OFPP targets acquisition training, emergency procurement

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is continuing an effort to improve training for the acquisition workforce in civilian agencies, said Robert Burton, OFPP associate administrator.

OFPP has several initiatives under way, but the Acquisition Workforce Initiative is the most important, Burton said at Federal Sources Inc.'s Federal Outlook Conference today.

Acquisition professionals had much simpler jobs in the past, he said. Now they are expected to evaluate bids for best value, participate in strategic sourcing, and exercise greater discretion and judgment.

"I am concerned about the level and quality of training the acquisition professionals get in the area of negotiation," Burton said. "The training is very basic."

The defense and civilian sides of government act as separate acquisitions operations, he added. Another aspect of the initiative is to try to "break down the wall between DOD and the civilian agencies," he said.

In the area of emergency contracting, OFPP is also trying to improve training for situations such as the 2005 hurricanes, in which some normal contracting procedures can be suspended to deliver goods and services quickly, Burton said.

"The challenges of [Hurricane] Katrina were in the management area" rather than the procurement process, he said. To partly address that, OFPP has asked the Federal Acquisition Regulation Panel to create a new FAR part to cover emergency procurement.

Rather than make new rules, the new FAR part would collect the existing rules scattered throughout the regulation and coalesce them in one place, Burton said.

The effort is also partially internal, he said. OFPP has a pamphlet available on its Web site to explain the process, but the agency needs to update it, he said.

Burton also reiterated his call for Congress to ease some constraints on strategic sourcing to allow agencies to use more discretion regarding best value rather than bottom-line cost in evaluating proposals.

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