Getting smarter about IT acquisition

It’s been 15 months since Joanie Newhart, an associate administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and Tony Grayson, acquisition program executive at the Federal Acquisition Institute, announced big plans for updating the certification for federal procurement professionals.

OFPPAt the 2014 FOSE conference, Newhart talked about how FAI would revamp the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C), which hadn’t been updated since 2008, to include specialized training for IT procurement, among other improvements.

The week before, Lesley Field, who was OFPP’s acting administrator at the time, had issued a memo citing the importance of better aligning FAC-C with the Defense Department’s contracting certification curriculum to strengthen the development of civilian agencies’ acquisition professionals.

The new curriculum has been in place for more than a year, and efforts to improve acquisition continue to evolve.

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How to manage for results

The federal government has been moving a long time toward a more results-oriented, performance-based mission approach—developing a strategic plan, setting clear objectives, defining necessary resources, precisely assessing progress, and accurate results measurement.

NCMA logoThe goal has been establishing a clear connection between agency priorities, strategic goals, and operational plans. The Office of Management and Budget, over several administrations, has led various management initiatives while developing all manner of guidance, tools, and resources for governmental use in reaching these goals. The President’s Management Agenda is built on four pillars:

  • Effective delivery of world-class service;
  • Efficiency-enhancing productivity and cost savings;
  • Economic growth–opening data and research that spurs innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic growth; and
  • Unlocking the full potential of the federal workforce.

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Long-time in coming, OFPP reverse auction memo rings hollow

Anne Rung, OFPP administrator, has released a six-page policy memo basically reminding agencies of best practices to keep in mind when using this tool.

But the only real instruction to agencies is for them to send her office a point of contact by July 10.

“OFPP seeks to work with agencies to identify the essential management data points (e.g., price paid for item, fees paid (if any), number of bidders and level of interactive bidding) and mechanisms for collecting and aggregating information in a manner that leverages technology and avoids the need for manual collection,” Rung wrote in the memo. “For your awareness, as a further step, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will open a case to develop coverage on the use of reverse auctions in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and will address the guidance in this memorandum, as appropriate.”

How A Reverse Auction Works

The rest of the memo doesn’t necessarily address any of the long-held concerns by the Government Accountability Office, lawmakers and vendors.

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White House wants to build digital-savvy contracting corps

The Obama administration is building a special squad of digital-savvy contracting officers to help agencies procure technology more effectively.

U.S. Digital ServiceThe new team will be modeled on the U.S. Digital Service, a similar effort to get more technologists into the ranks of government but will be staffed by existing agency contracting officers who undergo specialized training, Anne Rung, the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing this week.

Agency contracting offices often write exhaustively detailed statements of work that are often hundreds of pages long — and ask the same of companies when they submit proposals, Rung said.

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White House contracting officer talks about flexible way for agencies to procure software

A White House contracting officer is working with the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide agencies with a “simple, quick and flexible” approach to get software applications developed faster through an iterative approach using top industry experts and with less administrative burden.

The contracting officer, Traci Walker, who is also a founding member of the U.S. Digital Service procurement team, talked about how she helped establish the method in which the White House could get a technology platform without locking itself into a service provider through a traditional contract. That success is leading to an effort to push this model out governmentwide.

executive office of the presidentShe talked about her experience during a May 14 “Behind the Buy” podcast interview with Anne Rung, the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP). The podcast series, which debuted in March and has had three episodes, features stories from federal contracting officers about using effective IT contracting strategies to help agencies get what they need.

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