Administration amps up strategic sourcing push

Noting that agencies have been slow to adopt strategic sourcing approaches, representatives of the Barack Obama administration are subtly increasing the pressure.

Speaking at the Coalition for Government Procurement on Sept. 11, Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Joe Jordan emphasized the value of the technique, which involves combining orders from multiple agencies in order to get bigger volume discounts from vendors.

One of the chief reasons Jordan offered to explain the slow adoption is an old nemesis: turf battles. “There’s a control issue, for sure,” he said. Whether working in major departments or tiny offices, people want control of their spending. They want to decide if they buy blue pens or red ones. “They’re just human issues,” Jordan said.

The President’s Management Advisory Board’s Strategic Sourcing Subcommittee suggested Sept.7 that the administration should mandate the use of governmentwide strategic sourcing vehicles, where appropriate. Agencies should also set ambitious goals for creating and adopting the use of these contract vehicles, the subcommittee said.

It would also help for agencies to designate a specific person to be sure the agency takes part, the subcommittee recommended. The subcommittee also reported that agencies would benefit from a strategic sourcing playbook of best practices for targeting and monitoring initiatives.

Jeffrey Zients, acting administrator of the Office of Management and Budget, spoke in support of making the approach mandatory at that Board meeting, according to Federal News Radio and other published reports.

The board is scheduled to meet again Oct. 12.

When asked about the potential mandate, Jordan said simply, “Stay tuned.”

In his speech though, he said, “There’s a real opportunity to engage on this, not on a ‘let’s make it perfect and make everything have one government contract and that’s it’ but rather in a phased ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach.”

Agencies are at different points along the road to strategic sourcing. It will be a victory for some agencies to just figure out what their various components are buying, he said.

“My role is not making those categories, not beating up the agencies and certainly not beating up vendors, but rather to facilitate the conversation and remove a lot of the preconceived notions,” he said.

Declining budgets might become an ally for strategic sourcing efforts, Jordan added. Agencies "have now a real desire to save money,” Jordan said. These days, “I could say, 'you could save money and get the essentially the same things,' and they are much more interested than when they were in the eight years of the Bush administration.”

About the Author

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

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