SRA's CEO proposes 6 ways to improve government procurement

Long-term solutions needed to fix contracting

Editor’s Note: This is adapted from a comment on a blog posting about contract protests.

The dialogue on contract bid protests is one that I am keenly interested in and have been actively participating in for some time.

Although the rules governing protests are reasonably clear, I believe the current bid protest process has limitations and inefficiencies.

It is expensive; it results in delays in fielding needed capability in the federal government; and it limits discretion of government acquisition executives.

You have already noted the uptick in protests during the past two years. There is not a simple solution to these problems, but I do offer some suggestions for federal government procurement process improvement.

  • Make the procurement system more agile and flexible. It makes no sense to buy information technology capabilities in the same fashion that we buy nuclear submarines.
  • Give government acquisition executives more discretion in reaching conclusions. Protesters should not be able to force the game to restart if they don't like the umpire’s call in the 8th inning.
  • Levy consequences for protests that are without merit or where the protesting company has a track record of filing protests that exceed some norm.
  • Increase the number of contracting officers, with a commitment to train and retain that talent.
  • Broaden the federal pay-for-performance system and hold acquisition executives accountable for the quality of their decision-making.
  • Establish a Public Service Academy to train our future government leaders and workers.

With the military service academies, successful precedents already exist for a Public Service Academy.

Why do we feel that we can invest in four armed forces service academies to develop leadership for an employment base of about 1.4 million, but we do not have a comparable investment for the nation’s largest employer with a 1.8 million-member-plus federal civilian workforce?

We need to provide the necessary training and development for our future civil government leaders and then institutionalize a meritocratic employment model.

Reader Comments

Wed, Dec 30, 2009 O2B XFED

Having a Public Service Academy similar to the military ones is an excellent idea. After almost 40 years as a federal contracting officer and manager I can't even begin to count those that I worked with that were promoted into management because they had good teachnical contracting skills with little or no knowledge of what there management skills were or could become.

Wed, Dec 30, 2009

Being somewhat of an expert in contracting, the system has become way too complicated and it changes everyday. You are never, I repeat never going to please all parties involved all the time. Government procurement people have a requirement to support it's customers with quality products at the right price and at the right time, everytime. But it has become more and more difficult cutting through all the red tape with regulations, apprroval levels, protest screens, special interest groups (set asides), funding limitations and still get supplies & services delivered timely to our goverment agencies whose job it is to protect our citizens. That's why there are so many vacancies in procurement. You can hire the best and brightest but if you can't keep them, you'll never fix the problem. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) and let the lawyers handle the protests.

Mon, Dec 21, 2009

These is an extremely simplistic 'wish list' more than a set of recommendations, all of which have been posited before by various government officials/committees. Protests have increased because the procurements are often flawed - don't overlook the increase as logical cause and effect.

Mon, Dec 21, 2009 M Reston, VA

If your solution to 21st Century problems is to massively augment your workforce (a 19th Century solution), you should probably retire. I doubt solutions to government probelme will be coming from CEO-level employees of contractors. This adds to my doubt.

Mon, Dec 21, 2009 Small Business Subcontractor

I like the idea of results-oriented acquisition. Accountability based on prior performance, and so on. As a small-business subcontractor working with large primes we have often been mistreated by the large primes or have seen instance after instance where the large primes have not met stated goals and had no intentions of doing so. These types of things should have real, tangible consequences, and don't.

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