Training the Next Generation of Government Contractors

Right now 1/3 of the federal acquisition workforce has under 5 years of experience on the job. But the University of Maryland is trying to ease the knowledge gap by launching a new program to train acquisition experts.

Jacques Gansler is a professor at the University of Maryland. He also served as Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics from November 1997 until January 2001.

He told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program what the new program will look like.

“The program is tailored to train students entering the workforce at a time when U.S. federal, state and local governments are seeking to do more with fewer resources. The federal government alone buys over $400 billion in goods and services each year, and its needs are growing exponentially – even lawmakers are seeking to cut government spending and eliminate waste from the budget,” said Gansler.

Major Problems Facing the Acquisition Workforce

  1. Thousands of experienced acquisition professionals are approaching retirement age. The government and its suppliers are already looking to hire a new generation of public- and private-sector workers with the skills and training to manage the complicated field of government contracting during difficult financial times.
  2. Under-Valuing the importance of the acquisition workforce. Oftentimes people don’t understand the complicated and sophisticated nature of acquisition. But these people are making billion dollar decision. Should there be a competition? Should there be incentives and so forth. There is a great intellectual challenge.

“These young hires and really everyone needs training and guidance,” said Gansler, “It’s the only way they can make it work with shirking budgets. You have to find ways to be more effective.”

UMD Program Specifics

Students electing to specialize in the new School of Public Policy program will learn about all aspects of government contracting, subcontracting and related challenges. The program will put a particular emphasis on national security-related purchasing, which accounts for $300 billion of the total spent on goods and services by the federal government.

The program, for students studying for a Master of Public Management or a Master of Public Policy, will offer courses in leadership, finance, ethics, policy analysis, acquisition management, and federal government contracting and pricing. Students will also have the opportunity to conduct research and participate in acquisition-related activities in the School’s Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise, which is directed byGansler. Students will also have access to internships and other valuable professional experiences at public and private organizations in the Washington area.

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