Contracting officers need training in critical areas, survey finds

Many government contracting officers say they or others in their organization lack training in critical contracting areas, according to a new workforce report.

Project management tops the list of concerns, according to the report, produced by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute and based on a survey conducted by OFPP, the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies.

Contracting officers are also looking for more help in performance-based acquisitions -- both in terms of defining and managing requirements and in using metrics. Contracting professionals also said they need training in requirements analysis, negotiation skills, strategic planning and resolving contract disputes.

As expected, contracting employees spend much of their time dealing with those issues, the survey found. For example, 54.6 percent of respondents spend a moderate or extensive amount of time on project management, and 56.9 percent invest a lot of time in requirements analysis.

OFPP Administrator Paul Denett said the survey enables agencies to gauge if their current workforce is up to speed and where they need to improve. He said it also helps agencies determine the necessary size of their acquisition workforce.

“Agencies have a unique opportunity to identify specific organizational competency gaps and are using this information to develop plans to close those gaps,” Denett said Thursday in a statement.

The survey also supports concerns about the number of retirements, showing that the most well-trained and experienced contracting officers may not be available for long.

Officers with more than 20 years of experience understandably are the most proficient in the general business and the technical contracting areas, such as strategic planning and understanding the market, according to the report.

However, 40 percent of those highly skilled employees and even employees with average skill levels will be leaving by 2017 because of retirement.

The survey respondents included 4,323 contracting officers or contract specialists, or 48 percent of the total number of employees. They made up 80 percent of the survey’s responses, according to the survey.

The survey was administered between April 30 and May 18.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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