Size of contracting workforce holds steady

The federal acquisition workforce grew almost imperceptibly during the past year, far short of the contracting growth rate, according to new government data.

Office of Personnel Management data analyzed by the Federal Acquisition Institute showed that the number of procurement professionals in government rose just less than 1 percent in fiscal 2006, to 59,997 from 59,477 in fiscal 2005.

Future retirement eligibility remains a threat, the figures indicated. About one federal acquisition professional in eight already is eligible to retire, and that will rise to more than half the workforce by 2016, according to the data.

Agencies typically see only a fraction of eligible retirees leave the procurement workforce every year, though, with fiscal 2006 loss rates ranging from 8 percent among those designated as contracting personnel to 22 percent among procurement clerical and assistance workers, supporting the argument that projections of a "retirement tsunami" may be overly dire.

In a summary, report authors said, "The information will provide a governmentwide baseline of federal contracting workforce competencies and it will help determine areas where training would be most beneficial to augment the levels and distribution of current contracting capabilities."

Acknowledging recent refrains from the Office of Management and Budget and an independent acquisition advisory panel, the authors said new statistics support observations that acquisition workloads have grown larger and more complex, and agencies need to identify crucial skills, recruit and retain employees, and plan for change as the nature of acquisition work continues to evolve.

The number of federal acquisition personnel has increased about 3 percent since fiscal 1999, a growth rate that falls far behind the more than doubling in federal contracting that has taken place during that period. Federal contract dollars totaled $188 billion in 1999 and rose to about $394 billion in fiscal 2006 -- a 110 percent increase -- according to recent OMB figures.

The latest workforce data builds on a long series of similar annual reports, but the acquisition advisory panel last year found that data insufficient to resolve questions about whether more hiring was necessary to bolster the federal procurement workforce, or if increased training and other measures would suffice.

The Federal Acquisition Institute recently completed a more comprehensive study of the civilian acquisition workforce for OMB, and the Defense Department has developed a modeling tool to help analyze its procurement workforce needs. Information collected through those studies could help in answering some of the panel's questions.

Paul Light, a professor at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University who specializes in federal workforce issues, said he doesn't believe there are enough acquisition workers to handle the workload. The result, he said, is more sole-source and large, aggregated contracts.

The relationship between contract volume and contracting personnel also raises questions, Light said. "By my experience, there is no relationship between size of an agency's budget and the size of its acquisition workforce, and that requires some sort of explanation," he said.

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.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


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