Denett: Experienced tech representatives better for contracts

Agencies should better train their contracting officers’ technical representatives (COTRs) so they can be up to speed on the job and benefit the team when a contract is awarded.

Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said today that he will release a memo, possibly in the next two months, to require agencies to get training and experience for COTRs because agencies too often minimize that role.

“One of the things I always recommend for success of a contract is to identify who the COTR is going to be upfront so they can participate with the program manager and the contracting officer early on,” Denett said, speaking at the Federal Acquisition Institute’s Federal Acquisition Conference and Exposition in Washington.

The COTR follows up on the contract after it’s awarded, watching for problems or issues that may arise. That person also helps the contracting officer and program manager keep things working smoothly.

Denett said agency program managers need to include experienced COTRs, even at the stage of developing a contract's specifications.

The COTR's role should not be an afterthought and assigned to a junior staffer without experience, he said, adding that agencies with medium to large acquisition offices should have a cadre of trained representatives to handle the work.

Denett said that too often agencies think about naming a COTR too late in the process.

“A new employee comes bouncing in with a big smile on their face, and they go, ‘Oh great, we’ll let Mikey do it,’ ” he said, adding that “Mikey” often has no experience.

However, Denett said that situation will end with the memo, which he said he shouldn’t have to issue because the practice should be common sense.

He has issued similar memos recently, and one requires agencies to have adequately trained program and project managers so they can work closely with contracting personnel.

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