OFPP reviewing acquisition workforce's skills gaps

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is reviewing more than 6,000 responses from contracting officers about the community’s skill gaps.

Robert Burton, deputy OFPP administrator, said July 12 that more than 60 percent of all civilian contracting officers surveyed responded, which was about 20 percent to 30 percent higher than expected.

“It is important to assess the contracting officers community’s skills gaps and figure out what training is needed,” Burton said during an Industry Advisory Council Procurement Special Interest Group meeting. “It will also give us an idea of what type and how many people we need to hire. There is no question that there is a shortage of acquisition workers, but we need to identify the skills needed.”

OFPP launched the survey in March and is working with the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) to analyze the responses.

“We have seen instances of skill gaps for emergency acquisition, and contracting officers have asked for more training in negotiation skills, but it is all anecdotal,” he said. “Once we identify what we need training for, we will set up classes through FAI.”

While FAI is reviewing the survey, Burton said OFPP is helping contracting officers in other ways.

OFPP is drafting guidelines detailing the preaward, award and postaward roles and responsibilities in using interagency contracts of the buying agency and the service-provider agency. Burton added that the guidance will have the critical elements of what belongs in an agreement. Right now, agency memorandums of agreements are inconsistent.

Burton added that the guidance could be out by late August.

“There has been confusion of what is responsible for what,” he said. “We also are responding to the Government Accountability Office’s concerns about interagency contracting.”

Burton added that the guidance is one of two directives to improve interagency contracting.

“We will develop a governance structure for multiple-award contracts” (MACs), he said. “We likely will use the governmentwide acquisition contract model where an interagency group looks at the business case for new and existing MACs.”

This interagency group would decide whether agencies still need the contract or whether it is duplicative of what is available.

OFPP recently asked agencies how many MACs, GWACs and agencywide contracts exist. Agencies said there are more than 200 agencywide contracts, 13 GWACs and 54 MACs, Burton said.

“We are concerned whether we have too many MACs,” Burton said.

But at the same time, Burton said agencies must improve their use of interagency contracts to deal with acquisition workforce shortfalls. This also includes the use of strategic sourcing, he added.

OFPP also is extending the rule of three to all Defense Department agencies. The rule requires contracting officers to receive at least three proposals on all schedule purchases. Burton said the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is writing a Federal Acquisition Regulations case.

Expanding the rule of three is part of OFPP’s offensive to implement acquisition changes and promote more competition before Congress gets too involved, Burton said.

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