Since its founding in 1974, OFPP has grown from a policy alignment mission to a multi-faceted driver of acquisition priorities for the White House.

Since its founding in 1974, OFPP has grown from a policy alignment mission to a multi-faceted driver of acquisition priorities for the White House. Tetra Images/Getty Images

White House procurement office marks 50 years

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has evolved since its inception to ensure the government is “buying as one,” as demonstrated in a new circular on acquisition data and information issued Tuesday.

The White House’s nerve center for procurement, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, is marking 50 years since its creation.

Established by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act of 1974, the acquisition-focused organization lives within the Office of Management and Budget with a Senate-confirmed head to “provide overall direction of procurement policy.” 

That makes it the oldest of the management offices at OMB, Jason Miller, deputy director for management at OMB, told reporters on Tuesday. 

The office had an initial focus on alignment and conformance across agencies, but those priorities have since evolved, said Miller.

“The whole theme along these past 50 years… is more organized and buying as one,” said Christine Harada, a senior advisor for OFPP who is currently performing the duties of OFPP administrator by delegation.

The OFPP administrator sits on the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council alongside the heads of the Defense Department, General Services Administration and NASA to administer the FAR, the government's primary procurement regulation, which itself didn’t even come into existence until another ten years after the OFPP.

The office is now focused on effectively and efficiently delivering goods and services for the mission, said Miller, as well as using the government’s purchasing power to drive policy priorities. The federal government buys $750 billion of goods and services annually.

In this administration, that has included focusing on strengthening the domestic manufacturing base and supply chains, supporting small businesses, pushing sustainability and more. 

But the office hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed administrator since early 2021, when Trump appointee Michael Wooten left the role. And OFPP had already experienced a gap of several years between Wooten and the prior last Senate-confirmed predecessor.

President Joe Biden nominated Biniam Gebre to take up the role in 2021, but the White House later pulled his nomination in 2022, saying at the time that Gebre “chose to forgo the confirmation process to pursue other opportunities” and that “the administration will consider other nominees for this position.”

“We have a very strong team at OFPP,” said Miller when asked about the lack of a confirmed administrator. “What you’ve seen with the volume and breadth of things that we are cranking out, we feel pretty confident in what we are doing right now.”

Among the current focuses for OFPP is category management — or buying common goods and services as an enterprise — which has saved the government about $90 billion in spending since the effort started in the Obama administration, said Miller.

The current administration has also been pushing its Better Contracting Initiative, launched last year. 

One part of that initiative is data, and OFPP also released a new OMB Circular — on Strategic Management of Acquisition Data and Information — on Tuesday. 

That new circular “establishes a foundation that this data is not agency data, it is government-wide data in that it will be shared” as opposed to acquisition data being managed at an agency level, said Harada.  

OFPP has also developed a “procurement copilot” tool that’s being rolled out with the acquisition workforce to allow them to pull data to answer questions like “Who are the biggest buyers? Where can I buy this particular product? What are the contract vehicles that it's accessible on?” said Harada, noting that it “demonstrates the value and the power” of enterprise-wide data.

Other parts of the Better Contracting effort include pushing enterprise-wide licenses for common software and improving how government agencies set service contract standards to ensure they don’t need to be changed down the line, said Miller. The last part of the initiative is about cost containment and price negotiation for “complex, higher-risk contracts.”

OFPP has also had a hand in “investing in the acquisition workforce,” said Harada, including changes to the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting program made last year, as well as pushing innovation in acquisitions. OFPP published a report on Monday on the intersection of innovation and small businesses in contracting.