Work force hinders procurement reform
- By Diane Frank
- Mar 16, 2000
Acquisition reform has not delivered all of its intended benefits mostly
because of a shrinking, poorly trained procurement work force, federal officials
told Congress Thursday.
Congress and the Clinton administration put the reforms in place to reduce
problems with the federal acquisition process, including overspending, the
time it takes to put contracts in place and falling behind the technology
All of those problems still exist to a certain extent, but the reason no
longer is because of poor procurement practices but because procurement
officers do not know how to use the new practices.
"Successfully implementing acquisition reform and achieving good contract
management require that agencies have the right people with the right skills,"
Henry Hinton, assistant comptroller general at the General Accounting Office's
National Security and International Affairs Division, testified before the
House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Information
"Agencies are facing ever-growing public demands for better and more economical
delivery of products and services. And at the same time, the ongoing technological
revolution requires not just new hardware and software, but a work force
with new knowledge, skills and abilities," Hinton said.
At the Defense Department, one of the key factors in procurement problems
found by the inspector general's office is a lack of contracting work force
capacity and training, said Robert Lieberman, DOD's assistant inspector
general for auditing.
"Lack of training in the acquisition work force is certainly a key factor,"
The DOD acquisition work force has been cut in half since 1991, but the
number of procurements increased by 12 percent. In a Feb. 29 report, the
IG's office found that people have not received adequate training on new
procurement regulations, further reductions because of cuts and retirement
and DOD is having trouble recruiting new personnel. All of this adds up
to contracts that do not meet the needs of the agency, through no fault
of the reforms, he said.
These are problems that are being experienced across government, said Deidre
Lee, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Instead
of simply knowing the regulations to follow, acquisition personnel need
to understand the commercial market and how to develop the requirements
to get what their agencies need to perform their missions. But this kind
of training is not always offered at the agency or federal level, she said.
"We need to provide the acquisition work force with the tools and training
to make good business decisions," she said.