Federal Acquisition Workers Rate Themselves Highly on Most Skills

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The government’s civilian acquisition workforce, long under pressure to improve hiring and modernize its skill sets, is feeling more satisfied with its own effectiveness, according to the latest biennial Acquisition Workforce Competency Survey released Wednesday.

Considered the most comprehensive version of the survey yet (an 83 percent increase in response rates across agencies), it showed that the buyers rated themselves highest for issuing contract order changes and modifications, awarding contracts and competition. Also rated highly were inspection and acceptance and business acumen, said the results analyzed by a partnership between the White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the Federal Acquisition Institute.

Areas rated the lowest in proficiency included negotiating forward pricing rates agreements and contracting in contingent or combat environments.

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The institute, based in Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia, since 1976 has promoted the federal acquisition workforce’s career development and strategic human capital management.

The upbeat results roughly echo the rising optimism that the community expressed in a private-sector survey released last month by the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton.

Respondents from 23 major agencies (not including the Defense Department) in October and November 2017 said that the areas of strength corresponded with the amount of time they devote to each area. The responses differed slightly between holders of a Federal Acquisition Certificate, project and program managers and those still in training. Certificate holders were the most satisfied, the results indicated. “Time spent in a given competency was a strong predictor for competency proficiency for all” certificate areas, the report said.

Demographically, the most common age category among acquisition certificate holders was 51–55 years, the most common pay grade was GS-13, and the most common range of acquisition experience was 6–10 years. Millennials account for 11.3 percent of the acquisition workforce.

The purpose of the survey, analysts said, is to help the acquisition workforce identify the strengths and priority training needs and skill gaps, gauge the developmental progress in targeted areas and improve acquisition human capital planning.

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