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Government Hiring to Increase From New Rules

Government Hiring to Increase From New Rules

OMB Director Peter Orszag believes that reform of the government contracting process will save the government $40 billion a year.

Robert Brodsky | Government Executive Magazine

October 28, 2009

Civilian agencies should increase their acquisition workforce by at least 5 percent by 2014, according to a memo the Office of Management and Budget released on Tuesday. In a second memo, OMB sought to limit the use of noncompetitive and higher-risk types of contracts.

“These steps are essential to achieving the president’s goal of $40 billion in annual savings through contracting reform,” said OMB Director Peter R. Orszag. “Without action, we will see more contracts that are over budget, delayed or otherwise failing to live up to performance objectives.”

The strategic workforce memo noted the size and capability of the government’s acquisition staff has not kept up with a steep increase in procurement spending. OMB calls for a 5 percent uptick in civilian agencies’ acquisition workforce “except in unusual circumstances where analysis shows it not to be required.”

According to the Federal Acquisition Institute’s 2008 annual report, nearly 10,000 contracting specialists and tens of thousands in acquisition-related fields, such as program and project managers and contracting officer technical representatives, awarded $138 billion in contracts at civilian agencies in fiscal 2008.

And while the rate of spending at civilian agencies has increased 56 percent since 2008 — based on inflation-adjusted dollars — the size of the acquisition workforce has grown at a much slower rate, OMB’s memo said.

“This lack of capacity requires the workforce to make trade-offs during the acquisition life cycle that may reduce the chance of successful acquisition outcomes,” wrote Lesley Field, deputy administrator at OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy. “For example, with little time to plan, requirements may be less defined, which promotes the use of cost-type contracts.”

Facing a lack of personnel, some agencies have resorted to outsourcing many of the acquisition workforce’s traditional duties, further diminishing the government’s core procurement capabilities, Field said. If left unaddressed, she said, the problem will only get worse. Slightly more than half the acquisition workforce will be eligible to retire by fiscal 2018.

“We need more well-trained, well-qualified professionals in the federal agencies for effective planning, oversight and contract management,” said OMB Deputy Director for Management Jeffrey Zients.

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