Davis: Feds should invest heavily in procurement workforce

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said today that the federal government should spend more money on training procurement officials, and suggested an exchange program where industry officials help train government-sector employees.

"My philosophy on government procurement is a very simple one: I think we need to spend more on good procurement officers and contracting officers?the people that are operating at the top lines of negotiating and overseeing contracts," Davis said. "Good procurement officers are worth their weight in gold," he said.

Davis, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, delivered the keynote speech at an executive luncheon in Washington hosted by the American Council for technology and the Industry Advisory Council.

Davis prefaced his remarks by citing findings from an investigation of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina that was released in February. He chaired the House Select Committee that found that the federal government's ineffective response to the hurricane was due to failures in preparedness and response at the federal, state and local government levels, as well as technology failures.

"Things were at a standstill until the Coast Guard and the military came in ? because the military was mission-oriented," while everyone else waited to act to ensure that they adhered to contract rules and regulations, Davis said. They were fearful of being questioned by government officials if they took action or that they would have to answer to some congressional committee, he added.

"When people think about Katrina, they think about the government's inability to act in ways that challenges all of us to try to bring some of those principles that we get in competitive process in the private sector," he said.

Davis called for an exchange program where private-sector contractors come into the government sector to "help both sides learn from each other."

"We've got to understand that in government our greatest asset is also our people, and when we get good people we need to constantly retrain [them]," Davis said.

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