A report was recently issued by the Professional Services Council: “From Crisis to Opportunity: Creating a New Era of Government Efficiency, Innovation, and Performance.” Through their “2013 Leadership Commission,” the report “calls on the government and industry to join forces in pursuing fundamental changes to turn the current fiscal and human capital crises into significant opportunities.” It further “identified critical challenges facing the government and makes actionable recommendations about new approaches to workforce development, incentivizing innovation, developing smart business and acquisition strategies, and enhancing collaboration within government and between government and its industry partners.”
In government contracting, we are all aware of a pattern of multiple, similar concerns that have been expressed in the past:
- The process takes too long,
- The workforce isn’t properly trained or professionalized,
- The outcomes are late and expensive, or
- The process is overly taxing on government and industry.
In short, the perception is that the acquisition process doesn’t work at the level most expect and that taxpayers deserve. Is this true, or is it loud voices from a small community?
This report offers many good and objective suggestions; some that are new and some heard before; some objective and some with a writer’s bias. However, the “takeaways” clearly stress the importance of leadership, communication, and inclusiveness. For real progress, we must avoid engineering “top-down” legislative or regulatory solutions, as well as the tendency to perceive one party or another as more responsible than the other for the problems or their solutions. The issues within today’s acquisition system result from previous “reforms.” Shouldn’t all sides talk and work with each other this time before developing additional legislation that doesn’t fully consider what success is from the perspective of everyone involved? What does everyone else think?
Perhaps the biggest issue is a lack of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the complexities of government contracting. Because public funds are involved, there are many stakeholders from many diverse communities. Pursuing, understanding, and managing government contracts requires not just management, marketing, legal, networking, and communication skills, but particularly technical skills from the variety of professionals that belong to NCMA. One must understand the technical nuances of government contracting, which can’t be learned overnight. NCMA is one of the few places where you can rub shoulders with instructors, business managers, contracting officers and industry executives in a neutral, non-adversarial forum and understand more about how they think and why things are happening the way they do. Are we in agreement that you have to be somewhat knowledgeable in contract management and willing to view issues from other, diverse perspectives?
From government to industry, senior contracting executives to chief executive officers, contracting officers to entry level administrators and specialists, and attorneys to marketing specialists, NCMA advocates for those working in this field. A diverse working group representing all involved constituencies could be drawn from the NCMA Board of Advisors, appointed by representative government and private sector (including law and academia) leadership to further develop the report’s recommendations. This working group should be given an aggressive deadline for completion and develop further specific action items, briefed in public forums with proper notice (e.g., the Federal Register), to be implemented immediately upon completion. This should be something all related contract management communities can all agree on, where everyone has a say, since everyone has a stake in its outcome. Let’s pull together as a community and address the problems of our time. I would be interested in other ideas anyone else has.
Michael P. Fischetti, Executive Director
National Contract Management Association (NCMA)