Feds on big buys must be certified

OFPP takes steps to improve feds’ acquisition skills

Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers memo (.pdf)

Related Links

Federal officials have called for help in training the acquisition workforce at a time of greater congressional scrutiny and contracting complexity. A Democratic Congress is demanding more contracting accountability and an end to what Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, described as the government’s slipshod contracting methods.

“How could anyone be opposed to increased standards of accountability?” Thompson asked at a recent oversight hearing.

A Homeland Security Department official testified at the hearing that DHS must build up its acquisition workforce before it can eliminate its contracting problems. “The problems…are a training and implementation issue, not a policy issue,” said Elaine Duke, DHS’ chief procurement officer.

Duke said DHS is developing a rigorous education program for acquisition professionals — the Excellence in Contracting Training Series — to help DHS employees understand contracting regulations and policies. The series will focus on topics such as contract negotiations, financing, strategic sourcing and performance-based acquisitions. Better training will beget better business deals, Duke told lawmakers.

However, in addition to well-trained employees, DHS needs more contracting employees, she said, adding that the agency’s workforce must be large enough to manage the procurement cycle from the beginning through the post-award period. DHS’ priorities are to boost the quality and size of the acquisition workforce, make good business deals and provide more effective contract administration, she said.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy sent a memo to agency chief acquisition officers last month in which it outlined how it would address the training deficit that many acquisition experts have identified. OFPP will require program and project managers assigned to large acquisitions to be certified to ensure that they have met minimum training and experience requirements.

“This is absolutely critical for the acquisition workforce to be effective,” said Robert Burton, OFPP’s deputy administrator.

Referring to the new certification requirements, Burton said contract management is a profession requiring skills at negotiating, defining contract requirements and measuring performance. In years past, he said, contracting employees opened sealed envelopes, found the lowest bidder and awarded the contract. “We are much more business leaders than we were 20 years ago,” he added.

OFPP plans to get a sense of the skills and capabilities of its acquisition workforce via an online survey that does not require employees to identify themselves.
A classroom detour for acquisition managersThe Office of Management and Budget revealed details last month of a structured process for program and project managers to improve their acquisition skills and capabilities. The new program will require officials seeking senior/expert certification to complete the following coursework:
  • A minimum of 24 hours of learning in advanced acquisition management.
  • A minimum of 16 hours of coursework in employing correct and effective leadership and interpersonal skills.
  • A minimum of 24 hours of coursework that is government-specific and prepares someone to complete, for example, OMB’s Exhibit 300 for capital asset planning.
  • A minimum of 24 hours of instruction in advanced program management.
  • A minimum of 24 hours of coursework in earned value management and cost estimates.
Source: Office of Management and Budget

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group