OFPP to address acquisition workforce certification

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy will soon issue new guidelines for acquisition workforce certification standards, part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the workforce throughout the government.

Rob Burton, OFPP’s associate administrator, outlined the planned guidelines at a panel discussion held Nov. 30 by the Industry Advisory Council.

OFPP will probably designate the document Policy Letter 0601 and issue it early next year, Burton said. It will continue an effort that has already included tightening integration between the Federal Acquisition Institute and the Defense Acquisition University. The letter broadened the definition of acquisition to include a wider swath of job functions within the acquisition workforce.

"I think it's very important that all of this be institutionalized," Burton said.

In the past, the Defense Department and civilian agencies have had separate but parallel acquisition workforces, he said. His efforts are aimed at standardizing practices between the two sides with the goal of developing trained acquisition professionals who can more easily move from one agency to another. When that happens, he said, acquisition becomes more attractive as a career path.

"We're talking about a career," he said. "This is not just a clerk punching a time clock."

But the government faces many challenges before it reaches that goal, he said, including the continuing exodus of experienced professionals. The relatively limited number of well-trained acquisition professionals limits the flexibility that agencies have in using them, said Mike Sade, director of the Commerce Department's Office of Acquisition Management.

"We get folks trained on one type of procurement, and we keep them there because we can't afford to move them," he said.

Agencies need to have enough acquisition professionals that they can create succession plans, said David Drabkin, deputy chief acquisition officer at the General Services Administration. Such plans would allow agencies to send some of the workforce to lengthy training programs while keeping enough people on the job to handle their needs.

He also noted that the government briefly created an acquisition internship program in the 1990s, but that expired without renewal. The seeming lack of commitment in years past has led to the current shortage. As it stands, acquisition professionals can't take the time to administer contracts because "as soon as one contract gets awarded, they have to start working on the next one," he said.

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