In general, there are three types of contracting officers — the procuring contracting officer, the termination contracting officer and the administrative contracting officer.
It may be time to add a fourth type — the learning contracting officer (LCO).
You see, contracts specialists train to become full-fledged contracting officers. Much of what we contracts specialists do is on-the-job (OTJ) training and some in-house training. Sure, we take contracting in-class and online courses from government at Defense Acquisition University and Federal Acquisition Institute, and from contractors like Management Concepts. Those classes provide training at government-wide, and department-level, but there is is guidance specific to agencies within each department.
That’s where OTJ and in-house training comes in handy — they train contracts specialists to work to each agency’s guidance. Unfortunately, OTJ and in-house training varies dramatically from agency to agency, depending on workloads, resources, will, and need to train contracts specialists.
One thing that may improve OTJ and in-house training at agencies is the appointment of an agency-level learning contracting officer (distinct from the Acquisition Career Manager at the department level).
Think about it — one person becomes the focal point for assessing the training needs on a contracts shop-wide basis. The normal model is having the supervisory contracting officer overseeing the training for all people on his team. But supervisory contracting officers are busy folks and don’t have all the time in the world. A single LCO, gathering information on the training needs for all contracts specialists, would be able to serve as an advocate for training to the Head of the Contracting Activity, Senior Procurement Officer, and/or Chief Acquisition Officers. More over, if the LCO were officially added to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, it would give additional credence to an LCO’s authority.
I admit that the LCO model has difficulties. It would likely rely on persuasion and personal reputation, not legal authority, to accomplish the position’s job. Additionally, an LCO would likely be a part-time duty for someone who already is busy. To make the most of an LCO, the person would need to be respected and the LCO position would need to be tied to an official performance review so LCOs will make time for their duties. Sure, this model won’t work for all agencies, but it can be tweaked to meet an agency’s specific needs.