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I looked at FedScope from OPM -- I have visited there before.  I wanted to see how an agency that I once worked for compared to the federal government as a whole -- here is what I found, using MAR 2016 data:

.        FEDERAL      FORMER

.        GOVERNMENT   AGENCY

GS-1102   37,165       266

.           89.4%     56.4%

GS-1105    3,048       166

.            7.3%     35.2%

GS-1106    1,369        40

.            3.3%      8.5%

My former agency appears to have a healthy balance between GS-1102s, -1105s, and -1106s -- at least, far more healthy than the federal government's as a whole.  I know some agencies (my current agency, for example) are 100% GS-1102, with 0% GS-1105 and 0% GS-1106.

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Guest PepeTheFrog
52 minutes ago, ji20874 said:

MAR 2016 data:

.        FEDERAL      FORMER

 

.        GOVERNMENT   AGENCY

 

GS-1102   37,165       266

 

.           89.4%     56.4%

 

GS-1105    3,048       166

 

.            7.3%     35.2%

 

GS-1106    1,369        40

 

.            3.3%      8.5%

SEP 1998 data for the entire Government:

1102: 27,817 employees / 1105: 4,323 employees / 1106: 4,834 employees

The 1105s and 1106s represented 24.77% of the total of 36,974 combined.

Note: This was after (or towards the end of when) DoD cut the acquisition (not just contracting) workforce by ~50% in the 1990s, for the old frogs like Pepe.

For some historical trends re procurement spending and workforce, see:

DoD Inspector General, Audit Report, "DoD Acquisition Workforce Reduction Trends and Impacts" (February 29, 2000)

http://www.dodig.mil/audit/reports/fy00/00-088.pdf

Congressional Research Service, "Twenty-five Years of Acquisition Reform: Where Do We Go From Here?" (October 29, 2013)

http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS00/20131029/101414/HHRG-113-AS00-Wstate-SchwartzM-20131029.pdf

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On 8/4/2016 at 11:21 AM, Vern Edwards said:

Listening to this discussion (not "debate"), I realize that I spent my career in what I'll call programmatic and project contracting. I was engaged in making one-time, unique buys for big things. I never bought a lot of nuts and bolts stuff--commodities, spares, or IT. I consider the talk of "category management," "strategic sourcing," and the various contracting "vehicles" to be about what I have always called purchasing, rather than contracting. When one speaker said that making the deal is the easy part, I thought: Man, I always that was the challenging part. That was the fun part.

The people on that panel talked like purchasing executives at Ford Motor Co. or Coca-Cola. They talked about buying commodities like handguns. I bought that kind of stuff (typewriters) for only a very short time at the beginning of my training. Then I was contracting in spacecraft and launch vehicle program offices for research and development.

What I'm saying is that "contracting" is really two fields--contracting and purchasing. And there are really two workforces--programmatic and project contracting, on the one hand, and purchasing, on the other. But we've created a single set of rules for two very different categories of acquisition, and we're training everybody in the same things and in the same way.

Personally, I am not interested in purchasing. I would never have been happy buying off-the-shelf IT hardware and software, spare parts, or cther commodities. But it's a good field, and it appears to dominate the concerns of the high-level managers. That means that there are career opportunities for people who take the larger, longer, strategic view.

Vern, 

With much respect and as a person that has gone out of his way to see you speak, I think you are projecting your experience on the career field. I was active duty in the Air Force at LA AFB in the mid aughts for 3 years. I spent 18 months in a program office (GPS) and 18 months in the operational shop (61 CONS). I also did two, four month deployments during that time (Iraq 05, and Afghanistan 05-06). I bought zero things during my time in the program office--I attended endless meetings, mostly planning on ensuring that nothing actually happened. I was on an IPT of 50+ people. Contrast that with my time in 61 CONS where I worked construction contracts that literally facilitated the base moving from Area A and Area B to only Area A. The colleagues that I deployed with that had only program office experience had no idea how to buy, well, anything. They'd been sitting in meetings while I was thrust into roles that people actually depended on in the operational shop.

