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Archive for December 17th, 2009

DorobekInsider: BREAKING NEWS — Sens. Collins, McCaskill, Bennett introduce acquisition workforce bills

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UPDATED with the text of the bills…

Breaking news — Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Bob Bennett (R-UT) have just introduced two bills that seek to improve the federal acquisition workforce.

The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 2009 would create a federal acquisition management fellows program to help mention a new generation of acquisition leaders with government-wide perspective, skills and experience. Read the text of the bill here.

The second bill is the Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act of 2009 and it would prompt a reorganization allowing the Federal Acquisition Institute to help fulfill its mission. Read the text of the bill here.

Here is the full release:

The bipartisan measures stress mentoring, career development, management

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Improving the federal acquisition workforce system through training and better management is the focus of two bills that were introduced Thursday by Senators Susan Collins, R-Me., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Bob Bennett, R-Ut.

The first bill, “The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act of 2009,” would create a federal acquisition management fellows program to help mentor a new generation of acquisition leaders with government-wide perspective, skills, and experience. It would combine both a Master’s degree-level academic curriculum with on-the-job training in multiple federal agencies. By partnering with leading universities that have specialized government acquisition programs, the government can attract top-caliber students who are interested in pursuing both academic advancement and public service.

The second bill, “The Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act of 2009,” would prompt reorganization, allowing the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) to fulfill its mission of aiding career development and maximizing the potential of federal acquisition workforce.

“The federal acquisition system is under tremendous stress,” said Senator Collins. “Between fiscal years 2000 and 2008, acquisition spending by the federal government expanded by 163 percent, from $205 billion to $539 billion. The rising costs of military operations, natural disasters, homeland security precautions, and other vital programs will drive those expenditures to even higher levels in the years ahead.”

This requires professionally trained and invested acquisition personnel, who can manage these huge expenditures while also guarding against the possibility of waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. “This prodigious level of purchasing creates abundant opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse. We have seen far too many outrageous failures in government contracting, such as unusable trailers for hurricane victims, shoddy construction of schools and clinics in Afghanistan, or the installation of showers in Iraq for our troops that pose electric-shock hazards. These and other failures demand strong steps to protect taxpayer dollars and deliver better acquisition outcomes.”

Said Senator McCaskill: “With the increases we’ve seen in government contracting, it is unacceptable that our acquisition workforce is falling behind in terms of training and resources they need to effectively oversee spending. If we want to improve the way the government spends money, we need more well-trained people on the front lines so that they can better prevent waste, fraud, and abuse by writing and carrying out good contracts. This will ensure that the taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck.”

Added Senator Bennett: “Responsible federal contracting relies on careful, informed analysis by all components of the acquisition workforce. Workforce development is a pillar for strengthened acquisition practices and improved performance. Without a well trained and capable acquisition workforce, our federal contracting efforts will not improve.”

Senator Collins, a long-time advocate for stronger competition, accountability, and transparency in government contracting, said she recognizes and appreciates “the steps the Administration has taken recently to improve federal contracting. Many of these initiatives originated from legislation I co-authored with Senator Lieberman, ID-Conn., during the last Congress. But no matter how many laws we pass or OMB guidance documents are issued, the effectiveness of our federal acquisition system depends on a vital human component – the acquisition workforce.”

While contract spending has risen dramatically, the number of acquisition professionals who help plan, award, and oversee these contracts has been stagnant. And with roughly half of the current acquisition workforce eligible to retire over the next decade, the difficulties of strengthening that workforce will become increasingly acute. A well-trained and well-resourced acquisition workforce is critical to keeping pace with increased federal spending and much more complex procurements of services and goods.

The Obama Administration has identified acquisition workforce development as a pillar for improving acquisition practices and contract performance.

To make that goal a reality, the three Senators authored the two bills in order to deliver specific and concrete action to solve the problem. The Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act and the Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act are critically needed and both enjoy bipartisan support. The Senators urged their colleagues to support the measures.

Written by cdorobek

December 17, 2009 at 3:38 PM

DorobekInsider: Rumoring around the halls of GSA — playing GSA musical chairs

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There is a lot of buzz surrounding the General Services Administration, so… I’m saying this up front — this is all unconfirmed, but… it is the buzz. (That caveat allows me to say ‘as theDorobekInsider reported’ if it is true… but gives me cover if it isn’t… and things are changing so quickly.)

* The Johnson nomination: We’re hearing that the nomination of Martha Johnson to be the administrator of the General Services Administration may just be brought to a cloture vote. (For those who don’t know — I had to look it up — is the process of breaking a filibuster.) And for those who haven’t been following it as closely, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) has a hold on the Johnson nomination ostensibly about the development of a federal facility in Kansas City. But we hear that development is really just a side show for what has become a somewhat bitter political battle between Bond and friends and GSA and the administration. We hear that GSA has numbers that shows the Bond development proposal is a bad deal for the government. I haven’t been able to get my hands on that information. But I also hear that GSA has acted somewhat unartfully in its dealings with Bond. Regardless, unlike some senators who are very open and transparent when they put a hold on a nomination, Bond and his staff have not. It seems unfair and to disregard important work that GSA is trying to accomplish. Anyway, the talk on Capitol Hill is that Johnson’s name is among a list of people that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is looking to bring to a vote. There had been some talk of a recess nomination — or even another administration post for Johnson. UPDATE: We’re hearing that any action on Capitol Hill might not come until January.

* Who will be acting in the meantime?: There are rampant rumors that Paul Prouty, the current acting administrator who has made no secret of his desire to return to his home in Denver — he has teenage children, one of whom will be heading off to college very soon and DadProuty would like to spend time with his kids and family. But we also hear that there is a time period — 270 days — after which nominees have to start paying local taxes. I haven’t been able to find information on it, but… Prouty has to be approaching that timetable. Prouty tells me: “Everyone knows I’m eager to go home; however, nothing to report.”

* Acting Administrator Leeds?: Who might replace Prouty? Many pings that it might be Stephen Leeds, who in August took the post as Senior Counselor to the GSA Administrator. (The link to his bio page from GSA’s leadership Web site wasn’t working for me.) One person described Leeds as a “placeholder,” but it raises some concern given that Leeds has been with GSA for all of four months. While people are impressed by him personally, it is a difficult job to step into at best… and nobody knows how long they may just serve in that post. Just askProuty.

* Brasseux to retire — by the end of the year: That is what people are saying — GSA deputy administrator Barnaby (Barney) L. Brasseux, who has been serving in that post since September 2008. We hear that administration officials had offered him the opportunity to return to be deputy commissioner at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, a post that will be vacated by Tyree Varnado starting in January, but Brasseux has decided to retire. (Hear our delightful exit interview with Varnado from Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris here.)

* So who becomes GSA’s deputy administrator? We’re hearing Susan Brita, who is a staff director on Capitol Hill — we’re hearing an announcement could come early next year. Apparently Brita has been strongly pushed by Rep. Elenore Holmes Norton (D-DC).

* GSA FAS deputy — no names floating: With Varnado retiring, there is no name yet for that key post. There is some concern amongst GSA watchers that there is a lot of procurement knowledge that is either retiring — or planning on retiring — leaving potential gaps in key positions.

Things are evolving very quickly, so… we’re trying to keep an eye on all of it.

As we say in radio… stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

December 17, 2009 at 1:14 PM