Next OFPP chief's priorities: Building, buying, rebalancing

The next leader of federal procurement policy must to stand up for the acquisition workforce, despite the budgetary pressures that threaten potential cuts in the number of employees and their training, said Dan Gordon, the outgoing Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator on Nov. 16.

“We cannot protect the federal acquisition process without a good federal acquisition workforce, and I am very concerned that budgetary pressures are going to unroll much of the progress we’ve had,” he said. Gordon was testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform Subcommittee.

Gordon and subcommittee chairman Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) agreed that contractors cannot be the people training the government employees, such as the contracting officer's representatives. It's often the case though. The CORs are the managers of job performance after a contract is awarded. They also work closely with the contracting officers.

“I have heard from contractors in my district in Oklahoma and here in Washington that federal contracting officers often lack adequate skills and experience,” Lankford said. The needs for training workers is in demand.

Gordon said the next administrator should continue the same general initiatives he has focused on: Building up the acquisition workforce through outreach and training to improve the employees; buying smarter and buying less; rebalancing the relationship with contractors.

“I don’t think that can change,” he said.

At the same hearing, John Hutton, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, said that, for instance, the Defense Department has progressed in building up its acquisition workforce. Defense officials have said they hired about 5,900 civilian employees into the acquisition workforce in fiscal 2010 using the Defense Acquisition Development Workforce Fund. DOD has also insourced jobs previously done by contractors.

Yet again, budgetary pressures are halting efforts. DOD’s plans for future growth are tentative as a result, Hutton said.

Beyond the number of workers, Hutton told the subcommittee that workers need experience and expertise as well.

“Building workforce skills and expertise is just as important, however, as increasing the size of the acquisition workforce,” he said.

About the Author

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

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