OMB revives forum on contracting issues

Procurement policy-makers locked inside the Office of Management and Budget say they need to hear more from workers stationed on the front lines of government acquisition.

OMB officials will reestablish a "Frontline Forum" set to meet twice a year with "contracting officers, not the stuffed shirts from the chief acquisition council," said David Safavian, administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy. The forum was established when Steve Kelman led OFPP during the Clinton administration.

"We need to understand how the systems work down in the field," Safavian said earlier this month during the Federal Acquisition Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The time is ripe for recreating that direct link between policy-makers and policy enablers, said Kelman, a Harvard University professor and Federal Computer Week columnist."This is a very trying time for the contracting community, which is understaffed and is being subject to a lot of process and bureaucracy-oriented procedures that very much threaten to turn them back into being bureaucrats."

The point of the forum is to spread innovation that comes "not from the OFPP leadership in Washington, but from their contracting colleagues," Kelman said. In the forum's previous incarnation, contracting staff — not supervisors — from inside and outside the Beltway met with OMB staff to give presentations and submit feedback on proposed policy changes. The forum was "a sounding board for ideas we were thinking of but hadn't necessarily announced yet," Kelman said.

"We would tell them what we would see as obstacles or things we felt might affect the procurement process," said Liz Scott, a forum member for about three years. Then a Federal Technology Service contracting officer stationed in Texas, Scott said she was able to bring back ideas she heard during forum meetings. Because of her involvement in the forum, Scott also testified in 1995 before a joint hearing of the Government

Reform and Oversight and National Security committees on the then-proposed Clinger-Cohen Act.

The re-established forum will benefit the private sector, Scott said, now a government contract counsel for Siemens USA. Federal contracting officers "hear our problems and complaints on a daily basis, and they will be able to take those forward" to the open ears of OFPP officials, she said.

The Bush administration disbanded the forum in 2001. "I think most agencies probably didn't pick up some forms of communication from the previous administration," said Angela Styles, Safavian's predecessor. "It wasn't one thing or another thing. I just chose to communicate in a different way."

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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