Acquisition reform proves slow-going, panelists say

WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – After about 15 years of efforts to reform federal procurement through different types of contracts and different ways of thinking about acquisition, the government has not made as much progress as advocates of change would like, according to members of a panel who spoke today at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va.

“Before we can think outside the box, we need to know what’s in the box,” said Adm. Dick Ginman, deputy director of defense acquisition policy at the Defense Department.

But agencies must continue to enter into contracts wisely, he said. In the government, “We have a significant pressure to spend money,” he said. “That does not equate to not doing it well.”

Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard University and a former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said federal policymakers should find new ways to encourage agencies’ procurement officials to spend money more effectively.

“Their solutions really rely on an incredibly impoverished vision of how you fix these problems,” he said. Solutions too often revolve around oversight and punishment rather than encouragement, inspiration and positive incentives, he said.

Contracting models such as pay-for-performance and share-in-savings have built in rewards and penalties, he said. They need more visibility and policymakers should encourage agencies to use them, he said.

“The environment has moved too much into a ‘gotcha’ environment,” said Steven Kempf, deputy assistant commissioner at the General Services Administration’s Integrated Technology Services division.

The Executive Leadership Conference, designed for federal officials to gain insight into issues they must deal with as agency leaders, is jointly sponsored by the American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

Featured

  • FCW Perspectives
    human machine interface

    Your agency isn’t ready for AI

    To truly take advantage, government must retool both its data and its infrastructure.

  • Cybersecurity
    secure network (bluebay/Shutterstock.com)

    Federal CISO floats potential for new supply chain regs

    The federal government's top IT security chief and canvassed industry for feedback on how to shape new rules of the road for federal acquisition and procurement.

  • People
    DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her Nov. 8, 2017, confirmation hearing. DHS Photo by Jetta Disco

    DHS chief Nielsen resigns

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the first Homeland Security secretary with a background in cybersecurity, is being replaced on an acting basis by the Customs and Border Protection chief. Her last day is April 10.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.