OFPP, USDS throw down a $360k challenge for digital services training

The U.S. Digital Service and Office of Federal Procurement Policy are putting $360,000 up for grabs for the development of a better way to train federal contracting employees to buy digital services.

USDS and OFPP released the “Digital Service Contracting Professional Training and Development Program” challenge Wednesday with the submission of ideas starting Saturday. Submissions will remain open through June 23.

“(The program) will be used to add a digital service core-plus specialization for contracting professionals under the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) Program issued by OFPP,” the notice stated on Challenge.gov. “The final results of the challenge will be provided to federal training institutions, such as the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) and Defense Acquisition University (DAU), for those institutions to implement and maintain the program. This program will be one of many initiatives to foster transformative change in the federal digital service acquisition culture.”

OFPP and USDS want the training program to focus on strategic thinking, incorporating industry best practices and could include rotational assignments, mentoring, in-classroom training and detail assignments. The notice stated that the program should take no longer than six months to complete.

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“A definition of a successful digital service buyer, novel ideas, leading-edge approaches and iterative methodologies are highly encouraged in response to this Challenge,” the notice stated.

The challenges comes as agencies are under a mandate from the Office of Management and Budget to develop digital services offices by the end of the fiscal year as well as take advantage of these skillsets to address long-standing challenges with citizen-facing services.

The White House also requested$105 million in in its fiscal 2016 budget request sent to Congress in February for digital services. At the same time it asked the Commerce, Education and Treasury departments, the General Services Administration and the Small Business Administration to pilot the concept of idea labs to create “a culture of innovation that yields results.”

As OFPP and USDS kick off the challenge, agencies were given excepted hiring authority from the Office of Personnel Management earlier this month to hire digital services and other IT experts.

But even if agencies hire the best implementers of digital services, understanding the procurement piece of any project remains one of the key ingredients to success.

That’s why OFPP and USDS hope the training program gives

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Phase I is a white paper describing their concepts for the program.

Three Phase I submissions will receive $20,000 each to move into Phase II where they will “design in more detail their proposed concept program” and present their concepts, including a one-hour mock classroom training, to a panel of federal leaders.

One winner will advance to Phase III, where they will receive $250,000 in milestone payments to develop and pilot their program for about 30 students.

The company can win an additional $50,000 in prize money for developing a program that fully meets all the objectives of the challenge.

“The pilot will be held in the Washington, D.C. area with local students,” the notice stated. “However, approaches for the proposed program that include virtual components to allow participation of students outside of the Washington, D.C. area (with some in-person sessions required) and/or self-pacing are highly encouraged, but must also demonstrate cost effectiveness.”

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