Procurement survey finds room for savings, process improvements

Federal procurement managers estimate they can save up to $158 billion annually by implementing more efficient acquisition processes and stronger program management training, according to a survey released on Monday.

Meritalk, an online community of government information technology specialists, canvassed 200 civilian, defense and private sector contracting professionals in January and found ample opportunities for cost savings. For example, 28 percent of federal programs are not delivered on time or on budget, respondents said. The governmentwide goal, as set by a 2004 Office of Management Budget memorandum, is 10 percent.

Managers suggested they could cut 30 percent from their annual procurement budgets through operation and system-level improvements. Specifically, the survey found more agencies should be using mandated project management methods such as earned value management, and capital planning and investment control.

Only 17 percent of respondents consistently used earned value management, a technique to objectively measure project progress. Even fewer officials -- 14 percent -- used capital planning and investment control, a structured and integrated approach to managing IT investments.

"The White House is looking for 5 percent savings from agencies," said Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk. "Everyone is looking to save money, but we need to start by enforcing the rules and mandates that we already have."

Agencies that consistently use the two techniques gave themselves high grades for the maturity of their acquisition processes. But, only 12 of all managers gave their agency procurement systems an "A," with the majority settling for a "B" or "C," the survey showed. The most frequent challenges officials outlined were process deficiencies, poor program management and inadequate staffing.

Another problem could be training. Nearly 60 percent of officials confessed to a lack of program management and earned value management training, while 85 percent said they were not schooled in capital planning and investment control.

At least one key lawmaker was troubled by the report's findings. "The federal government must embrace efficiency as a means to not only save money, but also bring better service to the American people," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security. "This report clearly outlines how -- with more efficient management processes and better training of personnel -- we can realize significant savings for American taxpayers."

Last month, the Senate passed Carper's Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act. The bill requires the Office of Management and Budget to provide quarterly public updates on the cost, schedule and performance of all major IT investments using earned-value management data. The bill has now been referred to the House.

The survey also indicated some mixed feelings among acquisition executives on two of the Obama administration's top contracting priorities.

Only 36 percent of respondents said increasing the number of firm fixed-price contracts would improve program efficiency. Thirty-eight percent disagreed with the approach, in which officials set a price for the work at the outset to avoid ballooning costs, and 26 percent were undecided.

Half the contracting officials said they wanted to increase top-down transparency. But, most are not taking the plunge. Only 18 percent indicated that they were leveraging technology innovations, such as Web 2.0. And just 21 percent of officials said their agency encouraged citizen participation and actively responded to public inquiries.

"We need to begin to change our behavior and not just talk about it," O'Keeffe 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 Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • 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 Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • 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.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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