White House Budget Office Wants to Know How You Would Make Contracting More Efficient

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The federal government is looking to reduce cost and time of procurements, like the private sector.

The Office of Management and Budget put out a call on Monday to outside organizations and the public to share how they think the government can reform its procurement of goods and services.

The challenge was announced at the White House Summit on Federal Acquisition and Supply Chain Management, where industry professionals and OMB officials spoke about reforms to the government’s procurement processes, such as reducing the cost and time of acquisitions. The government is accepting responses on how to modernize its $575 billion supply chain and acquisition processes by Feb. 17. 

“The purpose of the challenge is idea creation to catalyze new thinking in government procurement around best practices, more strategic orientation and applying what we learn from world class, private sector and public sector opportunities to the U.S. federal government acquisition and supply chain management capabilities,” said Margaret Weichert, OMB deputy director, at the summit. 

OMB is looking for feedback from researchers, academics, good government groups, and private industries on data and pricing solutions, market research, technology, human capital, benchmarking against industry and more. Weichert said in a press release that the challenge supports goals of the president’s management agenda, such as eliminating redundancies, increasing government effectiveness and modernizing the workforce.

Michael Wooten, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, spoke at the summit about the importance of keeping up with the changing nature of the workforce. “Our newest entrants into the workforce, the millennials, are wondering why we baby boomers are still stuck on ‘21st century.’ That’s all they’ve seen. And in the 21st century things are happening very, very rapidly. We need to be agile,” said Wooten. “We can’t afford to put in place things that have been erected for 50 years and expect that we will put something in place now and 50 years later we need to replace it. We have to be more nimble [and] far more agile.” 

A related initiative is OMB’s “Procurement Administrative Lead Time” proposal published on Jan. 21. The policy would standardize the definition of “PALT” as the time from initial contract solicitation to contract award as well as allow for better measurement and reporting of contracting data for agency and public use. These are “important steps in helping the federal government to understand and better address causes of procurement delays,” Wooten wrote in the proposal. This “can help to drive continual process improvement and the pursuit of more innovative procurement practices, especially when the data are used in combination with other inputs for evaluating the overall effectiveness...such as cost and the quality of the contractor's performance.”

The Professional Services Council, a trade organization that has over 400 member companies who contract with the federal government, applauded the policy proposal. “Reducing the time frames associated with the contracting process is in the best interest of the government, the contractor community and the taxpayer,” said Alan Chvotkin, PSC executive vice president and counsel. “Evidence suggested that [procurement administrative lead time] is increasing in length at many federal agencies and the insight gained from this tracking and reporting will ensure that efforts to reduce acquisition cycle times are focused on widespread challenges, and are not limited to specific problems with a particular contract, type of purchase, or buying activity.” 

In an interview with Government Executive, Wooten said he helps manage “the rules, the tools, the schools and the talent pools for the world’s largest buying organization,” so it’s important to understand the cost and time associated with each.

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