Group recommends 'tiger teams' for acquisitions

A trade group today recommended pulling together various fields of expertise in agencies to swiftly develop clear requirements for contracts. The recommendations come as Obama administration officials have urged agencies to quickly spend the money they get from the new economic stimulus law.

The Professional Services Council wrote in a report that agencies should set up “tiger teams,” comprised of program managers, contracting officers, auditors, and people with backgrounds in finance, law and human resources to draw up the requirements at the earliest stages of the contracting process. The council also recommended adding industry experts to the team.

“This high-level, strategic planning will help ensure that acquisition and program performance processes are built on a common framework and should close the coordination and communications gaps that were at the heart of the government’s response to other emergency situations,” such as Hurricane Katrina’s devastation to the Gulf Coast, the paper states.

The teams could be similar to the contingency contracting corps, which is a group of acquisition employees available to come together when national emergencies occur to help the government buy what's needed.

The law has handed agencies billions of extra dollars on top of their missions, which are continually expanding, said Stan Soloway, the council’s president and chief executive officer.

“You can’t look at the stimulus in a vacuum,” he said, adding that agencies have to balance tiger teams with the ongoing missions, and not simply pull away the best people to focus solely on the stimulus spending.

Administration officials recognize the overall workforce likely isn’t large enough to handle the workload that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will hand agencies, which includes many contracting and transparency requirements. The Office of Management and Budget is ready to launch large-scale job-recruiting drives for acquisition employees if enough agencies need people after their own reallocations of employees.

However, agency officials and industry experts say the people aren't there now to fill the thousands of already vacant jobs in acquisition.

The government has trouble filling positions in part because the acquisition jobs are so pressured and high profile, Soloway said. The acquisition workforce, such as contracting officers, has been in the line of fire from various overseers and Congress. With the workforce’s added responsibilities, government officials must give contracting officers and employees in government contracting the permission to fail.

“Too often, the federal government is highly risk-averse. It leaves no room for honest errors,” the council wrote.

About the Author

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

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