At this point in my career, I'm a GS14 and I supervise 6 people at a civilian agency. The bulk of my work is research and development contracting. But the things that really get the SES worked up is the operational stuff--commercial services, IT purchases, and basic "blocking and tackling" contracting. I spend a lot more time defending those things and making sure they have tight files and justifications than I do the R&D stuff. It's also totally possible I stink at my job, I suppose.

So I guess it is fine to prefer the once in a lifetime buys that you did at SMC etc. But your attitude towards "purchasing" is daft and shows no real understanding of what the government is buying. And it's mildly offensive to those of us that don't inhabit the program office world.

That said, I roll my eyes when I hear people talk about strategic sourcing and the person saying such stuff is the sort of procurement leader who has never signed a government contract talks about.

Looking forward to the ensuing flame war. 

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Guest Vern Edwards
10 hours ago, KeithB18 said:

So I guess it is fine to prefer the once in a lifetime buys that you did at SMC etc. But your attitude towards "purchasing" is daft and shows no real understanding of what the government is buying. And it's mildly offensive to those of us that don't inhabit the program office world.

I know very well what the Government is buying, in considerable detail, and I've dealt with a lot more government buying offices and people over the course of 40+ years than you have. I'm pretty sure I've dealt with a lot more of them than you even know exist. And all over the world.

I don't know why you say that my attitude is "daft." I haven't really expressed any "attitude" toward purchasing other than:

On August 4, 2016 at 8:21 AM, Vern Edwards said:

But it's a good field, and it appears to dominate the concerns of the high-level managers. That means that there are career opportunities for people who take the larger, longer, strategic view.

So how is that "daft"?

I prefer doing program or project contracting to purchasing. I had fun in program offices. As you said, I'm projecting my experiences in the career fiield. And as you said, that's fine. If you are doing purchasing, and if purchasing excites you, then I'm happy for you. 

I'm not interested in engaging you further on this. There will be no "flame war" between you and me. I have my opinion. I expressed it clearly. I respect purchasing, but it doesn't interest me. I never wanted to be a purchasing executive. I guess you think that I should be interested, but I'm not. Unlike the one speaker in the video, I loved negotiating and writing contracts, and I had fun doing it. I'm sorry that your experiences in program offices were not as rewarding as mine.

That's all there is to it. Have a nice day.

 

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So what does the CO of the future look like?

In a couple of months I'm going to be asking a room of acquisition professionals that question. I expect a "lively" discussion. I hope for something to start our people thinking about the future.

While criticism of the idiots in charge is always entertaining, I'm very interested in what the members of this community think. 

What would you tell a CO starting out today? Will we be slaves to the machine inputting more and more data just because we can? Will we be split into Purchasing and Contracting groups? Will COs still need critical thinking skills in a world of automated contracting? If critical thinking is still required, how will we train COs of the future in this skill? Is consolidation by any other name here to stay or will the pendulum swing back? 

And my personal favorite: Will Liberal Arts majors ever be allowed back into the field?

Any and all thoughts welcome. 

 

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Will liberal arts majors be allowed back in the field?   Certainly as long as you also get 24 hours of business credits.   However, my opinion of Government contracting has been that a law degree is needed, not a business degree.  The OIG and other outside oversight don't really want us to be business advisors, just follow the laws and regulations perfectly without error, ever!!!  .    

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Guest Vern Edwards

While I think it cannot hurt to have some business education, I also think the typical undergraduate business courses are not of much immediate applicability. What is needed more than anything is the ability to think and communicate. See Krieger, "Professionalism in the Acquisition Contracting Workforce: Have We Gone Too Far?" Defense Acquisition Review Journal (ARJ145):

Quote

Although the motives may have been well-intentioned, we are now living with the result of unintended adverse consequences. It is now time to reassess these past decisions, specifically degree and course requirements, and determine whether a mistake in approach has been made. By selecting the wrong solution to solve a problem, has a more significant problem been created? The BLUF (bottom-line-upfront): I believe we have made a mistake.

