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"Joseph Jordan, the White House’s top contracting policy chief, floated the idea Tuesday of having contracting professionals rotate between government and the private sector."

See link.

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130723/ACQUISITION03/307230006/Official-Rotate-contracting-officers-between-government-private-sector?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

Jordan knows there are issues with his idea and obvioulsy among other things there are potential conflicts of interests.

What are your thoughts?

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  • 3 weeks later...

He floated the idea of having contracting professionals rotate between government and the private sector. Was he only talking about the contracting professionals on the Government side going back and forth? The best he can come close to with this is the Training With Industry (TWI) that the Army used to send selected contracting professionals to train with industry for a year. Don't know if they still do this or not. If he was also including the contracting prfessionals on the private industry side..........forget it. What private firm would risk getting themselves in some sort of conflict of interest situation that may prevent them from bidding on future government work. Yep, this is not a good idea.

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I think that KO's as business managers would be well suited to "train with industry" in learning the" business of industry". They should serve as interns of a sort in such areas as subcontracting and management of subs, cost control and accounting, labor relations and manaegment, production control, procurement and supply, scheduling. Of course, I'm looking at this from the perspective of construction or manufacturing and from the perspective of someone who will be working on large programs that require significant program management talents. On cost type projects we need to have mopre skills than simply reading the FAR and specifications.

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Guest Vern Edwards

COs are not business managers. That's a lot of hooey. Some individual COs may have enough knowledge, experience, prestige, and influence that agency and program managers seek their business advice, but, by the mass, COs don't manage anything but contracts, if that.

Before we start sending COs to train with industry, we ought to make sure that they've been properly educated trained to be COs. First things first.

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Rather than rotation with industry, COs and PMOs should have internal rotations (more robust than simple details). By understanding the challenges with writting requirements and articulating needs learned by one (the CO), and the challenges associated with navigating a 1500+ page book (along with internal procurement rules and case law) learned by the other (PMO), there would be greater benefit. The gap between COs and PMOs can only be closed with greater understanding gained by walking in each other's shoes.

Jorden never states the purpose of his proposal (at least in the articles). An idea without a purpose is a solution looking for a problem. Problem identification seems to be a challenge to many. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but the ability to impliment a solution that solves a problem is what is needed.

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I know the Air Force used Education Within Industry (EWI) for company grade officers who at least appear interested in making a career of the Air Force. From what I understand you gain a service commitment of 2-3 years, and the goal is to provide a different perspective and to do some career broadening. I believe that there was a restriction that the company could not hire you, beyond the obvious ethics restrictions.

It seems like the company gets the benefit of having a well-trained motivated resource to give some project responsibilities to, and the Air Force really just loses a body for that span of time.

To me, if you were a Contracting Officer in a dedicated field, let’s say construction, IT, ship repair / construction, etc. it could be beneficial to see how the other side operates and maybe get some experience with the management gimmick of the day (e.g. LEAN, TQM). But it seems like a solution without a well-defined problem. A symptom resulting from participation in such a program could easily be that the KO becomes less effective and frustrated when he/she comes back to the Government because you have to come back into the bureaucratic fold after being out in the wild.

To me it just kind of seems silly, beyond circuitous, and a boondoggle; I don’t see how it is a good use of resources to support what the Government should be doing. It would be better to be an active participant in a number of professional organizations.

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  • 1 month later...

Overall- I feel the more rotation the better. Before looking to do outside the Gov though, it needs to happen inside first. Despite what is being espoused- not really happening though. Not just talking about inside Gov contracting (although should be the priority). Should also occur with different customer organizations.

I have actually moved (not rotated but took a job) quite a bit- private and public- but I sure hit a lot of resistance at times. Ironincally, I had no issues between public and private. It was all within the Gov. The immediate folks you work never want to let you go (worse problem though if the opposite I guess..). If you have the constitution and persistence- it can be invaluable. Takes some nerve though. Gov folks are very security oriented and while they might be OK rotating- actually leaving the Government and 100% entering the private side, and then eventually repeating in reverse- can be daunting.

One hugely valuable result for me is that I can very quickly get inside the heads of the contractor negotiators as I served in their role for many years. Not sure a simple rotation would have gotten me to that level though. This is where the crux problem lies though= considerable time is required to truly understand the private side but the longer you are there... the greater potential for conflict of interest and "going native." I avoided conflicts of interest by always laying everything out on the table and never working anywhere I had a prior hand in. You follow your skills rather then your organizational contacts.

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Having been on both sides of the fence, they are separate and distinct worlds with different rules. If you mean B2B contracting, the FAR and derivatives don't apply. If you mean governemnt compliance contracts manager, that is a horse of a different color. Motives are different (profit vs. public good).

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Redleg makes a great point and one I missed in my previous response: motive. Makes a huge difference and the core reason why I switched to Government. After eventually achieving my goal of becoming the lead contract capture manager for a Gov contracting firm, I found myself increasingly disatisfied with my career. Eventually, I read a career personality assessment book and discovered my dominant motivator was public service.

Took a substantial salary cut and 2 steps back on the "career ladder" but I am much more satisfied in my current role as a Gov KO.

Know thyself!

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