Sade: Be mentors

Senior GSA official urges agencies to transfer acquisition skills to younger workers

Contracting officials nearing retirement should get a lighter workload so they can share their procurement know-how with younger employees, said a senior procurement official who is concerned about losing federal acquisition expertise.

Michael Sade, the General Services Administration’s assistant commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Acquisition Management, said shifting duties from senior employees would free them to prepare younger, less experienced workers to pick up the slack when the veterans are gone.

“As people approach retirement age…what we ought to be doing is not saying, ‘How much work can I get out of them?’ It ought to be, ‘I’m going to reduce your workload,’” Sade said.

Federal contracting has become increasingly complex, he said, and contract officers need more than a four-week training course to learn all of the intricacies, including how to negotiate deals and recognize the best type of contract to suit the need.

Sade said soon-to-retire employees should get a new job description that
includes mentoring the employees who will do the work when they’re gone. He doesn’t know whether his idea might become a GSA policy, but he said he intends to transform the culture. “My job, as leader of the organization, is to ... say, ‘You have time to do this.’”

Several Defense Department contracting officers, each with more than 30 years of contracting experience, said they would welcome a lighter workload, but more so, an opportunity to pass on their knowledge.

“I am about to choke on all the work I have to do,” said one of the officers, who didn’t want her name used. But having a younger employee to work alongside her would be beneficial to both of them, she said.

Mentoring has widespread support. Adam Davidson, chairman of the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council’s Hiring and Succession Planning Committee’s shared interest group, said mentoring gives people a sense of fulfillment.

“It’s a ‘warm-fuzzy,’ as we call it in Australia,” Davidson said.

Projected losses of procurement expertise are real, officials said. The Office of Personnel Management has reported that 60 percent of the federal workforce will become eligible to retire within the decade, including 90 percent of civilian senior government executives.

In anticipation of that retirement wave, senior procurement officials want a snapshot of employees’ skills. Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, issued a memo in March asking contracting employees to answer an anonymous online survey that would help agencies get a big-picture view of employee skills and capabilities. But it’s not certain that people will respond.

At the GSA Expo May 15, Denett addressed a room of 200 people to ask if anyone had taken the survey. Four raised their hands.

Featured

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

  • Comment
    Pilot Class. The author and Barbie Flowers are first row third and second from right, respectively.

    How VA is disrupting tech delivery

    A former Digital Service specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs explains efforts to transition government from a legacy "project" approach to a more user-centered "product" method.

  • Cloud
    cloud migration

    DHS cloud push comes with complications

    A pressing data center closure schedule and an ensuing scramble to move applications means that some Homeland Security components might need more than one hop to get to the cloud.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.