Obama wants money to help agency contracting shops

The acquisition workforce is part of the Obama administration's efforts to put control back into the hands of federal employees

President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $16.9 million to go into the Federal Acquisition Workforce Initiatives Fund.

In his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, Obama wants $7.9 million for various areas of managing the workforce, such as training curriculum, employees’ certifications and career development. Also, $5 million would go for recruiting and keeping acquisition workforce employees. The rest of the money would help to gather information and knowledge from workers to pass along important lessons from experienced employees and to train managers.

The relatively new fund received no funding in fiscal 2010. The administration asked for $24.9 million in fiscal 2011, although Congress did not pass the appropriations bill. Nevertheless, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $17 million for the fund.

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The acquisition workforce is a key part of the Obama administration’s efforts to put the control of government operations back into the hands of federal employees instead of relying heavily on private-sector companies.

Although spending has doubled in eight years, the size of the acquisition workforce, which negotiates and manages the contracts, remained relatively flat.

The government now is attempting to use its size to leverage better prices from companies and making vendors compete for work.

“These efforts have instilled a new sense of fiscal responsibility that has stopped the costly and unsustainable growth in spending on contracting,” the budget states.

The administration has decreased spending on contracts between 2009 and 2010 for the first time since the 1997. The administration also continues to insource work from companies, bringing the work in-house for government employees to do as agencies continue their operations.

“To sustain these improvements, this budget includes resources focused on developing and retaining the acquisition workforce,” according to the budget.

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Sun, Feb 20, 2011 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

Resource constraints are always going to be an issue. However, a focus on adding bodies is not a long-term strategic solution. Quality versus quantity is the long-term strategic solution that provides the balanced approach to improving the acquisition workforce and the quality of the work they need to achieve. Training is the most important initiative, and the government should continue to improve the delivery models and quality of the training programs that will have the greatest impact on improving performance for short-term improvements in the quality of pre and post-award decision making. The status quo is simply an unacceptable option for the current workload. Improving the quality of acquisition workforce hiring should focus on business skills and the ability to build the workforce around business skills, specifically requirements development, contracting, and program management. This is how we can expect to see the 21st century acquisition workforce, along with using Gov 2.0 tools to improve communications both internally and externally.

Wed, Feb 16, 2011

Someone wrote to look at the quality of the acquisition workforce. However, I believe that they failed to realize that as with any other community, the acquisition workforce community has bad apples. There are shotty and crooked law enforcement officers out there. They are to enforce and uphold the law yet there are plenty of them out there committing the same crimes they are arresting others for. Some get caught and some do not. There are the milkers and free loaders in any area inside and outside of careers who simply skate by hardly even performing at all. You have over achievers and underachievers, those who care and those who do not! There are individuals in the military who rape, beat steel but there are also those types of individuals outside of the military. Unfortunately, “Soldier Rapes Woman” draws more attention as a headliner than “Man Rapes Woman”. Not everyone has morals, ethics, integrity, etc. Some people are greedy and are ignorant enough to act on it. It is all dependent on that specific individual and has nothing to do with the field or career they are in. I am in the acquisition workforce and know they expect to and actually do squeeze a lot out of us. There is mandatory continuous learning and certifications, large workloads, and forever changing policies to keep up with. In the DoD, Purchasing Agents have lower qualification standards than Contract Specialists. Purchasing Agents are not required to have degrees or the 24 business credits. In addition, their certification levels are obtained by completing less continuous learning courses than those for Contract Specialists. Therefore, it is understandable that the results of a Purchasing Agent may not be as good quality as a Contract Specialist. Judge the individual, not the career field.

Tue, Feb 15, 2011

Good for Barrack - then why does the gov. acquisition community tend to hate him?

Tue, Feb 15, 2011

How about look at the quality of the acquisition workforce? It never ceases to amaze me how many govvies continue in their acquisition jobs screwing up endlessly until they retire. Many of them can't even write or speak a grammatically correct sentence. Yet they are "negotiating" and interpreting the comples acquisition regs? What a bloody mess! Retiring these 1970s equal opportunity specials is not a problem. It is a blessing!

Tue, Feb 15, 2011 M Reston

"Although spending has doubled in eight years, the size of the acquisition workforce, which negotiates and manages the contracts, remained relatively flat."

In a better world this would be expected. The problems to solve are not adding bodies in true 19th century fashion. It is in simplifing, standardizing, and automating the processes. In the 21st Century healthy organizations should do more with less every single year. Too many rules, too many interpretations, too many agencies buying, too many contracts with too many restrictions. Tose are the problems. Any solution which adds more bodies and costs more and more money is not a solution in our death spiral of debt.

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