OMB says agencies must boost competition in contracting

Procurement policy office lays out guidelines on how to develop a more capable workforce as spending increases and acquisition becomes more important

Civilian agencies must draw up acquisition workforce strategies and consider new ways to promote more competitions in their contracts, according to two memos the Office of Management and Budget released today.

In the past, agencies have created their acquisition workforce plans as general exercises with the short-term employee needs in mind, according to a memo from Lesley Field, deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in OMB.

“Many agencies concentrate on filling vacancies in the contracting community rather than developing longer-term growth and succession plans for the broader acquisition workforce, including program managers and contracting officer technical representatives,” the memo states.

President Barack Obama’s March 4 contracting reform memo is the basis for OFPP’s new memos. The president’s memo considers a well-developed workforce “as a pillar for strengthened agency acquisition practices and improved government performance,” OFPP wrote.

The success of agencies depends on their highly skilled acquisition employees, especially as the government currently buys more than $500 billion of goods and services annually, the memo states.

The new Acquisition Workforce Development Strategic Plan for Fiscal 2010 to 2014, which OFPP introduced in today's memo, provides a structured approach to improve both the number and skills of the civilian acquisition workforce, the memo states.

The plan establishes the need for building the workforce and finding ways to set up annual comprehensive plans focused on developing the workforce. OFPP will manage the strategies along with the Office of Personnel Management through fiscal 2014.

Civilian agencies will have to develop a blueprint for increasing the use of intern programs and other training and development options. OFPP is also requiring a five-year plan that lays out how the agency can improve its workforce and then build a team to manage the workforce, according to the memo.

“For human capital planning to be successful, it must be an integral part of each agency’s strategic planning process and reflect the unique and dynamic nature of that organization,” the memo states.

Agencies need to submit their plans to OFFP by March 31, 2010, and each year afterward. The plans must reflect specific hiring and training needs for fiscal 2011 and be a part of the agency’s budget preparation starting with the fiscal 2012 budget cycle, the memo states.

In a second memo, OFPP pushed agencies to generate more competition for their government contracts, another central theme of Obama's contracting reform policy. OFPP's memo gives guidelines to agencies as they shift to more competitive contracts.

The guidelines give agencies three questions to consider as they review how they hold competitions for their contracts:

  • How is the agency getting the most out of its competition and choosing the best type of contract for an acquisition?
  • How is the agency decreasing risk when it chooses to use non-competitive, cost-reimbursement, or time-and-material contracts?
  • What is the agency doing to transition to more competitive and lower-risk contracts?

These questions and OFPP’s related guidance are intended to help agencies identify specific areas that need more attention from managers while developing the acquisition workforce, the memo states.

OFPP said it will work with chief acquisition officers, senior procurement executives, and agencies’ competition advocates, who search for opportunities to make contracts more competitive, to share best practices and new techniques. OFPP said it will help set measures and benchmarks for agencies. It will also pinpoint the areas needing more guidance to continue improvements.

In July, OMB required agencies to cut back on riskier contracts, such as noncompetitive contracts or even contracts that include award fees. OMB wants agencies to trim 10 percent of money they awarded in fiscal 2010 through new noncompetitive contracts.


About the Author

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

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