Procurement officers need better training, survey says

Many government acquisition officers are not taking full advantage of procurement reforms that began in the 1990s. Acquisition officers want to use the reforms, but lack the skills and training to do so, according to a new survey by the Professional Services Council.

The number of acquisition officers isn't the problem, said Stan Soloway, president of PSC, a trade group that represents contractors providing services to the government. "It's more the right people and the skill sets and the training," he said.

Training has long been a problem, because it's one of the first areas that gets trimmed when budgets get crunched, he said. The Services Acquisition Reform Act set up a training fund that cannot be cut, but "it isn't enough," Soloway said.

The survey consisted of 90-minute interviews with 36 acquisition officials in nearly every major government agency. The accounting firm Grant Thornton helped to conduct the survey. PSC did a similar survey two years ago and plans to conduct them every two years, Soloway said.

Lack of training and money was raised two years ago, and the 2004 survey shows it is a persistent problem, he said. The 2004 survey also revealed new issues to watch, Soloway said, particularly the politicalization of acquisition.

The acquisition officials were not sure whether the process itself was becoming more political or whether the election year just made them more aware of the political implications of their decisions, Soloway said.

If the process is becoming more political, he worries that acquisition officials will become more conservative and less likely to take risks or try new procurement procedures.

With the attention that Halliburton has received in Iraq and the Boeing tanker scandal, acquisition officers are much more aware of ethics, Soloway said.

"There is no sense of an increase in ethics violations, but there is much more awareness that their actions are under a microscope," he said.

The complete survey is available at

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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