SRA's CEO proposes 6 ways to improve government procurement

Training, education and flexibility are among the proposals for improving government procurement.

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.