OPM, GSA combine forces for new take on training contract

Tuesday - 4/29/2014, 3:55am EDT

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The Office of Personnel Management is teaming up with the General Services Administration to re-imagine its multi-billion dollar training contract.

OPM and GSA signed an agreement Monday agreeing to use each of the individual agency's expertise to develop the new contract.

Under the memorandum of understanding, GSA will take over all facets of the acquisition part of the training and management assistance (TMA) contract from OPM. Meanwhile, the personnel agency will continue to run the services part, working with customer agencies to find the best fit for the human resources solutions they need.

"Being in a position to partner with your agency, to come up with a strategically sourced initiative, is really going to allow us to focus less on the acquisition activity and more on the program activity," said Dan Tangherlini, the administrator of GSA, at a press conference in Washington. "The contract is just the table stakes. The real work happens when agencies can work closely with a department like yours and really focus in on the important work of making sure we can get federal employees the training, the support, and that agencies can get the human resources support they need to meet the needs of the 21st century."

Tangherlini added the end goal is to let agencies procure acquisition more efficiently and at a lower price.

Valuable contract to all

Katherine Archuleta, the OPM director, said the partnership with GSA developed when she and Tangherlini met during her first few weeks on the job, and began to figure out where they can work together to take advantage of both their agencies' skillsets.

"I think the ultimate objective is to make certain that we build a contract that organizations will use and they see a value proposition, and that value proposition is the acquisition capability of GSA and the knowledge of OPM," said Joseph Kennedy, the associate director of OPM's HR Solutions office. "You'll have an environment where agencies will say, 'This is the place to come and get these services.' They will be monitored in a way that you can be certain to get the economies of scale and the services from these organizations. Clearly, there always will be some flexibility for agencies to do something. But if we built it right and if we create it right, the agencies will want to come and utilize the vehicle, and that's what we want to do."

Kennedy added that value proposition only happens because of the skills both organizations bring to the table.

This new partnership will replace OPM's first attempt to recompete the TMA contract, called the Customized Human Resources Solutions Services (CHRS).

OPM faced 11 protests over the course of May to July 2013 before the Government Accountability Office dismissed them because the agency took corrective action and let the bidders back into the mix. OPM eventually canceled the CHRS contract in February after sitting on vendors' bids for 15 months.

GSA said it hadn't decided yet on the acquisition strategy but will be developing it over the next few weeks.

The TMA contract could be worth as much as $5 billion over the life of the contract. The existing TMA contract has been popular with both industry and agency customers, with agencies spending more than $700 million under the contract in 2010 and more than $600 million in 2011, according to Bloomberg Government data.

New ways of thinking about training

Archuleta said there were several reasons for the change in approach.

"As we looked at the existing TMA contract, what we learned is we need to think about things differently," she said. "It's a different time right now. We are looking at reduced services. We are wanting to get economies of scale. We're wanting to target our resources here at OPM and saw a perfect partnership with GSA to do this. As we reflected on that contract, we decided that we would move forward in a new way that considered all of these points."

Archuleta said the new partnership with GSA and structure lets OPM respond to agency needs in the best, most efficient way possible.

GSA and OPM said they want to have this contract in place by Oct. 1.

Tangherlini said despite not having the acquisition strategy in place yet, he is certain the new TMA strategy will address potential contract duplication.

GSA currentlt runs an HR solutions schedule, 738 X, which includes a host of services such as training, recruiting and analysis.

"This is actually a movement against that direction. In fact, this is the great part of this partnership. It's kind of recognizing what positions on the field that we play," Tangherlini said. "These guys are the experts in personnel issues and in HR issues. We want to be the experts in acquisition, systems and processes. By marrying the two areas of expertise up, you will get a better contract that actually delivers better outcomes."

GSA Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner Tom Sharpe said the final strategy may include the schedules and/or another approach. He says limiting duplication is why GSA is handling the acquisition aspects.

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