When it comes to government procurement, one thing unlikely to bring about significant cultural change is a lot of talk.

It's easy enough to tout the benefits of performance-based acquisitions. The basic concept — in which contract payments are tied to specific performance metrics — makes good sense. Such an approach can save agencies from sinking more money into failing programs. It also can inspire ingenuity in contractors, because they are not told how to solve a problem, but only what metrics to hit.

Still, it's no use trying to sell contracting officers on the concept if they do not have the know-how to pull it off. The problems begin with defining metrics. How do you quantifiably gauge the success of a program? And how do you settle on metrics agreeable to both the agency and the contractor? Also, procurement experts say this approach is not appropriate for all acquisitions. How do you know when to use it?

Performance-based contracting represents a new way of doing business for most agencies. Many contracting officers will resist the change if they feel ill prepared, as some clearly do. In such a situation, agencies would be better off steering clear of it altogether. The surest way to stop innovation is to highlight a couple of dismal failures.

That is not to say performance-based contracting is an intrinsically bad idea. But the best idea looks like a bad one if not well-managed.

Procurement officials should make a concerted effort to provide contracting officials with the necessary training. Rather than each agency being left to its own devices, the Bush administration should support the development of a central training program to which agencies can send contracting officers as needed. This program could also serve as a repository for lessons learned and best practices culled by individual agencies.

If the administration wants to make performance-based contracting a priority, it ought to treat it like one.

WRITE US

We welcome your comments. To send a letter to the editor, use this form.

Please check out the archive of Letters to the Editor for fellow readers' comments.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

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

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group