OFPP: Hiring needed ahead of 'tsunami of buying'

Friday - 7/16/2010, 7:17am EDT

By Rachel Stevens
Federal News Radio

The Defense Department and civilian agencies alike are speaking out in favor of increased dedication to the hiring and training of acquisition personnel.

This comes as a part of the Obama administration's goals to cut spending, particularly within the government's contracting budgets.

Daniel Gordon, Federal Procurement Administrator for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), calls this an important goal to "cope with the tsunami of buying" that the government undertakes. Gordon testified yesterday before the Senate Budget Committee.

Obama has requested that congress appropriate $158 million for hiring and training specialists to oversee civilian contracts in fiscal 2011, Gordon says. He urged the lawmakers to favor this measure at a Task Force on Government Performance hearing in the Senate Budget committee.

Gordon also says agencies are already moving in the right direction. He says that, although they have been modest, there have been new hires in the acquisition field.

Fixed-price contracts, conducting bidding through online reverse auctions, and purchasing in pools are a few examples of agencies' attempts to trim the fat from their contracting budgets, Gordon says.

He calls this proof that the agencies are "finally leveraging the purchasing power the government should have as the world's largest buyer."

Shay Assad, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition in the Defense Department, told the committee his agency is also making progress. He says Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently issued a memo instructing DoD to cut costs in its potentially $400 billion contracting budget.

This means being smarter about the way DoD contracts, Assad says. "We need to examine not only what we are acquiring, but also how we are acquiring."

He says his department is already working to expand competition in its bidding process as much as possible. Creating contracts "reflective of outcomes, instead of process" is another goal.

Like Gordon, Assad says strengthening the staff dedicated to contract oversight is crucial. He says Defense wants to grow this workforce by about 20,000 over the next five years.

Assad says DoD has already made 4,600 new hires in these roles.

"We're well on our way," Assad says.

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Rachel Stevens is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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