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By Steve Kelman

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Taking the pulse of contracting professionals

As I noted in my last blog, I recently attended the annual World Congress of the National Contract Management Association, the major organization for contracting professionals in government and industry. I chaired two panels related to procurement cost savings, one on agency cost-savings plans and the other on strategic sourcing. I have written a column about some of the conversations we had in the two panels; here I will report on the results of a number of questions I asked the audience.

I asked the government people in the audience whether there had been an increase in activity in their agency over the last two years regarding strategic sourcing, which has been an Obama Administration procurement priority. Twenty-eight government respondents said yes, while only four said no. As a follow-up, I asked whether there had been an increase in actual agency buying using strategically sourced vehicles. Here the numbers weren't as lopsided, but nonetheless pretty strong: 21 said yes, 11 said no. That's good news for the government and a good contribution that procurement is making to deficit reduction.

The most surprising answers were to my question about whether they personally favored making the new GSA governmentwide contracts for office supplies either mandatory or mandatory for consideration (which means a justification would be needed for not using these contracts) in their agency. I expected a very split opinion, given the (justified) hesitation people have about GSA monopolies. However, the response was overwhelming: Of the government people, 31 favored making the contract mandatory or mandatory for consideration, while only 3 disagreed. The smaller number of industry people in the audience, whom I polled separately, were split 4 and 4.

In the panel on savings plans, I asked the audience whether they believed there were significant further opportunities in their organization to make savings from reverse auctions and from insourcing (two of the themes most-widely discussed by panelists as features of their agency savings plans). Again, responses were overwhelming: By a vote of 14 to 1, government audience members felt there were significant further opportunities for generating savings using reverse auctions, and for insourcing, interestingly, the vote was 16 to 3.

PS. I wrote in a blog post from China earlier this summer about dating shows on Chinese TV where contestants flaunted their wealth and expressed an interest in marrying only a wealthy person. According to an article in the New York Times, Chinese censors have now reined in these programs with new rules and guidelines.

Posted on Jul 27, 2010 at 12:08 PM

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In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


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Reader comments

Thu, Aug 5, 2010 Editor

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Bush administration began the push on strategic sourcing, which the Obama administration has carried forward.

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 Dale Kemp Tysons Corner, VA

After 35+ years in federal procurement, I know most terms in use, but you just used two that appear to be code words generated by liberals inside the beltway to disguise anti-competitive/anti-capitalism practices. They were: "strategic sourcing, which has been an Obama Administration procurement priority." This term, "Strategic Sourcing," sounds like Liberal Speak for not competing, but selecting a source one likes for some (political?) reason and selecting them sole source, when a sole source selection cannot be justified. If that is not the case, please enlighten me? The other term was: "insourcing." If Outsourcing means hiring some firm from outside one's company, then "insourcing" must mean hiring some firm within one's company to provide the goods or services. Right? But then, that has always been called a "make or buy" decision. Why would you now call it "insourcing?"

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