Guest column: The acquisition workforce: Our secret weapon for better government

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Written by

2013_10_Jordan_Offical-picture Joe Jordan, administrator of OFPP.

Joe Jordan, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget, is a FedScoop contributor.

A common goal of any administration is building a better, smarter, faster government. President Obama recently re-emphasized the importance of technology and, through his second-term management agenda, has stressed the importance of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a government that grows our economy and creates jobs. Achieving these important goals will require building on the improvements we have made in the federal procurement process. Our secret weapon for buying smarter and helping to deliver on agency missions is the acquisition workforce.

The acquisition workforce is comprised of contracting professionals who establish acquisition strategies to get the best bang for taxpayer dollars, program managers who identify needs and develop requirements, and Contracting Officer’s Representatives who manage contract performance to ensure the contractors meet the commitment of their contracts. Together, they purchase more than $500 billion in goods and services the government needs each year. Even small incremental improvements in the way we buy can make a substantial difference to agencies’ bottom line, allowing them to spend more on accomplishing their missions, ultimately delivering better services to taxpayers.

As the administrator for federal procurement policy, I direct the efforts of the Federal Acquisition Institute in training and developing a professional and proficient civilian agency acquisition workforce. I am proud that together, we have made some great strides in this effort over the past couple of years, as has the Department of Defense in training and developing its acquisition workforce through the Defense Acquisition University.

During this time, FAI implemented a Training Application System used to manage this workforce, allowing them to apply for and track their training, certification and continuous learning. As a result, agencies now have a central repository of information on their acquisition workforce and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and FAI get a comprehensive view of the civilian agency acquisition workforce from a governmentwide perspective.

FAI has also significantly improved its website, turning it into a one-stop resource for our very busy acquisition professionals where they can find a link to FAITAS, and also information on the federal acquisition certification programs, continuous learning opportunities, videos on helpful topics and guides and manuals in areas of interest, to name a few.

I constantly tell contracting professionals if we haven’t forbidden an acquisition strategy or approach in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, and it is driven by sound business judgment, then they CAN do it! I know we expect a lot from our acquisition workforce members and, I’m proud to say time and again, they have proven that they can deliver.

Here’s why: The best contracting officers I know are lifelong learners. They might start out their career by taking the certification classes, and then take the time to apply the principles and understand the various risks inherent in different approaches. They hit the ground running and add value where they can. They also constantly monitor the landscape, network with their colleagues and embrace innovative approaches and tools. They are proactive in their career development and oftentimes find both technical and professional mentors to help them perform better and navigate their career. They understand how the work they do connects with the mission of their agency and ultimately, delivers value to the taxpayer. They give back.

It takes the entire acquisition team, and then some, to achieve the successful delivery of the product or service acquired. I know so many contracting professionals who work with newer contracting officers, helping them understand how to apply all they’ve learned. This is particularly critical as one-third of the civilian agency contracting officers have five or fewer years of experience. While good acquisition outcomes are driven by an underpinning of solid data and analytics, the process is often an art as much as a science. And don’t forget our industry partners: A great contracting officer leverages industry, where much of the expertise lies.

Like the pieces of a puzzle, all these entities and actors must fit together. At OFPP, we try to guide agencies and acquisition professionals in obtaining best value for taxpayer dollars, and it’s the frontline acquisition professionals who make it happen.

Let me close by echoing President Obama’s remarks he delivered following the reopening of the government, and adding my own thanks and appreciation for all of the hard work you’ve done throughout the past year. I salute you for your tremendous efforts.

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Agencies, Commentary, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Government IT News, Guest Columns, In their own words, Joe Jordan, Management & Budget, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Tech, White House, workforce
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