Agencies halt decline of acquisition workers

Agencies are starting to have success in increasing the number of contracting officers, known under the General Schedule code as 1102s, to offset impending retirements.

In fiscal 2005, agencies hired 653 more 1102s than retired, according to the Federal Acquisition Institute.

This is a sharp change in direction for the acquisition workforce'the number of contracting officers had been declining, falling from 37,000 to 28,000 between 1991 and 2005, while federal procurement spending more than doubled from $150 billion to $350 billion, according to GSA officials.

The latest increase is the largest since 2002, when hires exceeded losses by 686. In 2003, contracting officer hires fell behind losses by 445; in 2004, hires exceeded losses by only 87.

FAI, which the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act established under the General Services Administration, issued its annual report showing trends in the acquisition workforce based on the General Schedule number 1102. Besides 1102s, FAI looked at six other GS-series, including general business and industry (1101), property disposal (1104), purchasing (1105), procurement clerical and assistance (1106), industrial specialists (1150) and industry property management (1103).

FAI pulled the data for the report from the Office of Personnel Management's Central Personnel Data File.

'The report provides vital statistics on the current acquisition workforce that identifies areas FAI can complement with its other programs, such as specialty training and outreach efforts,' said Karen Pica, FAI director.

The report found that while 19 percent of 1102s retired in 2005, compared with 17 percent the year before, workers eligible for retirement dropped to 13 percent from 15 percent. Thirty-two percent of contracting officers will be eligible for retirement by 2010 and 54 percent by 2015.

Agencies also promoted more employees to the Senior Executive Service in 2005. While the number of acquisition managers increased slightly last year, from 8,103 to 8,463, the number of 1102 series managers promoted to SES increased from 68 in 2004 to 74.

The acquisition workforce is one of new OFPP administrator Paul Dennett's main focus areas.

He said during his confirmation hearing in June that he wanted to improve the education of the acquisition workforce.

OFPP has been working on this issue for a number of years. In February, the White House finalized the certification program for 1102 employees. The memo requires agencies to certify by Jan. 1 that all new contracting officers'as well as those whose contracting authorization must be renewed because the employee switched agencies or because the authorization expired'meet a minimum set of requirements.

And in 2003, Congress authorized GSA to collect up to 5 percent of all fees generated from governmentwide acquisition contracts from agencies to create an acquisition training fund.

FAI has created a series of courses to improve training for acquisition workers, including a competency career development training guide.


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