Federal procurement nominee outlines agenda

Gordon's priorities include cost savings, risk reduction

Daniel Gordon, the nominee to be administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, today said that one of his main objectives is strengthening the acquisition workforce.

“Our procurement budget has increased dramatically in the past decade, yet the growth in the workforce has not kept pace,” Gordon told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at his confirmation hearing.

In fiscal 2008, the federal government spent roughly $539 billion on contracts, which is twice as much as the government spent earlier in the decade. Meanwhile, the acquisition workforce has grown only by small percentages during that same time.

But with a strong acquisition workforce, Gordon said he could more easily fulfill his other objectives. Gordon said he wants to find ways to save money and reduce the risk in the government’s acquisitions. He also wants to improve the government's methods for planning for its procurements.

“Too often, pressure to move forward quickly comes at the expense of good acquisition planning,” he said. “We must work to ensure that our program and contracting staff work together and that they have the capacity and tools to effectively plan acquisitions.”

Gordon also said he would emphasize the management of contracts after they are awarded. “As stewards of the taxpayers, we must make sure those who contract with the government are delivering what they promised, in terms of price, schedule, and performance,” he said.

Contract management requires trustworthy procurement data, Gordon said. The information can highlight high-risk issues, such as agreeing to cost-reimbursements contracts. Cost-reimbursement contracts offer contractors bonus money for doing a good job working with the government when officials couldn’t explicitly define what they needed.

Currently, though, there isn’t enough information available on procurement, he added, citing a recent Government Accountability Office report on the subject.

“We need to know what’s happening out there,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets or quick solutions for these challenges."

The various positions within the acquisition workforce must cooperate to improve the overall acquisition system, Gordon said.

“Acquisition offices must work closely with their human capital offices to develop and execute hiring plans to close identified skills gaps," he said. "Contracting and program offices must work together more closely, each applying its respective skills to improve requirements definition and contract management. Our chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives must work closely with OFPP, the Federal Acquisition Institute, and the Defense Acquisition University to improve the delivery of needed training to our workforce."

During the hearing, senators asked Gordon about various other acquisition-related topics, including small-business contracting and automated contract writing. They also asked about inherently governmental functions, jobs that only federal employees can do because they are so closely related to the core of an agency's operations. All of these have recently been tricky acquisition issues.

Some senators want the OFPP head to come up with a better definition of what is an inherently governmental function so agencies clearly know what they can contract out and contractors know what they can bid on.

Gordon said agencies need to reinvest in their own acquisition workforces so they can adequately carry out inherently governmental functions as well as those duties closely associated with those jobs.

“Agencies mustn't lose control of their operations,” he said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee’s ranking member, questioned whether to the government has too many indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, or multiple-award contracts. Gordon said the topic merited attention but didn't provide a definitive answer.

Obama nominated Gordon on Oct. 2. Gordon has served as deputy general counsel at GAO since 2006.

The committee has to approve Gordon's nomination and then the full Senate must vote on it before he can begin his work.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), the committee's chairman, said the OFPP administrator is one of the most broadly supported and uncontroversial nominations that the Senate considers. He said he will try to get the nomination through the committee and the Senate quickly.

About the Author

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

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