Overworked and untrained
- By Diane Frank
- Mar 26, 2000
Agency officials recognized that the federal acquisition work force is woefully
undertrained for the current procurement environment.
Procurement reforms introduced by the Clinton administration and Congress,
combined with little training on how to function in the less regulated procurement
environment, have left federal contracting and program officers unprepared
to buy and manage products and services in new ways.
At the same time, the acquisition work force has shrunk considerably — at the Defense Department, the number of acquisition personnel has been
cut in half since 1991 — and few qualified new personnel are planning to
enter government service.
DOD's inspector general found that fewer workers in contract shops and
not enough training played a part in the
department's procurement problems, which include DOD paying too much
for products and services, vague contracting requirements and late contracts
delivery, said Robert Lieberman, DOD's assistant inspector general for auditing.
"Lack of training in the acquisition work force is certainly a key factor,"
Lieberman said earlier this month at a hearing before the House Government
Reform Committee's Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee.
All of this has left agencies with overworked acquisition personnel
and on the receiving end of many harsh reports from Congress and the General
Accounting Office about failed or excessively expensive IT contracts. And
many agency inspectors general are asking agencies to re-evaluate how they
are treating their contracting personnel.
"We need to better understand what the workload on acquisition offices
really is," Lieberman said.
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy plans several initiatives to
better train and increase the acquisition work force at both civilian and
"We need to provide the acquisition work force with the tools and training
to make good business decisions," Deidre Lee, administrator of OFPP, testified
at the House hearing.
The first step is an occupational study, much like the one for information
technology professionals under way at the Office of Personnel Management.
The OFPP study will draw a competency-based profile of the entire federal
acquisition work force, identifying the skills workers need to function
in the new and future acquisition environments.
Once the skill sets are identified, the study will be used to help recruit
new personnel, assign and evaluate current personnel, and act as a starting
point to identify ways to improve acquisition work force training, Lee said.
Already, agencies have specific training requirements that contracting
personnel must meet before they are given promotions, and OFPP has asked
the Federal Acquisition Institute to take a closer look at those programs
to identify best practices that can be spread across government.
OFPP and DOD also plan to develop acquisition training courses and programs
that can be used by civilian and defense agencies. This will ensure that
there is a common level of expertise in the entire government's acquisition
work force, and will make it much easier for contracting personnel to move
"Ultimately, we will also be considering whether to prescribe a core
set of courses that would be mandatory governmentwide," Lee said.