OMB requires new acquisition certification for managers

Program and project managers working on major acquisitions soon will need a new certification, the Office of Management and Budget announced Thursday.

Under the new Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers, those assigned to programs that are deemed major acquisitions must be certified at the highest of three designated levels -- entry, mid-level and senior.

"The establishment of a structured development plan will make sure things work better by ensuring that assigned managers have appropriate training and experience to help keep projects on schedule and within budget," said Paul Denett, chief of OMB's Office of Procurement Policy. The system is designed to make sure that key managers have acquisition skills like developing contract requirements and managing contractors, he said.

The certification system allows managers one year from the date of assignment to a major project to earn the appropriate credentials. Agency officials can waive the requirement for an additional year, and in unusual circumstances additional waiver time can be granted by an agency's chief acquisition officer. Managers will need to take at least 80 units of continuing education every two years to retain their certification level.

An entry level certification will correspond to roughly one year of recent experience in project management; mid-level competency will require at least two years of recent program or project management experience that allows the individual to manage projects of low to moderate risk with little or no supervision.

Those at the highest certification level will have at least four years of experience. OMB is recommending that interactive training sessions be developed to cover key interpersonal and management skills for senior managers, helping them to manage junior personnel and complicated projects.

The new certification process was developed by the Federal Acquisition Institute in consultation with 20 agencies, OMB said, and the institute will work with other acquisition and information technology groups to oversee it.

Individual agencies will be responsible for administering their own certification processes, and chief financial, technology and human capital officers will be able to provide input into certification decisions and requirements.

The certification will be required at agencies other than the Defense Department, which already has a comparable program, and intelligence organizations. Denett said his office would be working with agencies in the coming months to determine how many people will fall under the requirement, suggesting the number could be anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000.

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