GSA wants more standardization for procurement

The General Services Administration is the standard bearer for much of the $140 billion civilian agencies spend on products and services each year. So as the Office of Management and Budget considers adding procurement to its Line of Business Consolidation initiatives, GSA has made clear its support for a standard way to perform certain acquisition functions, such as training.

GSA administrator Stephen Perry earlier this month said that OMB should perform a broad review of agency procurement to see if there is a need for consolidation.

“Just as we have Line of Business reviews for various [other] things ... we’re proposing there be a governmentwide review of acquisition,” Perry said at a luncheon in Washington sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va.

Adding procurement as a Line of Business will help “nurture” and develop the acquisition workforce, Perry said after his speech. “We’ve heard all about the overtaxed acquisition workforce. I don’t think we should address that agency by agency. I think it’s a smarter approach to bring agencies together and discuss it across government,” he said.

GSA already has seen the benefits of creating standards for some acquisition functions through the Integrated Acquisition Environment e-government initiative—one of OMB’s 25 sponsored projects.

Perry said he has only had informal discussions with OMB on the issue, but believes “there is a lot of interest” about the idea.

OMB officials earlier this year said they would consider adding procurement to their consolidation initiative and Dick Burk, the government’s chief architect, said at a conference last week that he is supportive of the idea.

“The major hurdle there is procurement, and the acquisition process is extremely complex,” Burk said at a conference on service-oriented architecture in Washington sponsored by InfoWorld Magazine. “The numbers of people that have that skill set are relatively few, and then to parcel them out and put them into each of the agencies ... is very trying. I agree [that procurement] is ripe for consolidation.”

Burk said OMB is analyzing the proposal as part of its 2007 budget submission process, which started earlier this month, and will likely have a decision in February.

While the issue is still in the formative stages, observers did not want to dismiss the concept but did question whether it is necessary.

GSA itself already serves as a quasi-Line of Business center for procurement because of its role as the government’s chief contracting agency, said Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., trade association.

While not disregarding the idea, Chvotkin said the buying needs of different government agencies vary, and having a single LOB for procurement might not be more efficient than the status quo.

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