Officials see procurement reform success dawning

Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

Anne Rung, administrator for OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, says she wants a much more transparent procurement landscape by the end of fiscal 2016.

Efforts to consolidate product information for buyers, reduce contract redundancies and generally straighten out some twisted processes in federal procurement could be seeing some results, according to a pair of top acquisition officials.

Federal procurement culture change is emerging, says Mark Day, deputy assistant commissioner in the Office of Integrated Technology Services at GSA. That culture, which has a reputation for being set in its ways, is a key ingredient in shifting to more efficient ways of contracting.

GSA, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and other agencies have been moving to instill new techniques and policies, such as category management and schedule reform, aimed at making the process more efficient and effective.

In remarks at an Association for Federal Information Resources Management panel the evening of April 21, Day and OFPP Administrator Anne Rung said they see indications that the efforts are beginning to take hold.

Open-market sourcing of goods and materials, which is often the go-to for quick  acquisition that avoids what has been a more complicated contracting process, is teetering on decline after years of growth, according to Day. "Open market, which is the fallback, has been growing. From 2009 to 2014 it grew 50 percent," he said. "That's an enormous growth." During the same time, more efficient forms of contracting that cut duplicative efforts and use consolidated pricing, dropped 12 percent, he said.

"In 2014, we saw that begin to reverse," said Day. The decline in the use of more efficient multiple award contracts (MACs) and government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs) slowed and in some cases grew, he said. Early data for 2015 suggests that trend will continue.

"We might be seeing, maybe, the start of some consolidation and some results from the work that has been going on in the last few years," he said. "We're beginning to see culture move. Our initial 2015 data from [the Federal Procurement Data System] shows some continued movement. That's probably a good thing."

'The world’s largest buyer'

Rung said she is looking to create an even more innovative environment through category management techniques.

"Category management, to me, is just breaking down agency silos and acting as the world's largest buyer," she said. Category management "builds on strategic sourcing, but it’s a broader set of tools." The category management effort spans a wide range of products, from cleaning supplies to computers, but "we want to do our deepest dive on IT."

Moving to a single software license, developing common consistent cyber language for contracts and developing standard configuration for laptops are among the benefits category management could precipitate for federal buyers, Rung said.

By the end of fiscal 2016, Rung said she wants a much more transparent procurement landscape.

"We want to have two years' worth of government-wide agency and bureau-specific data on efficiency and quality of acquisition operations, which we're already in year two of collecting. We want to have category management leads for many of the categories, a single software license in a few major areas and less price variability," she said.

In response to audience questions, Rung said she doesn't want to move toward single contracts for goods and services based only on pricing, which has been a consistent criticism of some of the contracting changes OFPP and GSA have been making.

Strategic sourcing, for better or worse, was defined in the federal space as moving to a single contract for goods or services, she said. "While I think it's had some benefits, I think I'd like to use a much broader set of tools and focus on performance instead of driving down total cost. I don't want a singular focus on reducing prices."

Category management, she said, is that broader approach.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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