Civilian, military procurement staffs to march in step

'We see no reason to duplicate the things the Defense Acquisition University has done in this arena when all we have to do is modify a few of their courses,' OFPP's Robert Burton says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Training programs will apply common goals

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is considering setting standards for workforce competency for all civilian acquisition agencies.

Acting OFPP administrator Robert Burton said the standards would mirror the Defense Department's criteria for acquisition personnel.

To establish adequate training programs, the Federal Acquisition Institute over the next year will work closely with its DOD counterpart, the Defense Acquisition University.

'We want to leverage DAU's resources to assist the entire acquisition workforce,' Burton said. 'We see no reason to duplicate the things DAU has done in this arena, when all we have to do is modify a few of their courses.'

The training effort responds to mandates in the Services Acquisition Reform Act. The 2003 law created a centralized civilian acquisition workforce-training fund, which Burton estimated would be between $4 million and $7 million in fiscal 2005. SARA requires that OFPP improve the skills of civilian contracting workers.

The government's increased use of complex buys, especially in the area of IT services, demands better training, said Drew Crockett, spokesman for the House Government Reform Committee. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), committee chairman, sponsored the legislation.

'Training is the best way to transform the workforce so it can meet these challenges,' Crockett said.

OFPP is considering a certification program for acquisition professionals. The Defense Department uses a comparable approach.

As required by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 1991, DOD created a three-level certification program for acquisition personnel that requires specified training and experience for each position.

The FAI board of directors gave preliminary approval to adopt the Defense competencies, an OFPP staff member said.

'SARA focused us on the civilian side'that we need to improve training across government,' said Tom Luedtke, chairman of the board of directors for FAI and NASA's assistant administrator for procurement.

'Some agencies have had internal capabilities to train acquisition workers, but many didn't, and it wouldn't make sense for them to develop those capabilities,' he said. 'We need to move toward a consolidated approach now that we have this training fund.'

OFPP also is rewriting its 1997 policy letter on procurement education, training and experience. The new policy, which will incorporate the priorities outlined under SARA as well as the approaches in use at DOD, is set for release later this fall.

Administration officials and lawmakers expect better response to this effort than to earlier attempts to create a common acquisition training approach across Defense and civilian agencies.

In the late 1990s, OFPP and Defense pledged to work closely together and signed an agreement to let civilian workers take DAU courses. But the initiative never really took off, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council of Washington. At the time, Soloway was deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition reform, and he signed the agreement.

But now, Luedtke said, civilian agencies recognize that creating a standard skill set for contracting personnel will improve acquisition.

'For years there has been interaction between DAU and FAI, but we are trying to increase it,' he said. 'There are a lot of things that can be done to benefit FAI and DAU.'

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