Expansion of time-saving procurement reforms planned

The Commerce Department last week said a test of new acquisition procedures proved to dramatically shorten procurement times and the success has convinced officials to expand the program to other departmental agencies.

The new procedures called Concept of Operations (CONOPS) shortened the procurement process by developing teams made up of procurement and program staff who have the authority to identify requirements draft project agreements and make awards.

Commerce tested CONOPS in six contracts over the past year including three pacts in the Patent and Trademark Office and another three run by the Census Bureau. An in-house evaluation of the pilots showed that PTO's $30 million Information Research and Facilities Services contract a five-year pact that will assist patent examiners in conducting searches on a wide variety of topics using online and hard-copy information resources was awarded in 24 weeks vs. the 47 weeks it usually takes to award a services contract. The Census Bureau's $35 million Data Access and Dissemination System contract which will give Census employees and the public the ability to access census data for creating customized reports and maps online was awarded in 50 weeks vs. the 180 weeks it would have taken under the traditional process.

Procurement officials plan to expand the CONOPS team concept to incorporate and meet provisions in recent procurement legislation.

"The future vision is that teams are formed before we identify the procurement so they deal with the whole picture " said Michael Sade acting director of acquisition policy and programs at Commerce's Office of Acquisition Management. "Teams must show how an investment will help achieve the department's goals and objectives. We're trying to find out how the bureaus can bring together Clinger-Cohen [the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act] and [the Government Performance and Results Act] and we want to start at that point in terms of forming the teams that early."

CONOPS has high-level support in the department Sade said. "The concept lays out principles on how all projects in the Commerce Department will be managed " he said. "I believe it will be significant in the future."

CONOPS should help Commerce meet the laws' requirements said Allan Burman president of Jefferson Solutions Inc. and who worked as an adviser to the department on its pilot evaluations.

"I think what it is doing is consistent with the reform legislation package. The projects themselves were successful. It did seem to take best practices from a lot of places and put them into effect " he said. The Federal Aviation Administration he pointed out takes a similar teaming approach with its Integrated Product Teams.

Commerce however still needs to evaluate additional results namely how quickly goods and services are delivered and the post-award administration of the contract said Theresa Carroll director of special programs for the Office of Budget Management and Information at Commerce and who headed the evaluation team.

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