House contracting caucus tackles acquisition workforce issues

Bipartisan group will host first public panel on Tuesday with procurement leaders.

A bipartisan congressional panel on Tuesday will discuss how to improve the federal acquisition workforce.

Hosted by the Smart Contracting Caucus, the open event will feature leaders in the contracting sector, government watchdogs, agency leaders and independent procurement officials. Participants will focus on providing the government's acquisition workforce with the tools, training and resources necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

"Effective contract management gives the federal government access to cost-effective and cutting-edge private sector innovation," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a member of the caucus. "A lack of resources for contracting officers and the acquisition workforce, however, leaves the government susceptible to costly mistakes."

Caucus leaders said they are laying the groundwork to reform the entire acquisition process, rather than adding layers of oversight after contracts are awarded.

"Congress often spends its time examining high-profile slip-ups rather than on improving the acquisition process," Issa said. "Tuesday's event will help identify the ideas that can make the federal acquisition system operate more efficiently and transparently."

Nearly a year ago, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., then the ranking member of the government oversight panel formed the caucus to educate colleagues about the contracting process and to broker bipartisan solutions for procurement reform.

Davis did not run for reelection in 2008, and Issa has become the leading Republican voice on the 11-member caucus. Rep. Chris Carney of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Management, Investigations and Oversight, is among the leading Democrats on the panel.

The caucus is a congressional member organization registered with the House Administration Committee. Tuesday's forum will be the group's first public event.

Panelists will include John Needham, director of acquisition and sourcing management issues at the Government Accountability Office; Steve Kempf, assistant commissioner of acquisition management at the General Services Administration's Federal Acquisition Service; Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service; Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of the Professional Services Council; Scott Amey, general counsel of the Project On Government Oversight; and Steven Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at The George Washington University Law School.

Issa and other caucus members also will address the forum.