Obama gets an earful about acquisition

GSA's FAS leader has briefed the president on the agency's acquisition improvement efforts.

President Obama in the Oval Office (White House Photo)

Industry officials said direct discussions between FAS and the president are not unprecedented, but they are unusual.

Leaders from the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service have talked with President Barack Obama twice in the past two weeks about FAS initiatives to bring more efficiency to the federal acquisition process.

FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe said FAS executives met with the president on Feb. 2 and again on Feb. 9 to talk about the agency's efforts to develop a Common Acquisition Platform (CAP) and detailed product category hallways that federal IT buyers can use to build better solutions and get better prices.

Sharpe mentioned the meetings with the president as part of his remarks at a Professional Services Council Industry Day on Feb. 13 that explained FAS' approach to category management for commonly purchased items.

Although Sharpe declined to share additional details about those meetings, industry and agency officials told FCW that the conversations lasted 10 to 20 minutes and covered GSA's work to strengthen federal acquisition practices, improve efficiencies, and reduce red tape through category management and CAP. Sharpe and Obama also discussed other things the government could do to bolster federal acquisition practices, sources said.

"The meetings may not have been long, but they were significant," said one source familiar with the talks.

Kevin Youel Page, assistant commissioner of GSA's Integrated Award Environment, and Laura Stanton, GSA's director of program management for CAP, were also present at the presidential meetings, according to sources familiar with the get-togethers.

Industry officials said direct discussions between FAS and the president are not unprecedented, but they are unusual, which suggests a renewed urgency for federal acquisition reform. FAS' meetings with Obama "send a strong signal to agencies that this stuff matters," said Alan Chvotkin, PSC's executive vice president and counsel.

In his Feb. 13 remarks to the PSC audience, Sharpe said FAS is working with the interagency Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council on defining priority categories; creating performance metrics; determining how much agencies might spend in specific categories; and collecting data on best practices, contract terms and prices paid.