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WP: Govt needs contracting officers

So the WP has a story yesterday headlined,

Government Short of Contracting Officers [WP, 7.5.2007]
Officials Struggle to Keep Pace With Rapidly Increasing Defense Spending

Here is the top of the story:

For a year, the workload just kept growing, to the point it became nearly impossible.

Cathy Martindale, a government contracting officer, darted between meetings about three Coast Guard ship programs, negotiating prices for proposed changes and monitoring contractors' compliance with their deals.

Martindale's job was to track the projects at the heart of the Coast Guard's $24 billion modernization project, known as Deepwater. She attended meetings about design and engineering changes for the ships -- one of which, at 418 feet, is the largest the Coast Guard has ever built. When a dispute emerged about contract terms, Martindale mediated, interpreting the terms and ensuring that companies complied.

"So I am there, always on my toes, trying to pay attention to make sure the path they are heading down is consistent with the contract," Martindale said.

But the job required 12- to 14-hour workdays. She traveled 15 days a month. And when she found that she needed to be two places at once, she decided it was time to plead for help. "I realized there's not going to be light around the corner," she said. "I could work 24/7 and would not catch up."

Martindale, 43, is among a group of procurement officers struggling to keep pace with increasing demands to oversee billions of dollars in spending by the Pentagon and civilian agencies. Although she and her colleagues play pivotal roles in the government's operation, their plight has received little attention even as the government continues to expand its reliance on private companies and embarks on increasingly complicated programs.


Two thoughts. First, I'm somewhat perplexed about why when there are systemic issues, those stories get pushed to the back of the paper -- in this case, page E8. However, when somebody may have done something wrong, it gets blasted on the front page? (I know the answer!)

Second, and point one being said, I'm glad that the WP covered this subject because I think it is an important one. FCW editorialized on this issue -- calling for additional procurement people -- as part of our Election 2008 series.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jul 06, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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