Senators push to reform federal program management

A bipartisan pair of Senators have introduced legislation that aims to improve how the federal government manages projects and to cut wasteful spending on poorly managed programs.

Seal_of_the_United_States_SenateSenators Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., introduced the Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act, which would create a formal job series and career path for program managers in the federal government in order to improve how agencies manage projects.

The bill also requires that the Office of Management and Budget develop and adopt governmentwide standards, policies and guidelines for program and project management at federal agencies, as well as chair an interagency council on program management.

OMB would also conduct annual reviews of agency projects and programs to see if they were being managed correctly, including addressing issues identified as high risk by the Government Accountability Office.

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New OFPP rule: Program managers must meet acquisition certification requirements

The New Year brings new requirements for federal program and project managers.

Under new guidance issued by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) program managers now must meet all Federal Acquisition Certification (FAC) requirements.

What’s more, agency chief acquisition officers (CAOs) no longer have the option to waive the program and project certification prerequisites.  The only latitude granted by OFPP is that CAOs may extend a current certification on a case-by-case basis for up to one year.  If an extension is granted, a date by which the program or project manager must meet the new certification requirements is to be set.

The new requirements become effective on March 31, 2014 and are outlined in the following chart:

(click on chart to enlarge)
(click on chart to enlarge)

To maintain a FAC-P/PM, certified professionals are required to earn 80 CLPs of skills currency every two years. The two-year anniversary is set by the date the individual is certified.

“The revised program is designed to strengthen civilian agency P/PMs to improve program outcomes, and reflects the need to improve the management of high-risk, high-impact programs,” stated OFPP director Joe Jordan in the Dec. 16, 2013 guidance entitled Revisions to the Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM).  “Having skilled, competent, and professional program and project managers (P/PMs) is essential to the success of critical agency missions. P/PMs ensure that requirements are appropriately written, performance standards are established, and contractors deliver what they promise. P/PMs develop requirements, lead integrated project teams (IPTs), and oversee budgeting and governance processes, all of which are critical to ensuring that agency mission needs are filled and expected outcomes achieved.”

While a specific curriculum is not articulated by OFPP, the new guidance recommends “an instructional approach best suited to deliver the learning outcomes that align to the competencies.”   FAC-P/PM core-plus professionals now are required to earn 80 CLPs of skills currency every two years. Maintenance of CLPs is shared between the core-plus area and the core FAC-P/PM continuous learning requirement. At least 20 of the 80 CLPs required must be dedicated to continuous learning in topics associated with the core-plus area. If an individual fails to obtain the 80 CLP requirement, the core FAC-P/PM and core-plus specialization will simultaneously lapse. To regain certification status after a certification has lapsed, the 80 CLP requirement must be completed within the two year period, including the requirement for 20 of the 80 CLPs dedicated to continuous learning in topics associated with the core-plus area.

For a copy of the OFPP’s Dec. 16, 2013 guidance, click here.   


Former DoD undersecretary says acquisition reform is one of four budget-cutting strategies

The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 5, 2013 published an op-ed piece outlining a four-point strategy to cut the Defense Department’s budget.  Acquisition reform was prominenetly featured in the op-ed which was authored by Michele Flournoy, a Defense Department undersecretary from 2009 until last year.   Flournoy had been mentioned as a candidate for DoD Secretary until the Administration nominated Chuck Hagel.

Flournoy cites unnecessary overhead in DoD, offering the Defense Secretary’s office itself as an example.  From the mid-1990’s until now, staff within that unit has grown from 600 to nearly 1,000.

She also recommends that military health care spending be cut.  She advocates asking retirees who are now privately employed to obtain insurance through their employers.

Flournoy also believes that reactivation of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission could continued to drive down excess infrastructure costs.

Last but not least, Flournoy highlights the potential benefits of acquisition reform in several areas. “DoD is still operating with procurement timelines unresponsive to need, perverse incentives for program managers, inadequate numbers of trained acquisition professionals, and insufficient dialog with industry,” she writes.

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Defense acquisition not just realm of program managers

Large defense programs claim any number of stakeholders, including the services’ program managers and their counterparts in the defense industry.

But other key players — such as congressional staff and lobbyists — also have some skin in the game.

Understanding their role in the defense acquisition process was the focus of a special forum hosted by the Defense Acquisition University Alumni Association last week.

Bill Bahnmaier, the president of the association, told In Depth with Francis Rose the way the roles interrelate is often obscured because there’s rarely a “direct link” between them.

The program manager for a particular acquisition program usually deals with the vendor through its respective program manager — not the company’s lobbyists.

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Meet the new GSA administrator

In the aftermath of the announcement that General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson had resigned Monday, GSA confirmed she would be replaced by Daniel M. Tangherlini as acting administrator, currently the assistant secretary of the Treasury for management and the department’s chief financial officer.

Tangherlini has been with the Obama administration since July 2009, when he was confirmed by the Senate. According to his official bio, in that role, he is the primary policy adviser on the development and execution of budget and performance plans for the department.

Prior to his service at Treasury, Tangherlini was city administrator and deputy mayor of the District of Columbia during the administration of Mayor Adrian Fenty. During Tangherlini’s tenure, Mike DeBonis of the Washington City Paper wrote, “his team of young bright-eyed analysts, armed with spreadsheets, budget books, and CapStats, pushed agencies to fulfill Fenty’s do-it-now style of governance.”

“Optimism without data is really just an emotion,” DeBonis quoted Tangherlini as saying.

Tangherlini also has previous federal experience. He has worked in the policy office of the Transportation Department and spent six years in the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration, serving in several different roles. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public policy from the University of Chicago and a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Here’s video of Tangherlini participating in a panel discussion on the subject of creating a performance culture at federal agencies during Government Executive‘s Excellence in Government conference last year (registration required).

Last year, the IBM Center for the Business of Government interviewed Tagherlini on his approach to leadership and management.

The news of Tangherlini’s appointment was first reported by The Washington Post.

— by Tom Shoop, Government Executive, Apr. 2, 2012 at