There is really no way around it – the federal workforce is getting smaller. Budget cuts and the potential sequestration are forcing the issue. So what does that mean for the acquisition workforce going forward? Who stays?
Stan Soloway is the President and CEO of the Professional Services Council. His team has just completed their bi-annual survey of senior government procurement executives and practitioners about the state of federal procurement practices, policies and the acquisition environment.
He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the same two issues have been a top concern for the past 10 years.
Top Concerns for Government Procurers
- Workforce capabilities and resources
- Oversight of efficient and effective contracting regulations
“These are the same concerns from 10 years ago, so at some point you have to draw the conclusion that whatever we’re doing isn’t working because we’re not getting any better,” said Soloway.
“We are looking at very real budget cuts. There was a lot of money spent for close to a decade. But that money doesn’t exist anymore. So now the question becomes where the cuts will be made,” said Soloway.
- There will be personnel reductions – how strategic will the cuts be?
- Will they be able to target critical skills in technology and acquisition?
It’s been talked about for years but new data from OPM shows a 30% uptick in retirements in the last two years.
“If you look at the demography the federal government has a greying workforce. But the real problem is the shortfall of people in the 40+ range. And the other issue is the tech workforce is actually older than the acquisition workforce. And it’s the acquisition workforce that really need to the experienced people,” said Soloway.
“We’ve been hearing consistently that oversight is important but we’ve gone over the rate of return. We are not doing oversight for the sake of oversight,” said Soloway, “we’ve been checking boxes instead of thinking things through.”
- Workforce isn’t encouraged to exercise in critical thinking. They follow rigid rules.
- Outcomes tend to be much less innovative. We don’t measure personnel success in relation to the outcomes of the program but on the outcomes of the procurement process.
Greatest Time in Government?
“Right now there is a great opportunity for change because there are duel crisis going on with the workforce challenges and the budget situation. Now is the time for a conversation about real change,” said Soloway.