Contracting's seismic shift?

Jeffrey Zients

Acting OMB Director Jeffrey Zients released a memo to step up strategic sourcing efforts.

It largely went unnoticed, but the federal contracting world might have shifted on Dec. 5.

A memo from the Office of Management and Budget has given strategic sourcing a new visibility by changing a working group into a standing council that will lead a governmentwide initiative to encourage agencies to collaborate on procurements whenever possible.

OMB’s acting director, Jeffrey Zients, released the memo to push forward strategic sourcing efforts across the government. He wrote that the memo establishes a broad initiative that “agencies join together to negotiate the best deal for the taxpayer.”

The approach has been around for years but not adhered to on a broad scale. Now, though, experts say strategic sourcing has caught the attention of senior officials in the administration who work on a broader policy scale. It is significant that Zients issued the memo, rathe OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan.

Experts also say the memo reflects the Obama administration’s emphasis on strategic sourcing as a way to address the government’s ongoing budget pressures. OMB’s move is indicative of a desire for centralized approval of procurement strategies to get lower prices and save money.

“Is this true tectonics?” asked Michael Del Colle, an independent consultant. “I think it bears watching.” In the past, officials have confined the drive mainly to agencies’ acquisition offices. But now they are expanding its scope.

In the memo, Zients raised a working group in the Chief Acquisition Officers Council to be on par with that council and the other CXO councils. For the governmentwide initiative, the new Interagency Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council will team up with a broad number of councils, including the Chief Financial Officers Council, the CIO Council and the Performance Improvement Council.

Robert Burton, former deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and now a partner at the Venable law firm, said there is no significant difference between the working group and the leadership council, except that Zients has made it more visible.

In 2005, OMB made a similar push for strategic sourcing. Officials were told to find several commodities that they could buy in bulk. However, there was no governmentwide council, and OMB put the CAOs largely in charge of leading the internal initiatives.

The new council includes officials from the major departments, the General Services Administration, NASA and the Small Business Administration.

Nevertheless, several sources predicted that the administration will have a tough time taking strategic sourcing governmentwide. As in the past, agency officials will bicker over which commodities are fit for strategic sourcing. Experts say the arguing might diminish the usefulness of the effort, especially when it comes to buying IT, because agencies have their own requirements.

“Agencies definitely push back because everyone feels like they’re a little bit different,” Burton said.

He noted that it has been hard to get agency buy-in over the years. Now, however, officials might be willing to take a closer look at the money-saving initiative. The budget situation has put bulk buying in a new light, Burton said, and agencies might be more willing to use strategic sourcing.

About the Author

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

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.


  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

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