Rung released a memo today giving agencies marching orders for how to use data to make better procurement decisions. This road map builds on existing efforts and takes on targeted new initiatives — all with the end goal of creating an improved, data-driven procurement system.
“We have a great opportunity to create a new model for federal contracting to drive greater innovation and performance, and generate savings,” Rung said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “These actions were shaped, in part, by feedback from our first national online dialogue with industry. The overwhelming feedback from industry and other key stakeholders was that the sheer complexity of the federal marketplace is hindering our ability to deliver the most innovative, high performing and cost-effective solutions.”
Rung’s plans center on three broad concepts:
Acquisition workforce talent development
Stronger vendor relationships
Each of these focus areas are interrelated as much as they are standalone concepts.
Under category management, Rung said OFPP wants to take what the General Services Administration has been working on internally over the last year and expand it governmentwide. GSA stood up three categories earlier this year and is expected to open more category hallways in the coming months.
She said the Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council (SSLC) will lead the initiative to set up categories across 10 commonly purchased goods and services.
OFPP estimates agencies spend about $277 billion a year across these 10 areas, which include IT ($47.4 billion), professional services ($64.6 billion), facilities and construction ($72.1 billion) and medical ($33.2 billion).
“These categories may be a little bit fluid over time as we dig into the data and really understand what’s in these categories, but it serves as an organizing principle to think where we are going to stand up teams, gather data and starting to share information,” Rung said. “It really is a fundamental shift in how we think about what represents over $200 billion in spend every year.”
Experts to lead category efforts
The memo states that category management includes strategic sourcing, but also strategies to “drive performance, like developing common standards in practices and contracts, driving greater transparency in acquisition performance, improving data analysis, and more frequently using private sector (as well as government) best practices.”
Rung said the SSLC will rely on GSA’s efforts, especially the Common Acquisition Platform, to run the category management initiative, but different agencies from across the government will lead the actual category management effort.
She said OFPP and the SSLC will ensure there are specialized teams running each category.
“The notion here is that each category will be led by a senior government official, recruited from government or industry who is a true expert in that category so they will understand the buying trends, what drives costs, new innovations on the horizon and emerging companies that they could bring into the federal marketplace,” Rung said. “Eventually over time, we will build teams around these categories.”
In the memo, Rung said OFPP also will update its business case guidance for new interagency and agencywide contract vehicles as part of its coordination with the SSLC.
“The revised guidance will include a requirement for category managers to review new agency business cases and advise SSLC of potential duplication or opportunities for new or expanded strategic sourcing initiatives,” the memo states.
A second piece of this road map is developing agency acquisition workers’ skills.
Over the last two years, OFPP has been updating the workforce certification program, but too many times Rung said their skillsets are a mile wide and an inch deep.
Rung said OFPP wants to create teams of acquisition experts, starting with IT.
“In a few months, we will be bringing on our first class of recruits from the agencies as detailees within the existing Digital Services team, so we are partnered up with [director] Mikey [Dickerson] and his team on this initiative,” she said. “We will put them through a soon-to-be-developed digital IT acquisition training and send half of the graduating class back to the agencies, while using the remaining graduates as part of a SWAT team in digital services. It’s important to note that these actions are not designed to substitute for an agency’s existing workforce. We recognize that many contracting officers may need expert assistance or hands-on training to deal with complex IT and other specialized requirements. This team would be one such resource for them to use.”
Rung said OFPP still is working out the details of this training program, including how many students will be in the first class and how long the program will last.
In the memo, OFPP will develop that plan within 180 days to create this program. At the same time, the Defense Department and GSA will develop training and tools for the federal workforce to build its capability to use agile approaches to technology acquisitions that facilitate continual customer testing of creative contractor ideas, and develop a joint plan to “use new and innovative approaches to workforce development training, including cross- functional training, rotational development and assignments, and effective training and education used by the private sector.”
Rung said industry and other expert feedback highlighted the need for specialized cadres of acquisition workers as well as the need for new approaches to training.
A “Yelp” for agency contracting shops
The third part of the road map focuses on vendor and agency relationships.
Within 90 days, OFPP will work with agencies and vendors to develop guidance for how successful and unsuccessful bidders will assess agency acquisition efforts.
Rung said GSA launched this effort on a specific procurement earlier this year, and DoD will kick off a second pilot in 2015.
“By targeting the feedback on specific acquisitions, we can be much more focused on the acquisition outcomes, and, in particular, how do we drive greater innovations in our acquisitions,” she said. “The idea is really to do this across all categories of acquisitions and launch this enterprise-wide. GSA’s was, I believe, on a professional services contract, and the key here is we would use standard questions for each of these surveys so over time we can start to identify where we may have weaknesses or where our strengths are so we can share best practices. By asking these standard questions, you can really start to see the trends and areas you may want to focus in on.”
Rung said her office still is working out the details, but the goal is to manage the relationships across a small number of similar vendors from a governmentwide perspective.
“We will think about a couple of different models that we will have to work through whether it’s targeted at a few companies or targeted at a specific sub- category, but we think there is great potential in really managing these relationships across the enterprise,” she said. “Think how frustrating it is for industry who may have several hundred or several thousand contracts across government, trying to manage that relationship across all of those units. It’s incredibly frustrating to them. Similarly for the federal government, if we really want to drive change, we’ve got to drive change across an enterprise so we have to have our eyes across all of these units. We think there is great promise to this. It’s been used in the United Kingdom.”
The memo states OFPP will develop a plan within 90 days to recruit that vendor manager for top IT commercial contractors.
Shrinking the FAR
OFPP is committing to hold at least one national dialogue a year for the next two years and reviewing and eliminating outdated or burdensome regulations.
The memo states within 180 days, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will identify and begin the process to remove or revise any outdated regulations.
“During this same period, agencies shall review their respective supplements to the Federal Acquisition Regulation and take steps to eliminate any outdated, ineffective, or unnecessarily burdensome requirements,” the memo states. “Agencies shall review their internal policy guidance, if any, addressing minimum corporate experience requirements and take appropriate steps to update such guidance, as necessary, to ensure they do not prevent responsible sources that otherwise have the capacity and capability to accomplish a given requirement from performing work for the government.”
Rung said a lot of this work already is underway so there is momentum in the acquisition community.
“We are piloting these ideas and really trying to test the marketplace, and tweak it, and re-tweak it and build on it over time as we develop and are more thoughtful about these great ideas,” she said.