Persons with liberal arts degrees should be welcomed with open arms. A person who has read Plato, Montaigne, Mill, Darwin, Tolstoy, Hofstadter, Scalia, and Posner and can write a coherent argumentative essay is just as capable of doing contracting as a person who has gotten As in undergraduate courses in financial accounting, business law, economics, marketing, and organizational behavior.

What should the future look like?

We should organize our world into the separate, but related, fields of contracting and purchasing. We should designate the key professionals as contracting officers (COs) and purchasing executives (PEs). And we should provide COs and PEs with appropriate support staff (buyers, technicians/clerks). We should publish appropriate regulations for each of those fields, and provide the respective personnel with appropriate training--for example, COs should learn about cost estimating and cost-based pricing, while PEs should learn about market-based pricing (which is a very complex topic). Both should learn appropriate negotiation techniques.

Of course, it will never happen. The bureaucracy is too deeply entrenched.

 

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I took a 400 level English class called Technical & Professional writing. Probably one of the most useful classes with real world application as it relates to contracting. Taught you how to write an email, memo, white paper, etc. and when the use of those would or would not be appropriate. Those kinds of things.

From what I see, not all, but a good amount of people who don't have the 24 business credits end up just taking online classes where they don't really learn anything because they don't take it all that seriously and just need to check the box for the purpose of progressing.

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I agree with the general sentiment that liberal arts majors should be more welcome in this career field.  As much as I love my Economics degree, the time I spent in high school and college competing in speech and debate has served me infinitely better as a contracting professional than any statistics, business, or economics class has.  I could crunch numbers, build models, and understand ratios all day long, but if I can't convincingly reason, debate, and critically think when I'm sitting across the table from a contractor (or a clearance official), what good are those perfect numbers and what odds do I have in successfully negotiating that position?

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Guest Vern Edwards

I have known some of the smartest and most effective and successful contracting officers and contracting directors in acquisition over the last 42 years, and except for one or two of them, every one of them had a liberal arts undergraduate degree. Not one would have qualified for an entry level GS-1102 position under today's criteria. Including me. I think that's a hoot.

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We had some excellent contracting officers who were woodwind players prior to me coming on board at my agency.  I think they paved the way for me to be hired.  I worked out as well!  Unfortunately, we did not have enough players for a woodwind quintet.  We were always short a bassoon and a clarinet.  The HR people wouldn't let us put that requirement in the job announcements :D

Too bad, it would have been fun.

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When I apply for a new position, I emphasize my business degree (Economics). But I obtained that degree from a liberal arts college. 

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Guest Vern Edwards
3 hours ago, apsofacto said:

We had some excellent contracting officers who were woodwind players prior to me coming on board at my agency.  I think they paved the way for me to be hired.  I worked out as well!  Unfortunately, we did not have enough players for a woodwind quintet.  We were always short a bassoon and a clarinet.  The HR people wouldn't let us put that requirement in the job announcements :D

Too bad, it would have been fun.

That's great, also. Great story, even if you made up some of it. The CO Woodwind Quintet.

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I like to think of my self as an asset to the profession, and I have a liberal arts degree.  However, I did have the 24 undergraduate hours in business because I was an accounting major until my junior year.

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Guest PepeTheFrog

Bring back the civil service exam, or rely more heavily on SAT, ACT, GRE, etc. All this talk about English versus economics is a red herring and a polite avoidance of the real issue. Government and industry alike use grades and schools as proxies for the real thing they want, which is demonstrated intelligence, or the ability to think, reason, and solve problems. There's a reason the military still uses the ASVAB-- it's a strong predictor of future success. Contracting needs smart, dedicated, motivated, and interested people, not business majors. 

On 8/16/2016 at 11:16 AM, Vern Edwards said:

What is needed more than anything is the ability to think and communicate.

PepeTheFrog agrees, and adds that the ability to think is a lot like the ability to be X inches tall. You can easily stunt individual growth, but you can't create giants from pygmies in one generation (without hormones or genetic engineering). Nor can you teach people to be tall! 

 

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