White House Procurement Chief Issues Steps to Simplify Acquisition

"There is a critical need for a new paradigm in federal procurement," wrote OFPP chief Anne Rung. "There is a critical need for a new paradigm in federal procurement," wrote OFPP chief Anne Rung. Commerce Department file photo

The administrator of federal procurement policy on Thursday delivered on a promise to help agencies cut complexity and avoid duplicative efforts in the governmentwide acquisition process.

The memo and a blog post from Anne Rung sought to encourage shared purchasing by category, cross-fertilization of talent and stronger relationships with industry.

“There is a critical need for a new paradigm in federal procurement,” Rung wrote. “The overwhelming feedback from industry and other stakeholders is that the sheer complexity of the federal contracting space is leading to less innovation, higher costs, and weaker performance. We have more than 3,300 contracting units across the federal government, but there’s very little sharing of information and best practices and very little collaboration across our organizations.”

In recent feedback, industry bemoaned “100-page request for proposals with overly prescriptive, government-unique requirements, significant contract duplication across government, and very little sharing of pricing and other contract information between agencies and industry,” Rung’s memo said.

She credited the administration with saving $55 billion in fiscal 2013 through cutting unnecessary or overly expensive contracts. But she pointed to more than 23,000 different contract awards for human resources training and services the same year, and no central unit for comparing prices. “One company, for example, may have several thousand contracts with the federal government – yet it’s possible that no one entity would manage the relationship with that company government-wide,” Rung noted. She stressed that the new guidance represented a collaborative effort “from all spectrums of the acquisition world.”

The new guidance falls into three themes:

  • “Buying as one through category management” of routine purchases of goods and services, as is practiced in the United Kingdom, to free managers up for agency-specific buys;
  • “Deploying talent and tools across agencies and growing talent within agencies to drive innovation,” for which Rung’s office will team with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to improve innovation through digital services; and,
  • “Building stronger vendor relationships,” particularly with information technology contracts, for which agencies should develop more “customer-facing” online tools to tap innovations from industry, especially small business.

The guidance drew praise from the Professional Services Council, a contractors trade group, which said it would “inject much needed innovation into the contracting ecosystem.” President and CEO Stan Soloway said “the memo also reinforces the administrator’s important, continued push for better, more consistent and open communications between government and industry, which will foster better understanding of agency needs and result in innovative, cost-saving solutions.” He lauded the procurement shop’s efforts to ease company reporting burdens, having criticized other administrative policies that do require new reporting.

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