Acquisition training could go commercial

Davis calls for exchange program with private sector

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) wants the federal government to spend more money on training procurement officials, and suggests the creation of an exchange program in which industry officials help train government employees.

'My philosophy on government procurement is a very simple one: I think we need to spend more on good procurement officers and contracting officers'the people that are operating at the top lines of negotiating and overseeing contracts,' Davis said. 'Good procurement officers are worth their weight in gold,' he said.

Davis, chairman of the Government Reform Committee, prefaced his remarks by citing findings from an investigation of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina that was released in February. He chaired the House Select Committee that found that the federal government's ineffective response to the hurricane was due to failures in preparedness and response at the federal, state and local government levels, as well as technology failures.

'Things were at a standstill until the Coast Guard and the military came in ... because the military was mission-oriented,' while everyone else waited to act to ensure that they adhered to contract rules and regulations, Davis said during a luncheon sponsored by the Industry Advisory Committee last month.

They were fearful of being questioned by government officials if they took action or that they would have to answer to some congressional committee, he added.

'When people think about Katrina, they think about the government's inability to act in ways that challenges all of us to try to bring some of those principles that we get in competitive process in the private sector,' he said.

Davis called for an exchange program where private-sector contractors come into the government sector to 'help both sides learn from each other.'

'We've got to understand that in government, our greatest asset is also our people, and when we get good people, we need to constantly retrain [them],' Davis said.

This is not the first time Davis has called for such an exchange program. In the E-Government Act of 2002, he penned a provision to create an IT Exchange Program, which the Office of Personnel Management put into effect. Under the program, which OPM launched in December, the government and the private sector share best practices and, potentially, employees, enabling both to gain a better understanding of each other's needs.

ITEP allows certain IT employees from both the private and public sectors to receive temporary assignments of three months to one year in the opposite sector.

Federal workers must have at least a GS-11 rank and participating agencies must make semiannual reports to OPM detailing the number of employees taking part in the program, their names and a brief description of their assignments.
The program expires Dec. 17, 2007.

Thus far, the departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI and OPM are participating in the program, and each has posted data on OPM's USAJobs Web site.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy in February issued acquisition worker certification guidelines, giving agencies a standard to work toward.

Roseanne Gerin is a staff writer for Government Computer News' sister publication, Washington Technology.

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