GAO: Improve acquisition training

"Agencies Can Improve Training on New Initiatives"

A new General Accounting Office report urges agencies to improve their training for acquisition officials in light of rapidly changing rules.

GAO looked at the General Services Administration, NASA, the Defense Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agencies each have efforts under way to make training available, the report states, but "they often did not have an identifiable process in place for assuring that training reached all those who played a role in successful implementation."

Federal contracting procedures have been changing from a system of rigid rules to a more open reliance on good judgment and initiative since the 1990s, a process that continues to unfold, GAO said. Innovations, including the use of purchase cards for relatively small acquisitions, have made the process more like that used by industry.

The push is needed, said consultant Chip Mather, senior vice president at Acquisition Solutions Inc. "Training's the first thing to get cut whenever there's a budget [issue]," he said. "Yes, they need more training."

GAO itemized six elements important to acquisition training:

* Focus on the training that is most relevant to the agency's mission.

* Demonstrate top-level commitment and provide needed resources.

* Identify the individuals who need the training.

* Tailor training so that it is appropriate for the individuals receiving it.

* Track the training program to ensure that it is being carried out.

* Measure the training's effectiveness and improve the training system as needed.

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