The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is setting higher expectations for the training and tracking of federal acquisition professionals.
In a new memo issued Sept. 3 to agency chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives, OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan said civilian agency contracting officers, contracting officer representatives and program and project managers must use the Federal Acquisition Institute Training Application System (FAITAS) as a central repository of all certification and training information.
Jordan said the Federal Acquisition Institute will lead this effort, which will help “reduce duplication of workforce management information systems, and leverage scarce training resources across agencies.”
The memo sets a series of deadlines for agencies, including requiring each CFO Act agency to input workforce data into FAITAS by Jan. 1.
A second deadline is by April 1, agencies must use the portal to apply Federal Acquisition Certifications (FACs) and maintain their credentials by using the FAITAS continuous learning module to track learning points by June 1.
The acquisition workforce must begin using FAITAS as their training registration systems for all agency-provided training by Oct. 1, 2014.
“FAI continues to add new functionality to FAITAS to maximize its utility as an integrated and robust tool supporting the training and development of the acquisition workforce,” Jordan wrote. “For example, by using the mass email functionality, agencies can email targeted FAITAS users (i.e., level II CORs, or senior-level P/PMs) to distribute information, such as training opportunities and policy updates. Additionally, agencies can populate their ‘agency resource page’ with agency specific data, forms and links, making that information readily available to their workforce.”
New training modules on the way
FAI is planning six new features over the next year, including a contracting officer warrant tracking module, and a way for acquisition workers to obtain specialized certifications such as core-plus.
This memo follows several over the last five years to improve the quality of the acquisition workforce.
In Sept. 2011, OFPP issued new certification requirements for contracting officer representatives (COR). It also issued guidance to create specialized IT acquisition cadres in July 2011, and in February 2011 released guidance on attracting quality acquisition workers.
Jordan, in a recent interview on In Depth with Francis Rose, said the acquisition workforce is improving across the government.
“The good news is we’ve had a number of structural improvements. In fact, in my office itself, we created an associate administrator for acquisition workforce development. Joanie Newhart fills that role and fills it incredibly well. That’s been helpful to have a senior level person within OFPP focused almost exclusively on our workforce,” Jordan said in the interview. “We’ve formalized our relationship with GSA and the management of the Federal Acquisition Institute, the training body for most of our civilian contracting folks. We are really working closely with the FAI team and the Defense Acquisition University team to look at both the content of the courses and the delivery mechanisms.”
He added that while travel and training budgets have been reduced, or in many cases cut, FAI and DAU have provided innovative approaches to continuous learning through online courses.
New oversight boards
Jordan said the training is focusing on outcomes, such as whether agencies are driving costs down or using more innovative procurement methods, and not just outputs.
“All of those types of things that would show us that more importantly than following the exact module they have just been trained on, they are putting everything together in a strategic way and getting their agency what they need,” he said. “We are seeing improved outcomes.”
OFPP and the General Services Administration, which runs FAI, recently set up a new governance process for the institute.
Jordan said in the memo that a new Change Advisory Board (CAB) will evaluate FAITAS’s capabilities and recommend updates to ensure FAI is meeting customer agency needs.
OFPP also has told FAI to establish a Federal Acquisition Council on Training (FACT) to be a governmentwide forum focusing on increasing efficiencies in acquisition workforce training.
Make commercially available acquisition training available to a wider audience;
Promulgate course development standards providing a “plug and play” capability for agency-specific material;
Increase awareness of and collaboration between agencies working on similar curricula development efforts;
Identify agencies to take lead roles in the development of common curricula for use by all agencies, and, as appropriate, potentially funding the development of this shared curricula.
“In the next round of AcqStats, scheduled to be held later this year, agencies will be asked to share data indicating their progress utilizing FAITAS and supporting the FACT,” Jordan wrote. “Moving forward, these initiatives should also be included in agencies’ Acquisition Human Capital Plans, as directed by OFPP.”
OFPP directed agencies in 2009 to create acquisition workforce development strategic plans that would assess their needs and develop a strategy to fill key capabilities between 2010 and 2014.
Jordan said in the interview that he’s trying to use training to get acquisition workers to be more innovative.
“Our push is around getting a culture and mindset shift for contracting officers to take smart risks to try an entrepreneurial or innovative approach,” Jordan said. ” This is something I’ve been going around and talking quite a bit with our workforce because I want to provide them the top cover to do what’s best, not what’s least risky. Sometimes they are the same, but frequently they are not the exact same.”