Experts: Workforce investment today saves dollars tomorrow

Agency officials must invest in their workforce, even in these times of shriveling budgets, to ultimately save money down the road, said several federal procurement experts at a Congressional committee hearing.

An organic government employee base with adequate skills is the alternative to over-reliance on contractors, and could be the key to reducing fraud and waste in contingency operations, the members of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Oct. 4. But it requires investment now, despite tight budgets.


Related coverage:

Procurement shops to become more automated

DOD tripped up by low staffing, poor planning


“There has to be some spending to save money,” said Dov Zakheim, a commissioner and former Defense Department comptroller and chief financial officer.

In the same vein, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House committee, said the government could have saved the at least a portion of the money wasted because of poor contracting in the decade-old contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Government Accountability Office too blames DOD’s lack of planning for workforce shortfalls—including the number of employees at the Defense Contract Audit Agency—along with contractor accounting problems. The two problems are costing DOD money due to delayed audits of the contractors’ incurred costs.

Zakheim told the House committee that DCAA needs auditors, and without them, the government is bearing the cost of delayed audits and contracts that are not properly closed.

"If you don't have auditors, you don't have audits. It's as simple as that," he said.

However, procurement experts say officials opt to cut training and other resource investments in the workforce during tough financial times. Some agencies have already halted hiring new workers to survive these times, just as senior Obama administration officials say the acquisition workforce is in dire need of some support troops. A new policy from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy tells agencies to improve their in-house skills to do work that is suited for government workers.

“I’d like to think the acquisition workforce will be better trained and that the role of acquisition professionals will evolve to that of a business adviser, rather than a buyer,” said Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners. “We’ve been saying that, though, for at least a dozen years now.”

But the budget crisis hopefully will make federal officials think of savings further out, rather than immediately, if they allocate resources to their employees, said Katherine Schinasi, commissioner and former GAO managing director for acquisition and sourcing management.

“It’s a perfect time to make an investment,” since the dividend pays off in the end with savings, she said.

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group