Letter: Doan understood procurement official exodus but IG didn't

Regarding “Aronie: The Eagle and the Arrow”:  You should at least respect [Lurita] Doan’s point of view that the battle with the [inspector general] was central to improving performance at [the General Services Administration], for the IG had become the single greatest impediment to progress and innovation.  You cite her “arrow speech,” but probably missed the most relevant part of it: Federal procurement officers perform the most difficult job in government and are an important strategic national resource.

Unfortunately, too many are leaving government service prematurely and most federal agencies have now developed well-intentioned recruitment efforts to expand the cadre of procurement officials. I can sympathize with those plans. But, it seems to me that those recruitment efforts are going to fail, and I have taken a different, contrarian approach to solving the same problem. It seems to me that just concentrating efforts at hiring more procurement professionals without addressing the fundamental reasons why so many are leaving government service early is akin to trying to fill up a bucket with water that has several large holes in the bottom. The procurement professional bucket is leaking faster than it can be filled. 

So GSA will do something much different; we are going to concentrate on improving the working environment of our existing procurement officers and do a much better job of retaining our most experienced and capable people. Procurement officers want more responsibility, flexibility and freedom to do what they do best...making good procurement decisions. I want to give them this flexibility, to encourage more innovative efforts and not allow simple procedural mistakes to become career-enders. [Read Lurita Doan’s arrows speech "Administrator Pledges to Tackle Federal Procurement Issues"]

Today the [National Contract Management Association] came out with a report that states that contracting officers are leaving the government prematurely. What they didn’t say in the report is why, and Doan, much to her credit understood that the working environment (certainly at GSA) for 1102s was getting worse, and it is the misplaced efforts and heavy-handed tactics of the IG that are driving the exodus of contracting officers. Know this, Doan is seen by career procurement officers at GSA as more of a prophet who saw the problems early and attempted to solve them.  She was fired because too many, both in and out of government, are too slow to understand the problem, or too timid to try and solve it.


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