Acquisition workforce showing signs of change

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The acquisition workforce has long been the victim and scapegoat for all that is wrong with federal procurement.

Dan Gordon, however, said that is starting to change. The administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy said agency contracting officers, program managers and others are starting to show signs of morale and process improvements.

“The idea we now have a network of a group, which calls themselves rising acquisition professionals-they did this on their own, I didn’t go out there and tell them to do it-a governmentwide informal network of relatively junior acquisition professionals,” Gordon said in a recent exclusive interview with Federal News Radio in his office in Washington. “People proud to be in this business and happy to be doing public service. That morale component is a very important one.”

Gordon said new leadership at the Defense Acquisition University and the Federal Acquisition Institute as well as the efforts by the Veterans Affairs Department’s Acquisition Academy are helping to lead this transformation.

Additionally, the Office of Management and Budget has focused on specific areas of the acquisition workforce that needs to be addressed. One is program managers for IT projects. Federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra made creating a career path for IT program and project managers one of the goals of the 25-point plan.

And the Office of Personnel Management late last week met that goal by publishing the Competency Model for IT Program Management.

“The competencies identified through the study will be used to develop an IT program management career path,” wrote OPM Director John Berry in a memo to agency Chief Human Capital Officers. “We included IT project managers in the competency study to assist with the career path effort.”

OPM developed the model based on the results of their January 2011 survey to identify critical skills and abilities for IT program and project management.

The model details IT program and IT project general and technical competencies by grade level starting with GS-13. It also ranks the skills the survey showed are most important for each position, and defines each competency.

“The competencies identified may be used in such agency efforts as workforce planning, training and development, performance management, recruitment and selection,” Berry wrote. “When used for selection, the competencies must be used in conjunction with the appropriate qualification standard.”

This is the second major change for IT program managers. In May, OPM made IT program management part of the 2210 job series.

Gordon said training is an important part of acquisition reform.

He said OFPP will ensure there is training ready before the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issues new rules.

“We can’t have the situation where there is a new FAR rule and there is no training on it,” he said. “I sense a real change when I’m out at the agencies-and I’m out at the agencies a lot-there is a renewed commitment to their work, a renewed belief in their work and their ability to make a difference in improving contracting and saving taxpayer’s funds.”

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