The White House, hoping to improve federal purchasing in the digital age, has launched a challenge worth more than $300,000 if someone can teach contracting officials how to adopt modern acquisition techniques, like those found in the Digital Services Playbook and the TechFAR.
The U.S. Digital Service and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, partnered through the Office of Management and Budget, announced the competition on Challenge.gov Wednesday to develop a training program to pilot a new class of digital services procurement officials.
Called the Digital Service Contracting Professional Training and Development Program, the three-phase competition offers a pot of $360,000, with up to a possible $320,000 for the grand finalist, of the three chosen, that pilots the program to completion.
According to the Challenge.gov posting from OMB, the competition “seeks to spur innovation in the training and development of Federal Contracting Professionals who are fundamental to the success of digital service acquisitions.”
In the challenge, OMB defines digital services as “the delivery of digital information (data or content) and transactional services (e.g., online forms, benefits applications) across a variety of platforms, devices, and delivery mechanisms (e.g., websites, mobile applications, and social media).”
Back in March, OFPP Administrator Anne Rung hinted at this competition as part of her forthcoming IT-heavy agenda, saying “if we want to develop a digital capability and an agile mindset within the agencies we must ensure that everyone understands the approach and the many benefits.”
The winning program will be used to develop “a digital service core-plus specialization for contracting professionals under the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) Program issued by OFPP” through training institutions like the Federal Acquisition Institute and Defense Acquisition University, the challenge page says.
Optimally, OMB wrote, the program would enable contracting officers and specialists “to understand and apply strategic thinking, industry best practices, market place conditions, and appropriate acquisition strategies to the procurement of digital supplies and services” in no more than six months. Those officials should walk away fluent and knowledgeable in key techniques found in the Digital Services Playbook, like agile development, DevOps, modular contracting and user-centered design.
As of Wednesday, the challenge is officially live. Participants have a month to submit white papers for the program. After that, up to three teams are selected and awarded $20,000 each. Those teams will compete a month later in program design and oral proposal competitions to pilot their training program. The team chosen to pilot its program will do so for five months and, upon completion, will submit the results to OMB by Jan. 31, 2016.
OMB did not respond to requests for comment on the competition.