Procurement reform: A learning curve

The General Accounting Office's recent decision to uphold a protest against certain awards under the Transportation Department's $1.3 billion Information Technology Omnibus Procurement reminds us that procurement reform requires more than just new laws.

The decision which concluded that some task orders were outside of the scope of the contract is part of the natural learning process that occurs after instituting revolutionary change. As former Office of Federal Procurement Policy head Steven Kelman reminds us in this week's column procurement reform is a work in progress. Ongoing adjustments and re-evaluations will be necessary.

While the GAO decision reminds agencies administering large governmentwide contracts that limits do exist it also serves as a reminder to agency heads that retraining and re-educating the work force remains an essential part of true procurement reform.

Just as federal IT workers need to keep up with the rapidly accelerating pace of change in technology federal procurement professionals need to familiarize themselves with the new freedoms provided by procurement reform.

How do you effectively administer and what are the advantages of a wide-ranging GWAC? What are the pitfalls of a governmentwide blanket purchase agreement? To what extent can I direct all my IT needs to this one vehicle? Against a backdrop of buyouts downsizing initiatives and industrywide shortages of high-tech workers the federal IT work force needs to be retooled to meet the challenges of the day.

While agencies continue to hunt for solutions to the Year 2000 fix funding conundrum it is essential that they try to squirrel away a percentage of the IT budget for training. Once all parties are on board only then can we reap the full benefits of procurement reform.

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