Inside acquisition at the Department of Commerce

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Barry Berkowitz (Photo: David Stegon/FedScoop) Barry Berkowitz (Photo: David Stegon/FedScoop)

The U.S. Department of Commerce is in the early stages of implementing a new acquisition processing system that will give the department a disciplined set of processes for acquiring goods and services.

In an interview with FedScoop, Barry Berkowitz, the DOC’s director of acquisition management and senior procurement executive, said the plan for the processing system has been worked on over the past year and a half, pulling best practices from throughout the department and the rest of government.

“We wanted to set up a standard set of criteria that can be used across the department for all projects,” Berkowitz said, “especially the high-risk ones.”

The department’s senior leadership signed off on the plan in November and now Berkowitz and the rest of the department’s acquisition leadership are looking toward implementation.

The bureaus of the department will deliver their defined processes to meet the created standard to Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank by May with the first acquisitions expected to go through the process early this summer, Berkowitz said.

“This implementation phase is probably the most difficult, but the sustainment phase will be the most important,” Berkowitz said, noting the plan would be written in “firm clay, opposed to stone” that can be altered in the future as requirements and methodologies advance.

The move puts the Department of Commerce in line with a bigger trend going on in government, as civilian agencies are following the lead of their Department of Defense brethren and involving more people in the acquisition process earlier.

The move to “Big A” acquisition, Berkowitz said, will help the civilian agencies and his department get the necessary acquisition resources to the program managers even before the first official acquisition action takes place.

That is the truth with information technology acquisitions as well, Berkowitz said, as agency chief information officers need to be involved early in procurements as well.

Berkowitz said that many of the acquisitions these days have an IT component, so involving the agency CIOs as early as possible in those types of acquisitions is beneficial, especially working at a department like his.

“Commerce is a unique department in the wide array of things we work on,” Berkowitz said. “When I first got here I thought it was cash registers and aprons, but its nothing like that at all. And that’s a good thing.”

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Commerce Department, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Rebecca Blank
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