Procurement honchos seek frontline input

Policy-makers locked inside Washington’s ivory tower must hear more from federal acquisition workers on the front line of government contracting, according to a top Office of Management and Budget official.

"We need to understand how the systems work down in the field," said Davis Safavian, administrator of OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

To accomplish that goal, OMB will re-establish a frontline forum that meets twice a year with "contracting officers, not the stuffed shirts from the chief acquisition council," Safavian said earlier this week during the Federal Acquisition Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

A similar forum existed during the Clinton administration when Steve Kelman was OFPP’s chief.

The point was to "spread good practices that people had heard about, not from the OFFP leadership in Washington, but from their contracting colleagues," said Kelman, who is a Harvard University professor and columnist for Federal Computer Week. Contracting staff -- not supervisors -- met with OMB staff to give presentations on their regional innovations and feedback on proposed policy changes. The forum was "a sounding board for ideas we were thinking of but hadn’t necessarily announced yet," he said.

The Bush administration disbanded the forum in 2001. "I think most agencies probably didn't pick up some forms of communication from the previous administration," said Angela Styles, Safavian’s predecessor. "It wasn't one thing or another thing, I just chose to communicate in a different way."

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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