Legislation would reorganize Federal Acquisition Institute

Bipartisan bill has FAI reporting directly to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

House and Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation that would dramatically reorganize the Federal Acquisition Institute, the government's training academy for civilian contracting professionals.

The 2011 Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act, introduced last week, would require that the school, through its board of directors, report directly to the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

The FAI director would be appointed by the OFPP administrator and report directly to the office's associate administrator for acquisition workforce, the bill stated. The current hiring process is less formal, with consultation by General Services Administration, OFPP and FAI's board of directors.

GSA now oversees the institute, although OFPP has a role choosing its leadership. The new bill would give OFPP a more active management role in running FAI.

All civilian agency training programs at the institute -- including acquisition internship programs -- would follow OFPP-issued guidelines, ensuring consistency in training standards, according to the legislation. The OFPP administrator would report annually to Congress on FAI's projected budget needs and expense plans.

Established in 1976 under the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act, the Federal Acquisition Institute is charged with training and developing the skills of the federal acquisition workforce. Critics say FAI has been underutilized because it lacks organizational clarity, is not funded as well as the more entrenched Defense Acquisition University and is only intermittently used by federal agencies.

"This legislation would make the federal government more efficient and saves tax dollars," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who introduced the bill in the House. "In the past decade, federal procurement spending grew by 155 percent while the acquisition personnel managing that spending grew by just 10 percent. We just don't have the workforce to manage large, complex contracts and the Federal Acquisition Institute is not meeting our training demands."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the bill's lead sponsor in the Senate, noted legislation is needed for the acquisition workforce to keep pace with the massive growth in federal contract spending during the past decade.

"This level of spending requires professionally trained and invested acquisition personnel who can manage these huge expenditures while also guarding against the possibility of waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars," Collins said. "The Federal Acquisition Institute Improvement Act would strengthen the FAI, which promotes career development and strategic human capital management for the entire civilian acquisition workforce."

The Senate measure is co-sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; and Scott Brown, R-Mass. A similar version of the legislation passed the Senate in the 111th Congress last December, but did not receive a vote in the House.

The bill also would provide enhanced and more consistent training for thousands of civilian contracting officers. FAI would be required to keep current governmentwide training standards and certification requirements and modify the programs when core competencies are not covered. In addition, career path information would be developed to encourage contracting officials to stay in federal positions for decades to come. The human capital efforts would be coordinated with the Office of Personnel Management.

To help standardize training for civilian and Defense acquisition employees, the Bush administration in 2005 moved the Federal Acquisition Institute to the campus of the Defense Acquisition University in Fort Belvoir, Va.

The Senate legislation is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, April 13, by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.