Panel: Manage acquisition, not just procurement

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Procurement reform has been successful at making it easier for agencies to buy the goods and services they need, but efforts to improve the process have often missed the bigger picture, according to panelists at a session of the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference.

Agencies are still hit-or-miss when defining their requirements and at using procurement as a mechanism to improve their own delivery of services, the panelists said.

"The thing we really need to concentrate on is the task order," said Sandy Bates, former commissioner of the Federal Technology Service at the General Services Administration. Thoughtful attention to defining requirements and outcomes before issuing orders would lead to better performance.

However, emphasis is on smooth procurement, nudging other considerations to positions lower on the priority list, she said.

"It is a special kind of person who gets a rush out of service delivery, and not just the glitter," she said.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, said in a brief interview following the panel discussion that the relationship between government and industry is undergoing a fundamental shift. As skilled people leave government, agencies are finding themselves joining forces with industry in ways that would not have occurred to anyone in past eras.

The shift is not by anyone's design, he added. He attributed it to a variety of economic factors, but the end result is that "the private sector has become much more critical to the functioning of government."

That changing dynamic underlines the need for skilled management that Bates spoke of, he said.

"It's not just a matter of [the government] outsourcing more," he said. "It's a different kind of relationship."

The Executive Leadership Conference is being held in Hershey, Pa.

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