Obama-Era Acquisition Leaders Welcome Trump Efficiency Efforts

Category management and shared services are likely to continue, officials say.

Though new administrations are famous for rebranding their predecessors’ themes, President Trump’s recently announced efficiency reforms are being welcomed by the Obama-era planners of such acquisition initiatives as category management and shared services.

Trump’s April 12 memo on reorganizing agencies is an “exciting opportunity for our office,” said Lesley Field, for years the deputy administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget. “It’s a good nod to the importance of career people that will keep what we’re doing alive,” she told a Thursday panel put on by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management, a volunteer, education group.

Field said Trump’s high-level efforts “show there’s commitment,” and that White House procurement specialists have been holding workshops. “We’ve made lots of progress in the last two years, have our folks in place and more data than ever, she said. “You could tweak this or that” part of the programs aimed at improving how taxpayer dollars are spent, “but the foundation is there. If the new administration wants to ramp it up, we’ll be ready” to push forward such projects as the year-old campaign to simplify purchasing into 10 categories.

And though Budget Director Mick Mulvaney declined to use the Obama-era budget comparison tool called FedStat, “we’re asking agencies for their benchmarks and metrics, which is a good proxy,” she said.

Equally supportive was Thomas Sharpe, for four years the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at the General Services Administration, though he stressed that he wasn’t speaking for the new administration. “It’s the new administration’s prerogative, but we’re ready to execute,” he said. “Innovation in acquisition has been shown to be part of every discussion, whether its speed or increased value,” he said. “Austere times, which we’re apparently entering, call for faster, bolder action.”

Sharpe described GSA’s active role in implementing the Technology Transformation Service and the online Gateway Acquisition portal, which was unveiled last year and has signed up 13,000 registrants from agencies as well as industry. He said GSA has done a better job of listening to industry, though that doesn’t always achieve consensus in acquisition innovation.

Acquisition officers from the Homeland Security and Defense departments provided the “customer-level” view of how agencies can exploit category management. The Pentagon spends $145 billion on logistics alone, noted Lisa Roberts, Transportation and Logistics Category Manager for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

She recently discovered that package delivery contracts across the government number about 100, 90 percent of which were with three vendors, she said. Now under category management, DoD has one governmentwide contract to be awarded in June and implemented in October.

Future adaptations are likely in the Pentagon’s $4.5 billion annual spend on non-combat vehicles and fuel, she said.