CBP’s Secure Border Initiative (SBI) was officially cancelled in January of 2011, but had already been re-organized at the beginning of the fiscal year as the Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition (OTIA). As part of the transformation, our boss became the Component Acquisition Executive, or CAE, for all of Customs and Border Protection. What that meant for my team, which was originally in charge of developing SBI’s acquisition workforce, was that we suddenly had the responsibility for developing CBP’s entire acquisition workforce.
Before I get ahead of myself, and before this blog gets really interesting, it helps if you understand how the acquisition community functions in CBP. First, it’s important to understand that CBP is part of DHS, and is therefore subject to the policies, procedures, and laws that govern DHS. Although there are numerous senior procurement officials and review boards at the DHS level, there are three major players at CBP’s level: the Head of Contracting Activities (HCA), the Chief Information Officer (CIO), and my boss, the CAE.
The HCA is the head of CBP’s Office of Administration/Procurement Directorate (OA/PD), and is essentially responsible for the training and development of Contracting Officers (CO’s) and Contracting Officer’s Technical Representatives (COTRs, sometimes called CORs). The HCA derives her authority from the FAR and the DHS-specific supplements to the FAR, the HSAR and HSAM.
The CIO is the head of CBP’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), and derives his authority from the Clinger-Cohen Act and DHS Directive .0007. The CIO is essentially the head IT person for CBP, and is charged with oversight of all IT programs/projects to ensure that they support existing DHS/CBP architecture and support DHS/CBP’s missions and goals.
Finally, the CAE is the head of OTIA and is responsible for the training and development of program/project managers and their supporting staff. This essentially means that all non-contracting certifications are the responsibility of the CAE (there are currently five non-contracting certifications recognized by DHS, with two more in development). The CAE derives his authority from OMB Policy 05-01, as well as DHS Directive 064-04, which specifically splits the responsibilities of contracting and non-contracting personnel between the HCA and CAE.
Unfortunately, our team quickly discovered that the “swim lanes” for each of these players are poorly defined, which is why initial data calls sent to CBP generally resulted in replies of “who are you, and what do you think you’re doing?” We also hit the wall with some very fundamental questions: who is the acquisition workforce? Where are they? What skills do they possesses? Do we have the people we need?
Our team realized that we weren’t going to find the answers to any of these questions, or figure out the roles played by the CAE, HCA, and CIO, without help from our sister acquisition offices. We floated the idea of a CBP-wide IPT (integrated product team) to improve the acquisition workforce to our boss, the XD for OTIA’s Acquisition Policy and Oversight, who then met with the HCA and representatives from the CIO to achieve consensus about starting an IPT.
Several weeks later, the order came down: “Dan, write me a charter. You have two weeks.” And thus, CBP’s Acquisition Workforce Development and Sustainment IPT was born.
Stay tuned. In my next posting we draft an official charter for our IPT, recruit people from across CBP to work with our team, and figure out what, exactly, our IPT is trying to accomplish.