Survey: Acquisition workforce falling behind on training

The buyers of products and services across government are not receiving the fresh training or modern skill sets needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today’s agency missions, according to a survey of federal acquisition employees released on Thursday.

“The acquisition workforce’s skills in areas such as business acumen, negotiation, risk mitigation and understanding complex information technology fall well short of what acquisition professionals say is required,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. PSC and Grant Thornton prepared the seventh edition of a biannual survey titled “A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?”

“This not a failure of the workforce,” Soloway said, “but a result of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change” in education and support.

In a session with reporters, he cited frustrations over a “growing gap” between acquisition specialists and the end users who increasingly say the technology being delivered isn’t suitable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/survey-acquisition-workforce-falling-behind-training/103512/

See more on this topic at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1719

Recommendations for DoD acquisition reform focus on 7 areas

The Defense Department added its voice to a growing list of associations and lawmakers with ideas on how to improve the military’s acquisition process.

DoD’s ideas center less on what Congress can do and more on what it shouldn’t do.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, sent a letter to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) back in June detailing seven areas where he thinks DoD needs help to improve acquisition outcomes.

For the first time publicly today at the AFCEA Acquisition Modernization conference in Washington, Kendall highlighted his seven recommendations.

Kendall said the biggest thing Congress could do is end the threat of sequestration in 2016 and beyond.

“2013 was a nightmare year. We actually implemented sequestration well into the year. We bought ourselves a little time with the deal that got us through 2014 and presumably through 2015. It’s coming right back in 2016,” he said. “We are working on the budget right now. The services are finalizing their [budget plans], and we will go through an exercise this fall where we will have to look at what the President will submit and something that is compliant with sequestration to see what the damage is. The damage is huge.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3676550/Kendall-shapes-DoD-acquisition-reforms-around-7-areas-

Explaining the federal budget paralysis

Budget uncertainty is the new norm in the federal sector. With the sequester and government shutdown in recent memory, it has reached the point where the possibility of the next fiscal year starting with a Continuing Resolution of a few months is a relief. Two key questions: Why is this happening in Congress and will the uncertainty ever end?

The most common explanation is to blame a political party or person. This is incomplete. Federal sector managers, executives, and contractors can benefit from looking deeper into Congress and its processes. A better understanding of the dynamics can even improve planning by setting realistic expectations for Congress.

The reality is the federal discretionary budget, which funds the federal government, has become the central battleground for the hyper-partisan warfare in Congress today.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140724/BLG05/307240016/Explaining-budget-paralysis

Pentagon contracts slid 29% in May

Pentagon contracts fell 29 percent in May from a year earlier, the fifth drop in the past six months, in part driven by automatic U.S. budget cuts.

The Defense Department announced contracts with a maximum value of $13.7 billion last month, down from $19.4 billion in May 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. United Technologies Corp. (UTX) won the only award topping $1 billion, for presidential helicopters.

“There will be fits and starts, but the general trend line will continue to fall,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based policy group. “The steepness of that grade is the only question.”

May’s prime, or direct, contracts were less than half the $35 billion awarded a month earlier. April was the only month since December in which contracts have risen on a year-to-year basis. That gain was propelled by a $17.8 billion Navy contract for 10 Virginia-class submarines.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-11/pentagon-contracts-slid-29-in-may.html

Defense contractors fight for their slice

Defense contractors are going back to war to protect their slice of a shrinking Pentagon budget.

Gone are the days of unity when giants like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman banded together in 2012 to fight automatic defense cuts in a campaign called Second to None. Now, with another round of sequestration ahead and an uncertain post-war era looming, contractors are back to skirmishing with one another over every last scrap of the defense budget.

Lockheed backers are publicly sniping at Boeing over the Pentagon’s potential purchase of Navy EA-18G Growler aircraft, while Boeing advocates are dissing Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Lockheed also wants to save the iconic U-2 spy plane, while Boeing hopes to stop the mothballing of the A-10 attack plane — both are on the chopping block.

The latest battles among the defense giants signal a shifting landscape for contractors, in which new programs are far from guaranteed, legacy programs are no longer sacred cows and defense hawks are getting beaten by budget hawks. It’s also a sign that the most powerful government contractors in Washington — pejoratively dubbed “Beltway Bandits” back in the 1980s — are losing some of their sway in a city where they’ve practically had a license to print money in recent years.

What hasn’t changed are the market demands: Defense contractors are still under pressure to keep profits high even as sales decline, so they are slashing personnel and cutting their Washington lobbying shops. In the first quarter of this year, lobbying spending by a dozen of the largest defense contractors hit its lowest level since the first quarter of 2011.

The infighting could get worse. This is the first year that the Pentagon has proposed a budget that adheres to the spending caps of the 2011 Budget Control Act and last December’s budget deal, which gave the Pentagon $9 billion in relief from the sequester in fiscal 2015.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/defense-contractors-budget-funding-106077.html