Denett lays out priorities for OFPP

The Bush administration’s nominee for administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Paul Denett, said he would make acquisition workforce training one of his priorities if the Senate confirms him.

Denett went to Capitol Hill June 20 to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He said he would build a world-class acquisition system by measuring contractors’ performance, giving employees training to meet the latest challenges and creating more competition for government contracts.

Acquisition experts say the 35-year veteran of government and industry procurement can lead OFPP effectively despite looming challenges.

“I believe he already has the confidence of the acquisition community,” said Anne Reed, president of Acquisition Solutions. “He’s walked in their shoes.”

Denett told the committee he intends to offer better training so acquisition workers can handle increasingly complex challenges. He said he aims to have agencies running more effectively in emergency situations by planning their responses ahead of time. He also wants agencies to improve how they communicate with one another.

Denett added that contracts need clear performance standards and contracting officers should ensure that vendors meet those standards. Agencies must hold contractors accountable for performance, he said.

He also plans to address hiring needs, as concern lingers about an exodus of aging employees. OFPP should play an active role in recruiting and retaining contracting officers, he said. The agency needs to do a better job of enticing talented young professionals to work for the government.

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) reiterated the importance of sound policies coming from OFPP to halt wasteful government spending.

OFPP, a branch of the Office of Management and Budget, is central to setting buying policies. It has an obligation to seek the best value in purchasing, because the federal government spends $350 billion annually in goods and services, Collins said.

Coburn added that the government is not transparent about its contracts. He has introduced a bill calling for the creation of a public online database that would list the details of all contracts. Denett agreed that transparency is needed.

The top post at OFPP has been vacant since former administrator David Safavian resigned in September 2005. Safavian was indicted on criminal charges soon afterward. On the day of Denett’s hearing, a jury convicted Safavian on four felony counts of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice.

“Given recent developments, one has to question whether the power and authority of the administrator of OFPP will ever be what it once was,” said James Krouse, acting director of public-sector market analysis at Input. “Just exactly how much change will a new administrator be able to drive?”

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