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Stimulus workload taxes agency staffs and missions

Robert Brodsky | Government Executive Magazine

March 15, 2010

“Recovery Act funding has substantially increased the workload of most agencies receiving these funds, as agencies were expected to make additional awards as quickly as possible while adhering to regulations and procedures that would ensure a fair and competitive process,” the report said.

The workforce challenges appear dire among officials administering grants, which represent a significantly higher portion of Recovery spending than contracts. Officials told the IG that unrelated tasks are being delayed, including the performance of routine grants management, reviewing applications in discretionary grants competitions and resolving audit findings.

Members of the acquisition workforce also acknowledged delays in awarding non-Recovery Act contracts.

“Respondents indicated that acquisition delays will range from longer lead times in initiating awards and not completing projects on time, to rescheduling projects or even postponing them indefinitely,” the report said. “Additionally, several respondents reported that timely obligation of all fiscal year funds, policy development and other programmatic initiatives, along with training, might not be completed over the next year.”

Those problems could be just the beginning. Several respondents said without additional resources, their staffs will not be able to devote enough attention to processing modifications, updating contract management plans, monitoring contractor systems or tracking deliverables for their nonstimulus contracts.

Acquisition personnel also expressed concern about the increased costs of meeting Recovery Act requirements, including overtime, credit hours and compensatory time. Others noted. “The toll that prolonged extended hours can have on employees, citing burnout, and decreased morale and productivity.”

In addition, the report found gaps in the training and certification of the acquisition workforce. While nearly all contracting officers assigned to Recovery Act acquisitions are certified, only 75 percent of civilian contracting officer technical representatives/contracting officer representatives have the necessary certification. The Defense Department has not established certification standards for COTRs/CORs.

The grants workforce, meanwhile, has no governmentwide qualification or training requirements, although a handful of agency-specific requirements exist. The IG recommended agencies establish standard qualifications and training requirements, similar to those in the acquisition workforce, for the grants community.

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