Transparency initiatives bolstered by chief performance officer, official says

Government acquisition and Web 2.0 are converging, a top procurement official has said. She also said there’s a bonding agent: Jeffrey Zients.

The Senate confirmed Zients June 19 as the government’s first chief performance officer and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Lesley Field, acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said her office and agencies’ chief acquisition officers interact with chief information officers and chief human capital officers on many governmentwide issues. Zients will make their work more cohesive, she added. She made her remarks June 24 at Washington Technology’s Top 100 conference and awards luncheon.

“He will help us tie all of these things together because this is a management issue,” she said.

Those functional neighborhoods are being connected in new ways, Field added. There’s more emphasis on transparency and following the money and more attention to government procurement, even from President Barack Obama.

Also, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 requires agencies to supply more information on spending, and it essentially created USAspending.gov. The law’s emphasis on transparency demands new technologies so agencies can provide spending information to the public in an understandable form.

To adequately gather all that information, agencies must have enough qualified employees who understand the process. Government officials say there aren’t enough acquisition workers as spending increases and demands rise for more information about each contract.

Field also said Web 2.0 innovations are a new world for the acquisition community. Crowdsourcing has yielded a lot of good ideas about what agencies should do, how they should reach out to industry and what they should avoid doing, she said.

“That kind of information we’ve never solicited before. If we have, it’s always been done in a very formal way,” she said. “There was a lot of bureaucracy — and I don’t mean bureaucracy in a bad way — but there was a lot of process.”

People feel freer to share thoughts and information if they can do it quickly online, she added.

“From my perspective, we need to figure out how to embrace that technology” while maintaining the key elements of acquisition, such as fairness, openness and competition, she said.

About the Author

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

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