Procurement Changes Pack Purchasing Power

When employees at one federal agency needed new heating equipment, they followed procedure and took their request to the agency's Contracting and Acquisition Management Office. Two hours and 48 minutes later, the equipment was installed. If that sounds like some bureaucrat's fantasy, it shouldn't. It really happened at the Army's Space and Strategic Defense Command, which has the most efficient contracting activity in the Army, according to statistics compiled by the Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity.

"My guess is we're the most efficient office in the federal government," says Mark Lumer, the principal assistant responsible for contracting at SSDC. He may be right. Lumer runs one of the lowest-cost contracting operations in the public or private sector, spending three-tenths of one cent to buy a dollar's worth of goods or services-far less than other comparable organizations inside and outside government, according to an Arizona State University study.

Between 1992 and 1995, Lumer lost about one-third of his contracting office to Defense personnel cuts and expects to lose more people over the next two years. At the same time, the acquisition reformers at Defense and the Office of Management and Budget were busy dismantling much of the framework of federal contracting, replacing it with more flexible rules and procedures designed to give federal managers much more freedom in purchasing goods and services.

"I recognized early on we were going to be in a constant state of change. I decided I could either strap on some skis and ski down the avalanche or get buried by it," Lumer says. To that end, Lumer says he's taken advantage of every streamlining opportunity afforded through acquisition reform initiatives. The following areas in particular have yielded significant efficiencies and savings for the agency:

  • The contract office is rapidly becoming a paperless operation. By publishing expanded synopses in Commerce Business Daily when soliciting commercial items, the agency no longer produces paper requests for proposals (RFPs) for such items. Contractors are referred to the agency's Internet address,, where they can download full solicitations. They also can submit bids electronically.
  • By relying on oral presentations from contractors, SSDC has cut the time it takes to evaluate bids and award contracts from about three months to less than two weeks. Contractors are asked in advance to give presentations on how they would solve or perform two different problems or tasks. During evaluation they are given a third sample problem on the spot.
  • SSDC has saved thousands by using credit cards for purchases formerly made through traditional procurement channels. In addition to saving money, the program has cut paperwork and dramatically reduced the time it takes to purchase goods and services. Lumer expects to accrue further savings by eventually replacing credit cards with debit cards. Such cards would eliminate the $32-per-check fees the Defense Finance and Accounting Service charges SSDC to write the checks to cover credit card bills.
  • To accommodate personnel cuts and changes in contracting rules, restructuring and retraining has been critical. Most notably, all but two layers of management have been eliminated; everyone in the contracting office is trained to do procurements, including Lumer's secretary; and several cost analysts are being retrained to become market researchers, reflecting the new demands on the office.

The changes at SSDC have not come easily, Lumer says. The most difficult aspect of acquisition reform has been to change people's attitudes, both inside and outside the contracting office.

"I thought I understood how difficult this would be but I grossly underestimated it," he says.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.