For the fifth consecutive year, the federal government has spent more on the purchase of services than any other type of contract spending. And yet, the Department of Defense has made little progress in improving how they buy services, and civilian agencies have yet to even spell out a strategy.
It was appropriate that the department’s April 2013 release of its Better Buying Power (BBP) 2.0 memo included a major component titled “Improving Tradecraft in Acquisition of Services,” with six specific actions required to be taken. But while BBP 2.0 carried forward several of the initiatives for services that were included in the original BBP memo issued in September 2010, there has been little progress made by the department in reaching those original objectives.
Still, at least DOD has a plan. While the Office of Management and Budget has issued some government-wide directives requiring reductions in spending on services, the civilian agencies, which annually commit a greater percentage of their contract spending on services than does DOD, have not spelled out any comprehensive acquisition strategy focused on services.
The first step on the path to improving the tradecraft in services is to recognize that there are wide variations in the types of services government buys, and that each type requires some specialized market research and skills to acquire them. For example, there is a considerable difference between how the Department Homeland Security acquires information technology services from how the Department of Energy acquires environmental remediation and management services. Thus, at the Professional Services Council, we have been strong advocates for reexamining the taxonomy of services and focusing on the key differences in these acquisitions.
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