VA's Acquisition Academy gets excellence award

The academy plans to open its classes to all agencies

The Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy’s Internship School has received an award from the Chief Acquisition Officers Council for being a model of innovation.

The CAO Council awarded the Fredrick, Md.-based school its 2009 Team Acquisition Excellence Award in June. The award recognizes teams that have taken successful innovative approaches in acquisition management. The council says the school has a pioneering style of teaching and differs from most traditional acquisition intern programs because of its holistic approach that emphasizes leadership, interpersonal and communication skills.

In an interview today, Lisa Doyle, the academy’s chancellor, said the school’s mission is to make its students into acquisition professionals who are “trusted business advisers sought out by their peers and by their customers.”

The school is preparing the next generation of acquisition and business leaders for the VA, she said.

The school teaches its students to look at acquisition through unique lenses. The Federal Acquisition Regulation “is a very empowering document,” said Melissa Starinsky, vice chancellor of the intern school, adding that the FAR allows acquisition officials to think more creatively than many people realize.

If a strategy isn’t addressed in the FAR or prohibited by law, it “is a permissible exercise of authority,” according to FAR Part 1.

Starinsky said acquisition employees need to be risk managers in order to use that authority appropriately and the acquisition field is fraught with risks.

“VA’s acquisition professionals must have the requisite judgment and skills to deliver the best value to the taxpayer and to our nation’s veterans,” Doyle said. In doing that, “the program is a success.”

Doyle plans to open the program to all agencies in the near future. Although she wouldn’t give a specific date, the school now is preparing for the expansion. “We’re ready,” she said, adding, “We know other agencies are in need.”

The school currently has six classrooms and is building 10 more rooms. The 2009 fall semester begins Aug. 3 with 30 students, 17 of them veterans.

The council also awarded a 2009 Acquisition Excellence Award to Alvera Reichert, a senior contracting officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Based in Baghdad, Reichert created an acquisition and assistance office to get needed materials for development programs. She also directed the office's operations while managing two construction contracts valued at more than $3 billion.

About the Author

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

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