Survey finds support for commercial procurement practices

With the federal government spending about $400 billion annually for goods and services, agencies should rapidly adopt commercially accepted procurement practices to meet their needs more efficiently and productively.

That is the conclusion of a new report from Government Futures, a research and consulting firm that analyzes trends in government technology and services.

The survey report, “Procurement at the Crossroads, What Should You Do?” states that federal procurement is at a crossroads of change that could lead to progress or stagnation. The report adds that the ability of agencies to cost-effectively support their missions and $400 billion in projected expenditures is at stake.

The report highlights three commercial procurement practices: Web-based procurement, strategic sourcing and aggregate buying.

“We were surprised at the rush of enthusiasm from both government and industry respondents, who agreed strongly that quality, cost and innovation would improve if key commercial best practices were widely adopted by government,” said Bruce McConnell, president of Government Futures.

McConnell said the survey participants from government and industry agreed that strategic, well-managed vendor relationships are highly desirable.

Some agencies are making progress in adapting commercial practices, but overall adoption is slow, according to the report. “Pockets of excellence sit side by side with shops where innovation is not rewarded,” McConnell said in an online presentation that accompanied the release of the report today.

The survey found that government procurement officials and vendors agree on the benefits of adopting commercial procurement practices. “Large majorities [or respondents] saw improvements in the quality of goods and services acquired by the government and the availability of innovative products to the government if these practices are adopted,” McConnell said.

It also found that three quarters of those involved in the survey reported reduced prices for commodities and about half reported reduced prices for solutions and services. “Only a few saw higher prices,” McConnell said.

Government Futures predicts wide-scale adoption of commercial practices by 2014. McConnell added that the Defense and Homeland Security departments, the U.S. Postal Service and the Air Force are already implementing commercial procurement practices supported by the Office of Management and Budget and the Government Accountability Office.

Congress “can be a major help or hindrance to reform,” McConnell said. The survey found respondents optimistic that a new Democratic-controlled Congress would examine past procurement methods and mistakes and open the way to broader adoption of commercial procurement practices.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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