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Contractors Urge Next President to Upgrade Acquisition Workforce

Existing staff lack the time and resources to keep up with demand.

Under either a Clinton or Trump administration, the “on-demand” government of the future must be “responsive, agile, resilient, flexible, dynamic, flatter, more connected, less hierarchical, dynamic, seamless, more personalized, transparent and accountable.”

That’s according to the Professional Services Council’s blueprint for the incoming 45th president, released on Thursday under the title “PSC 45:  An Agenda for the Next President of the United States.”

The paper pushes for goals long part of the services contracting industry’s agenda—modernizing technology, embracing new business models, engaging more with the private sector and upgrading capacities of the federal acquisition workforce.

It also urges a robust presidential management agenda next year. “The mandate for change provides a moment of opportunity,” said David Wennergren, the council’s executive vice president for operations and technology. PSC has 400 member companies. 

The report warns that recent administrations’ “failures around 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the initial roll-out of the Affordable Care Act make clear that management lapses can impose serious political consequences.”

The report notes that addressing the challenges will require a unified commitment across multiple agencies. Specifically, it criticized rules that stifle innovation, add complexity and delays. Recommended solutions include fixing the "broken" budget process, adopting best business practices, focusing on outcomes and ensuring that agencies leverage industry to deliver non-core services and support.

The council noted that the slow federal hiring process is a singular problem: “There is a war for talent, competition is fierce and new approaches must be considered to create an environment that encourages our best and brightest to take on careers of public service.”

Remedies include improving “tradecraft in services acquisition,” the report said. Specifically, agencies should create standards for the acquisition workforce that are widely recognized and adopted across government, industry, and academia.

Among agency buyers, “there is a capacity gap where the current workforce does not have the time and resources to keep up with demand,” the council said.

Hence agencies should set up programs and services to “help people enter and progress within the contract management profession, which should be recognized as a long-term career field, the report added. Agencies should also “make wider use of special hiring authorities to bring highly skilled practitioners from industry into government.” 

For those newly hired, “leaders must provide career development models that build leadership skills, improve critical thinking, require a diversity of experience through rotational assignments, offer mentoring/coaching and build the confidence for employees to take bold steps and try new things.”

Not surprisingly, the contractors also urge leaders to address “the appropriate mixture of government and contractor personnel to achieve agency mission needs.”