Agency acquisition chiefs on deck

Rep. Tom Davis, the new chairman of the Government Reform Committee, intends to introduce legislation to create an acquisition chief in every federal agency to help eliminate redundancies in purchasing information technology.

The Virginia Republican told a breakfast meeting of the Industry Advisory Council today that he intends to include the new position governmentwide as part of his legislation reintroducing the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2002.

He said the new position would help focus procurement policies and save the government money. Now, he said, "what we're stuck with is...agencies going out and doing their own thing."

Davis said the legislation also would include a provision for a training course for acquisition professionals.

"My vision is a cadre of trained professional acquisition officers with the tools they need and relationships with customers," Davis said.

Several agencies already have a central acquisition officer who develops policy, according to Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. Among them is Deidre Lee, director of Defense Department procurement and acquisition policy.

"But from a policy standpoint, if you want to broaden the scope of what they do, not just policy but management, it could be very constructive," he said.

Davis said he wanted to expand government buying by making it easier for the government to purchase products and services from non-American manufacturers. "The Buy American Act costs us money," Davis said.

He said he'd like to expand the "playing field" by allowing government to buy from companies that have some business units in the United States although they may be based in other countries.

He also said he'd like to make it more attractive for Fortune 500 companies to do business with the federal government. Right now, 40 percent of the nation's top companies do not conduct business with the government because of liability and other issues.

Davis also said he wants to use 5 percent of the fees generated by government contracting vehicles for a fund to train personnel.

"Training is the first thing that gets cut" in a budget crunch, he said.

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