OMB pushes contracting certification

Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting Memorandum

The Office of Management and Budget urged agencies this week to meet new certification standards for federal contracting employees.

The federal Chief Acquisition Officers Council and Federal Acquisition Institute approved the new requirements in December 2005. The new certification standards are part of a governmentwide effort to improve the skills of the federal contracting workforce.

In a Jan. 20 memo, Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management, urged senior procurement executives and chief acquisition officers to require that new contracting officers earn certification under the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting program starting Jan. 1, 2007. All civilian agencies are expected to update their practices to meet the new standards, which require contracting employees to earn a minimum of 80 continuous learning points every two years.

The certification program has three levels. At each level, employees with acquisition authority must meet educational requirements and enroll in appropriate training courses at the Defense Acquisition University or the Federal Acquisition Institute. At the lowest certification level, an employee must have at least one year of contracting experience. The highest level of certification requires four years of experience.

The institute will conduct periodic program reviews at federal agencies to verify compliance and review employee training documentation. The institute will also check whether contracting officers are appropriately certified and whether an agency’s certification program matches the Defense Department’s requirements for its contracting workforce. The new training requirements are designed to standardize civilian and DOD contracting certification standards.

Agencies are wrestling with an exodus of experienced professionals. Experts say a shortage of well-trained acquisition professionals limits agencies’ flexibility. According to contracting experts, a lack of federal commitment to higher contracting standards has led to the shortage.

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