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Action Needed Now on Acquisition Workforce Reforms

From the Acquisition Corner

A recent piece in FCW from Dee Lee, now executive vice president of federal affairs and operations at the Professional Services Council (PSC), highlights the need to temper acquisition workforce analysis with action.
Her piece is a follow up to her Aug. 5 testimony before Congress to discuss the multi-sector acquisition workforce, and according to Ms. Lee, her first testimony as a member of the private sector. Her work with the PSC will hopefully help guide the discussion on acquisition workforce reform forward, and to help Congress acknowledge that much more needs to be done and quickly, as the acquisition mission continues to falter as a result of breakdowns in the workforce.

…We do not need more reviews or competency studies, further discussions on who belongs in the acquisition workforce, or arbitrary new hiring goals. What we need is action.

The government must plan for and manage a multisector workforce. Strategically established, well-defined approaches for hiring the right people for critical agency functions and awarding and managing the right contracts and grants are crucial to mission success…

I could not agree more. Ms. Lee advocates the for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) to define the federal acquisition workforce to be capability-based workforce, much like my advocacy of the acquisition workforce being composed of a broad range of skills necessary for successful acquisitions — to include program management, contracting, and requirements. Although this may fall into the “who belongs in the acquisition workforce,” this strategy nonetheless will be more successful to create a lifecycle approach to acquisitions and thus outcomes.

Ms. Lee further advocates integration of the oversight role in the acquisition team and the government’s continuous improvement process. The acquisition process is ripe for process improvement, and the use of six sigma techniques could go a long way to streamlining processes. This process improvement should also include streamlining the layer after layer of review cycles that extend acquisition timelines by many months or years. However, crucial to execution is leadership, and as Ms. Lee also points out, strong leaders are needed now for OFPP administrator and General Services Administration administrator to provide the necessary guidance and vision to really move forward on effective change strategies and to communicate what is needed to see results.

…Ensuring the proper execution, oversight, accountability and effectiveness of federal acquisition requires policies that balance advance planning, resources and compliance. Those policies must be based on sound data and thoughtful debate rather than on anecdotes or headlines and must focus on actions that will truly improve performance and results rather than adding layers of non-value-added processes or reviews.

Developing a well-trained and well-supported acquisition workforce is the single most important ingredient for success. Delivering on that message will do more to strengthen the federal workforce than almost anything else…

It is this last point that is vital to understand acquisition reform. A people first strategy; with subsequent tools to hire, train, and retain talent, will do more to foster an environment for success in acquisition outcomes than almost anything else. Action is indeed needed now.

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