The head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy said at a forum last week strengthening the acquisition workforce is the No. 1 priority in federal procurement.
Dan Gordon, administrator of OFPP, said while the feds have put stock in their campaign to increase communication between federal contracting officials and the companies they do business with, the government must also be willing to build up its own procurement workforce, which has remained stagnant.
Gordon said the lack of attention paid contracting workers, even as overall federal contracting spending has skyrocketed over the past dozen years, has caused problems.
“Putting that tsunami of spending onto an acquisition workforce that had shrunk and wasn’t getting the investment and training was a recipe for problems, and we’ve had a good number of problems,” he said, according to a Federal News Radio report.
Another issue is the lack of internal communication, he added.
“We have our IT shops that are often focused on sophisticated IT solutions,” Gordon said, as an example. “We have the program shops – the people who actually need what the contract is for – who may not be explaining to the IT people what they need properly. We have a contract shop that doesn’t define requirements.”
Above all, Gordon said the government’s efforts to strengthen its acquisition workforce represent attempting to strike the right balance between contractor autonomy and government oversight.
“Of course we need contractors, but contractors support us in the federal government, which means that we have to be in charge,” Gordon said. “There are too many situations where there is no federal employee that has oversight of what’s going on, or there aren’t enough federal employees so that they maintain control. That is an unbalanced, unhealthy situation.”