OFPP, FAI launch new acquisition training and certification
OFPP's Joanie Newhart said the new curriculum stresses areas where contracting professionals have asked for more guidance.
The Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting has not been updated since 2008, but that's about to change -- and the revised FAC-C will include specialized training for IT procurement.
A May 7 memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy outlined the new certification, and OFPP Associate Administrator Joanie Newhart and Tony Grayson, acquisition program executive at the Federal Acquisition Institute, detailed the curriculum and the thinking behind it during a May 13 presentation at FOSE.
"Nobody's happier than I am that this certification has been issued," Newhart said. The old FAC-C is general and lacks a specific course on Federal Acquisition Regulation fundamentals -- whereas the Defense Department's Defense Acquisition University has long offered such training, along with a wide range of advanced coursework.
The revised FAC-C, which takes effect Oct. 1, aligns more closely with the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act curriculum. And it includes a four-week class, CON-090, that Grayson described as "deep FAR immersion."
"We felt like DOD was getting better training than the civilian folks, and we wanted to address that. Contracting is contracting is contracting," Newhart said, adding that "the closer we are together, the more mobile our workforces are.... We want to make sure that everyone has the training and the skills to buy what's best for the government."
In addition to expanding the curriculum, the new FAC-C targets a broader pool of federal workers. All contracting officers and all other contracting professionals in the 1102 categorization must now be certified. Previously, FAC-C was mandatory only for contracting officers whose warrants had been issued after 2006.
That means several thousand civilian agency workers will soon need to enroll in FAC-C courses, but Grayson and Newhart stressed that agencies will be given leeway in crafting their own transition strategies. Contracting personnel will have a full year to get certified, and previous FAC-C certifications will be grandfathered in, though Grayson noted that new prerequisites for going to the next level must be fulfilled.
Officials believe acquisition personnel will want the new and improved courses, which include topic-specific electives and an online component produced by the Harvard Business School that is already used by DAU, Grayson said. It's especially important "to make Level III [certification] more appealing." Once finalized, the full curriculum will be posted at FAI.gov.
Newhart acknowledged that training is not a panacea but said the new curriculum stresses areas where contracting professionals have asked for more guidance. "Cost and price analysis seems to be a little bit of a lost art," she said, "so we're beefing up that part of the training."
The IT specialization -- FAC-C IT -- will be the first to launch, but similar drilldowns on small business and construction are being considered. And at Level III, there will be added emphasis on industry engagement.
"We're hoping people who are already certified at Level III will come back for some of these electives because they're just that good," Newhart said.
Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN, as well as General Manager of Public Sector 360.
Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.
Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.
Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.