Feds set timetable for acquisition certification

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Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator David Safavian formally unveiled a timeline for a new governmentwide acquisition workforce certification program, calling for new Federal Acquisition Institute requirements by January.

His policy letter outlines a vision for a common certification program, aligning civilian and defense training requirements with standards for education and experience. It would apply to all civilian agencies. The Defense Department uses standards outlined in the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 1991.

"The development of a highly qualified, well-trained workforce will generally be based on a framework of core competencies that are common to defense and civilian agencies," Safavian's letter states. "DOD maintains core competencies that OFPP, in consultation with the Office of Personnel Management shall consider for civilian agency use in fulfilling the requirements of this letter."

The acquisition institute will work with the Defense Acquisition University to develop a certification program by Jan. 1, 2006. Contracting officers issued warrants after Jan. 1, 2007 must be certified.

Safavian highlights the importance of continuous learning in subjects such as ethics, performance-based contracting and other areas. All civilian agencies must insert contracting workers' records in the Acquisition Career Management Information System by Oct. 1, 2006 and insert program and project managers' records by April 1, 2007.

Stan Soloway, former DOD deputy undersecretary for acquisition reform, said uniform training and certification requirements are important but complicated and costly.

"Whether they will mirror DOD's requirements is an open question," said Soloway, currently president of the Professional Services Council. "It is the right thing to do, but that does not mean that with the issuance of this policy letter, that we’re anywhere near to being done."

He added that DOD had statutory requirements and a statutory budget for training, but the Defense Acquisition University does not have the resources for civilian agencies.

During his confirmation hearing last spring, Safavian told lawmakers that acquisition training and competitive sourcing are the government's top procurement priorities.

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