AcqStat sessions give broader view of challenges

Wednesday - 11/3/2010, 7:03am EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

First technology officials went through TechStat sessions to fix troubled IT projects. Now, it's the acquisition folks turn.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is holding AcqStat sessions with the 24 largest agencies to review progress in meeting the administration's three goals: reduce the use of high risk contracts, improve contract management and rebalance the federal employee and contractor relationship.

"What kinds of things or strategies did your agency decide works best for them? Where are the areas we can export to other agencies?" said Lesley Field, OFPP deputy administrator, Tuesday at the Coalition for Government Procurement conference in McLean, Va. "This is critical because it helps us understand where folks are having success and perhaps were they're not. It gives us a change to tailor some of our policies. I think these have been very productive meetings."

Field said OFPP first met with mid-and senior-level agency officials, including the senior procurement executive to get a sense of where the agency was in meeting the administration's goals earlier this year. Later in November, OFPP, led by administrator Dan Gordon, will meet with more senior officials including the Chief Procurement Officer.

"We get a broad brush of how the acquisition function in that agency is working, and where they are having good success and maybe where they may need some policy guidance from us," Field said. "They have been very good dialogues, very interesting and very productive."

She said the goal is for agencies to have a good conversation with OFPP about specific challenges, and then those issues can be raised to higher levels as needed.

That is the one big difference with the TechStat sessions run by federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra. While TechStat focuses on a specific project, AcqStat focuses on broad issues that every agency faces such as reducing high risk contracts.

Among the administration's top acquisition priorities is improving contract management. Field said that means training and educating the acquisition workforce as well as redefining their roles.

The Federal Acquisition Institute and OFPP have formed Contracting Functional Advisory Boards (ConFABs) to work on recommendations for new requirements for contracting officer's technical representatives (COTRs).

Field said COTRs play an important role in the development of contracts and post award.

"We are just starting to look at the ConFABS recommendations to see how we can strengthen the certifications requirements," she said. "We want to make sure they have the right information about acquisition and they understand the language enough so we are all speaking the same language."

Field added that FAI will implement ConFABs for project and program management, and contracting officers in the coming months.

Along those same lines, OFPP has re-started Frontline Forums. Field said the forums bring together administration officials with agency contracting officers who work in the field to discuss specific policy issues.

"We try to be fairly targeted about the questions," she said. "You can have lots of good best practices discussions and it's important, but I think coming out with specific questions ahead of time gives them a chance to think about, if you were going to do two things in an area, what would it look like? What would be the affect on your time, resources and strategy? If you ask more targeted questions, I think you have a more productive discussion."

The Frontline Forum meets quarterly to provide "clear opinions" to Gordon and others at OFPP, Field said.

While the ConFABs and forums will have a short term impact on the acquisition community, Field said OFPP is working on two proposed rules to increase competition over the longer term.

She said OFPP soon will issue new guidance and a proposed rule from the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council to help agencies better use multiple award contracts. Field could not say whether it would be in a matter of weeks or months.

Gordon has said in the past that OFPP will require agencies to develop business cases for certain types of MACs and proposals may have to go through a review board.

"I think what we found when we did the analysis of the agency information and how many MACs were out there and the degree of proliferation, I think we were more heartened than disheartened," she said. "We found there was less duplication that we originally thought. Agencies put in some pretty strong management practices. Obviously, we need to strengthen them."

Field also said a final rule is on the way to implement the Rule of Three for schedule contracts. Congress mandated the Defense Department obtain at least three bids per solicitation off the GSA schedule. The FAR rule would expand that to all agencies.

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