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Federal and Defense Leaders Align Closely on Priorities, Survey Says


The Government Business Council (GBC) recently surveyed Government Executive’s readers to find out the biggest trends in the federal and defense communities in the coming year. Our survey instrument yielded over 2,300 responses from federal and defense leaders, ranging from GS-11 to the Senior Executive Service. This survey is providing Government Executive a starting platform for identifying what YOU want to learn from our events, news articles, and much more.

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As the GBC’s research manager, I am responsible for analysis of our primary research data. Almost immediately after we got this data back, I had requests to disaggregate the data between defense and federal civilian leaders. That thought was, perhaps mistakenly, that these two groups have entirely different points of view.

That is not story, or at least the whole story. When asked, ”which of the following would you consider the most pressing management issues facing the federal workforce in 2013”, about two-thirds of both federal (67 percent) and defense (62  percent) leaders chose “achieve operational efficiency.” In fact, these groups showed very little variation for top choices across all the questions we asked.

Differences didn’t even appear between the two groups when we drilled down to second and third choices. Second to achieving operational efficiency, 38 percent of defense leaders and 30 percent federal leaders chose saving money on procurement and contracts as the most pressing issue in 2013.

This is unsurprising given how esoteric and confusing acquisitions and procurement can be.  Under the Better Buying Power initiative (released in 2010), defense contracting offices must conduct affordability analyses and cost estimates to ensure that warfighting capabilities are maintained amid shrinking budgets. Since then, Better Buying Power 2.0 has been released to strengthen and expand these initiatives.

Around 2009, OMB similarly developed acquisition and contracting improvement plans and pilot programs. These initiatives were started almost 4 years ago. And yet, agencies still maintain high concern about acquisition.

The proliferation of multiple award contracts (MACs) might have something to do with it. Multiple award contracts, or indefinite-delivery & indefinite-quantity contracts have both streamlined the acquisition process while making it more confusing (wrap your head around that one). Agencies can procure tools and services under one contracting vehicle, but the FAR has varying guidance on the protocols if the contract is administered via the Clinger-Cohen Act versus the Economy Act. Not only that, Basic Ordering Agreements (BOAs) essentially operate as MACs but have a completely different procurement paradigm. In fact, BOAs aren’t contracts at all--they are framework for procurement; the individual task orders administered under BOAs act as the contract.

When it comes to acquisitions and procurement, it is no wonder that saving money on contracts rank high on the government’s to-do list. But how can federal and defense managers learn new tools and practices that check off some of those line items?

Government Executive’s Excellence in Government conference will be providing an opportunity for federal and defense leaders to network and learn best practices around a wide array of topics, including demystifying the procurement process. On May 13-14 , leaders from the civilian and defense communities will join for a 2-day event to take place at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. Get the latest information on the upcoming conference and save the date now .


Dana Grinshpan is the Research Manager for the Government Business Council (GBC), the research division of Government Executive, where she specializes in primary research development and survey instrument creation. Prior to joining GBC, she worked for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), assisting in the research and writing of work on South Asian regional cooperation. She has a Master of Arts in international security and political economics from the University of Chicago and graduated magna cum laude from Ohio State University where she holds a B.A. in international studies with a minor in Arabic.

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