Contracting Rocks

In "Hooked on Contracts" (Editor's Notebook, April 1), you come to the conclusion that federal agencies don't have enough good contracting personnel because it is boring work. You must not have talked to a lot of procurement or contracting professionals or you wouldn't have come to that conclusion. And I am amazed that no active procurement professionals have challenged your statement.

Procurement/contracting is a challenging and exciting career, one in which the players must have a working knowledge of many different aspects of business.

For example, they must have an understanding of contract law; economics, including inflation rates and factors influencing it; labor relations, including myriad labor laws such as the 1931 Davis Bacon Act for construction work, 1936 Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act for manufacturing work, the 1965 Service Contract Act for service work plus hundreds-no, more like thousands-of other laws passed by our Congress; accounting, including learning curves and life-cycle costs; social aspects such as safety and health programs, small/disadvantaged business and HUBZone areas; information technology; engineering terms; communications; contract negotiations, which require a high level of human relations; and contract administration.

They also must have knowledge of federal regulations like the Federal Acquisition Regulation (several hundred pages) and their own agencies' regulations such as the NASA FAR Supplement. Procurement/contracting personnel must be well-rounded and highly educated individuals to make it in today's hectic world.

Being able to accept a procurement request from the requiring department, developing that into a solicitation that businesses can interpret to prepare competitive offers, evaluating those proposals, conducting meaningful discussions and awarding contracts are all part of a process that requires professionals with considerable management, organizational and technical ability. Procurement/contracting professionals are on the leading edge of their agencies, working with engineers, scientists, logisticians and more. They are involved in a mission from the beginning until it's completed. That sure doesn't sound boring to me, and definitely beats a lot of other career fields where the work is confined to specific areas.

I know of no other career that offers so much challenge and opportunity for young professionals, and I would encourage them to consider this satisfying field for personal growth. The one problem is that the academics and politicians who are initiating all the laws affecting the procurement process haven't walked in the shoes of those who have to implement them and don't have the slightest idea what economic impact those laws have on the federal procurement process.

Hugh H. "Hamp" Wilson
Tallahassee, Fla.

Historical Perspective

In "Agents of Tolerance" (April 15), we are told about FBI agents being trained at the Holocaust Museum supposedly to prevent future abuses. If the training wanted to be relevant, it would focus on more recent abuses such as Waco and Ruby Ridge. Of course, that might hit uncomfortably home for agencies still in denial about these and other abuses. Leadership might claim that they want agents to speak up, but the evidence says otherwise.

J. Trent Corbett
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