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A Master of Science Degree in Government Contracting?

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Vern Edwards


The George Washington University has announced a program for a Master of Science in Government Contracting. http://business.gwu.edu/msgc/program/. I knew this program was in the works, and it is a good thing, but the curriculum is a disappointment. Here it is:

Core Business Curriculum (18 credit hours)

  • MBAd 6261 Organizations and Leadership (1.5 cr.)
  • DNSC 6202 Mathematics and Statistics for Management (3.0 cr.)
  • MBAd 6211 Financial Accounting (3.0 cr.)
  • MBAd 6233 Financial Markets 1 (1.5 cr.)
  • MBAd 6234 Financial Management 1 (1.5 cr.)
  • MBAd 6242 Microeconomics for the World Economy (1.5 cr.)
  • DNSC 6261 Introduction to Project and Program Management (3.0 cr.)
  • Marketing Strategies for Federal Acquisition (3.0 cr.)

Government Contracts Curriculum - Required (8 credit hours)

  • Law 6502 Formation of Government Contracts (3.0 cr.)
  • Law 6503 Performance of Government Contracts (3.0 cr.)
  • Law 6506 Government Contracts Cost and Pricing (2.0 cr.)

Government Contracts Curriculum - Selectives (6 credit hours)

  • Law 6508 Comparative Public Procurement (3.0 cr.)
  • Law 6512 Government Procurement of Intellectual Property Seminar (2.0 cr.)
  • Law 6509-21 Government Contracts Seminar: Anti-Corruption in Procurement (3.0 cr.)
  • Law 6509-10 Government Contracts Seminar: Public Values & Foreign Affairs Outsourcing (2.0 cr.)

Capstone (4 credit hours)

  • Government Contracts Capstone: Research and Writing Project (4.0 cr.)

There is a link on the webpage to the course descriptions.

Basically, what they have done is slapped together some of their standard MBA courses with some of their standard law school courses and added a research and writing project. The problem is not what's there, but what's missing. (Although some of what's there is odd for a master of science in contracting.)

Where are the courses on professional practice? Look closely at the core curriculum. Except for a class in "marketing strategies," the management courses do not focus on government contracting. The focus comes in the law school courses.

Do you see any classes about requirements analysis and specification development (a topic heavily emphasized by the Services Acquisition Reform Panel)? No, probably because this master of science program is a joint venture of the management and law schools and they have no expertise in that topic. How about decision analysis for acquisition planning and source selection, contract strategy and structure, cost estimating methods, appropriations law, contingency contracting, international contracting and foreign military sales?

Why only two credit hours for government contract costs and pricing, one of the most important courses of all, when you probably need six credit hours (three for cost-based pricing and three for market based pricing)? Read the course description. The course is about the legal aspects of pricing, not the practical aspects. You're not going to learn how commercial firms price their products or services, or how costs are analyzed and established for major systems.

Defense spending dominates government contracting and defense programs are the government's largest and most controversial. Where is the class about major systems acquisition? Where is the class about the structure and performance of the defense industry? Where is the class about contracting in a monopsony market? Why only two credit hours for intellectual property (patents and data rights), an important and complex topic, especially in defense contracting. Information technology programs are the second most controversial in government contracting. Where is the class about that?

Why a course about financial accounting, but not about cost accounting (aka management accounting), which is of greater interest and concern to contracting practitioners?

Why no class about themes and fads in the history of government contracting? Why no class about the role of Congress in contracting policy development and management? What about contracting policy development process? What about the government program planning, budgeting, appropriation, and funds management processes? What about systems analysis and engineering? What about risk management? What about about competition theory and practice and negotiation theory and practice? What about contracting process design? What about about the politics and economics of socio-economics programs? What about the politics and economics of major systems acquisition? What about statutory and regulatory interpretation? How about a class in business writing for the contracting practitioner? And why not any focus on service contracting, which has been a dominant concern in government contracting for the past decade?

While I am all for advanced education, I'm not for degree bagging, even if the degree is from GWU, especially when the degree is expensive and based on a curriculum that does not reflect the needs of today's contracting practitioners. People considering the program ought to do some market research and find out what they would be paying for if they were admitted and ask themselves whether attendance would worth the price and a best value. Ask yourself: Will this degree get me promoted? Will it enable me to get enough additional salary to make the gain worth the cost?

Knowing how much we Americans love and respect credentials, I have no doubt that GWU will receive many applications, and that many tuitions will be paid by students and employers, including the government, especially DOD. (Military officers in the D.C. area who need at least one graduate degree to get promoted will line up.) I guess it's a start, but this isn't the program that we need, and I don't recommend it as it is. I want better education for contracting professionals, but not just any education. If learning is what interests you, you'd be better off just buying some books and reading them.

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