More to Learn

"A Lot to Learn" (May 15) highlights a number of issues impacting the procurement system. I would add that there needs to be an acknow-ledgement that the traditional views on the boundaries between nonprocurement and procurement professionals are no longer valid. An increasing number of nonprocurement officials assume procurement roles without a requisite understanding of the basics of federal contracting.

In many cases, program officials operate with a need-to-know mentality that excludes procurement officials from engaging in planning until it is necessary. Procurement officials, for their part, tend to operate with blinders on that can preclude their involvement in the crafting of a statement of work or thinking through the implications of a SOW designed with certain procurement assumptions in mind.

In reality, the inherent complexities in the procurement system alluded to in the article are not adequately addressed in the training provided to procurement and nonprocurement officials. For example, why shouldn't nonprocurement officials understand the differences among procurement vehicles, particularly if those same officials are required to develop statements of work and other key parts of a procurement package? Why aren't procurement officials working in partnership with program offices, when their early and meaningful involvement can only improve the quality of the acquisition process? Perhaps a solution is for federal officials to remove the stovepipes (barriers) that prevent procurement and program officials from working together more effectively.

While I agree with the conclusions that are offered in the article, I would add that there is much more that can be done to improve the federal procurement system without adding a single new full-time equivalent to the mix.

David Frazier

I am a retired Air Force contracting officer/contract manager who has worked in industry for the past 21 years, and the federal workforce does not need additional procurement specialists ("A Lot to Learn"). What it does need is better training of the employees it has, and it must somehow instill a little risk-taking so innovation can take hold and more purely commercial buys can occur.

Instead, many employees are spending more time trying to protect their billet than trying to make better buys. Performance-based statements of work are supposedly mandated for many procurements, yet the SOWs are not performance-based in many cases. Small business offices are expanding throughout Defense, yet no one really knows whether the government buys supplies or services any better at cheaper prices under small business set-asides.

If a small business is successful in procurement and is bought by a large company, or simply becomes a large business because of growth, then agencies that loved that contractor when it was a small business for some reason can't figure out how to continue working with it as a large business. What does this show? Maybe doing business with the firm in the first place wasn't an intelligent decision if the only reason the business occurred was because of size. Adding employees to the federal acquisition workforce is clearly not a solution to the procurement difficulties in the federal government.

Philip G. Bail Jr.
Manager, U.S. Government
Contract Management,
Small Business Liaison Officer
Derco Aerospace Inc.
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