Bundling: Naughty or nice

Tuesday - 6/12/2012, 2:00am EDT

If the term "contract bundling" turns you on, welcome to a fast-growing club.

Does your heart go pitter-patter if the person across the table or at the other end of your tweet, says things like "cooperative purchasing" and wins you over with the promise of "second generation domestic delivery". Welcome to the world of federal acquisition and contracting.

At a time when the government is spending more money than ever, buying everything from ink and computers to operating the world's largest civilian motor fleet, the number of people in the acquisition field in government is shrinking. According to Congress, the number of acquisition/contract experts in federal service today is around 85,000. That's down from a peak of 135,000 at a time when government purchases have increased by $200 billion. Currently just over half of the trillion dollars Uncle Sam takes in each year goes to purchase things, with $1 of every $6 agency dollars being spent on contractors.

And as government dollars get tighter thanks to congressional cutbacks, having spending watchdogs — who are on the side of the taxpayers — is more important than ever. So how important are they?

"Contract and acquisition experts are worth their weight in gold," says a recently retired federal official. He said the government buys everything — except some of its furniture needs — "from the private sector. Getting the best deal is essential." Yet he and others say there aren't enough qualified experts and watchdogs out there. Bundling of contracts saves time but maybe costs the taxpayers a bundle.

That's why you have a stake in Federal News Radio's new multimedia special report "Inside The World's Biggest Buyer." It started Monday and will run the rest of this week with new stories, data and insights on the world's biggest spender. What Uncle Sam buys and what he pays impacts your agency budget, your career and the amount of your annual April 15 contribution to the federal government. Check it out. What you learn just might save you and your agency money. And your job.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Before it moved to its location in Ft. Meade, the National Security Agency was first headquartered on the grounds of an old girls' school. NSA's predecessor, the Armed Forces Security Agency, was initially located at the Arlington Hall Junior College for Women, according to Mental Floss.


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