Training in performance-based contracting on the rise

As agencies emphasize performance-based contracting, training providers are starting to enhance their efforts to teach the technique.

The Office of Personnel Management's Western Management Development Center, which trains federal employees at its campus in Aurora, Colo., recently added a course for performance-based acquisition in August. In an e-mail message to potential participants, it said demand for the course, which it also offers at its Eastern Management Development Center, "has never been greater."

"It's been getting more and more popular… I don't think we've really pinpointed why, but it seems that we've had an increase in demand," said Dee Perkins, program coordinator at WMDC.

The Agriculture Department Graduate School also offers courses on performance-based contracting at dozens of locations around the country.

Recent policy decisions likely are contributing to the courses' popularity. Under a memo from Claude M. Bolton Jr., assistant secretary of the Army, by the end of September, certain Army contracting personnel will be required to take courses on preparing performance-based work statements.

Robert Burton, association administrator at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, sent a memo to chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives in September 2004 telling them to use performance-based contracting methods on 40 percent of eligible contracts for services valued over $25,000.

An OMB-appointed services acquisition panel has also been focused on performance-based acquisition, which it plans to discuss in more detail Tuesday.

"There's still a lot of questions about the ability of people to use the approach effectively, so anything that helps them get a stronger foundation in the elements of how to do it … makes great sense to me," said Allan Burman, panel member and president of the federal arm of Jefferson Consulting Group. Burman headed OFPP under President George H.W. Bush.

Lisa Doyle, director of the Acquisitions Solutions Training Institute in Oakton, Va., which offers a course called "Seven Steps to Performance-Based Acquisition", said she has noticed a sharp increase in demand for training in performance-based contracting. By the end of fiscal 2005, she said, she expects the number of students trained to double compared to last year.

Doyle said policy letters, including those issued by the Army and OFPP, have "created a sense of urgency for federal agencies to apply performance-based strategies to their services acquisition."

In June, Carl DeMaio, a panelist on the services acquisition panel and the president of the Performance Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank, suggested replacing the seven-step training program with a 10-step program. He has not yet released details of his plan.

Bob Welch, a partner with the firm Acquisition Solutions, said that he thinks the panel needs to have practitioners who have used the seven-step process successfully come in and talk about what's working in the real world. "The seven-step process," he said, "has been used successfully dozens of times for billions of dollars across government."

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