Davis: Budget forces cheaper - not always better - procurements

Tuesday - 3/29/2011, 12:32pm EDT

Former Congressman Tom Davis, director of Federal Government Affairs, Deloitte

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

As they operate on another continuing resolution, agencies are focusing on one procurement factor - price.

But just because the price is right doesn't mean the procurement is right. A fast, cheap procurement could end up costing government more money, said Tom Davis, former Virginia congressman and now the director of Federal Government Affairs at Deloitte.

"Unfortunately, right now, as government starts to cut its budget, we're seeing some moves in the wrong direction," Davis said in an interview with Off the Shelf.

Agencies must return to the question: How do we get the best value? "You don't do that by making the procurement system look like a job score," he said.

Agencies are looking for ways to trim the budget fat, and usually the easiest way is to cut contractors, Davis said. However, some of these outsourced positions are highly specialized and difficult to bring in-house, he said.

In a lot of niche and "high-technology areas," government is "not likely to get it over the short-term and they may not get it over the long-term because of some of the costs of getting key people in the government," Davis said. For that reason, Davis said he believes contractors who offer specializations will continue to have work in government.

Acquisition workforce moving in 'right direction'

Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has said the acquisition workforce is not getting enough resources to do its job. He called for more training of acquisition officers.

"There are too many situations where there is no federal employee that has oversight of what's going on, or there aren't enough federal employees so that they maintain control. That is an unbalanced, unhealthy situation," Gordon said at a government-industry forum in February.

The government's investment in the acquisition workforce is "going in the right direction," Davis said. Both political parties realize the need to build a "good, strong, engaged acquisition workforce," he added.

President Obama requested $140 million in this year's budget request for acquisition workforce development.

However, "This is not a cheap start-up," Davis said. The trend will be to spend more on acquisition, he said.

Other topics discussed:

  • How will the GSA and GSA schedules play in the current environment?
  • Will we see a re-invigoration of commercial item contracting?