Acquisition workforce certification guidelines under final review

The Chief Acquisition Officers Council is reviewing for final approval acquisition workforce certification guidelines for all civilian agencies.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has asked the council to approve its draft policy that details the education, training and experience required to be considered an acquisition expert. The council will comment on the draft policy by next Friday.

'We are standardizing this governmentwide for the first time,' said Robert Burton, OFPP associate administrator, who also is managing the office. 'We are following the Defense Department's model for the most part. We are differing with the education requirement to be a level 1 or level 2 contracting officer, however.'

OFPP would release the policy early next year for all feds who fit under the General Schedule-1102 job series, Burton said earlier this week during a panel discussion on acquisition issues sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council and the American Council for Technology in Falls Church, Va.

'This will allow for horizontal mobility across government, and it will make acquisition more attractive to people as a career,' Burton added.

The problem agencies are facing is a dearth of qualified acquisition professionals, said David Drabkin, the General Services Administration's deputy chief acquisition officer.

Drabkin said that since 1991, the number of contracting officers fell from 37,000 to 28,000, while spending more than doubled from $150 billion to $350 billion.

'We lack a succession plan for the acquisition workforce,' he said. 'We have to have enough people to send to training, but still do the work.'

GSA has measured the core competencies for all their contracting officers and determined their skill gaps.

'We are not just talking about the Federal Acquisition Regulations, but managerial issues, communication skills and dispute resolution skills,' he said.

Drabkin added that the plan is to close those gaps and assign the contracting officers to work they are qualified to do.

Gloria Sochon, the director of the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), said the organization recently issued a request for quotations to buy contracting core classes from the private sector.

'We are aligning our courses with the Defense Acquisition University,' she said. 'We are trying to train contracting officers to be strategic business partners and support the agency mission.'

She added that FAI would launch contractor certification courses in January 2006, paying for the courses through the congressionally provided Acquisition Training Fund.

OFPP's Burton added that more training also is needed on how to properly use performance-based contracting. He said he didn't think agencies would make the administration's goal of 40 percent of all contracts using this methodology.

'I have not seen the data yet, but from what I'm hearing, it doesn't look good,' he said. 'We are looking at performance-based contracting internally within OFPP and deciding whether the goal needs to be adjusted.'

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