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FCW : November 15, 2012
Commentary | ANNE REED is founder of Anne Reed Consulting and former CIO at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. DAN GORDON is associate dean for government procurement law studies at George Washington University Law School and former administrator of the Of ce of Federal Procurement Policy. AL BURMAN is chairman of the Procurement Round Table, president of Jefferson Solutions and former administrator of OFPP. Acquisition: Bridging the communication gaps Federal acquisition executives say there s still room for improving communications between contracting of cers and program managers and between government and industry Is progress being made in bridging the gap between the contracting community and the program community? Is the Of ce of Management and Budget s Mythbusters campaign having an impact on the government s communications with industry? To explore those and other questions, the nonpro t Procurement Round Table convened an informal discussion with executives from multiple agencies. In a previous column, we reported on challenges in the work environment. Here, we want to share some of the comments about the relationships between contracting of cers and the program managers they support and between government and industry. The people sitting at the intersection of the contracting world and the program world are the contracting of cer s representatives (CORs). They have the critical role of serving as liaison between contracting of cers and contractors, which is central to good contract management. However, the consensus among senior acquisition professionals was that not much progress has been made in elevating the importance of the COR s role, or in ensuring that individuals who take it on are well trained. As one executive said, "People become CORs because somebody has to do it.NooneishiredtobeaCOR.It is considered a collateral duty and [treated as] a nuisance." Just as troubling were the communication gaps we heard about. One participant said: "There is not enough communication between the COR and the [contracting of cer]. CORs do not view themselves as an integral part of the contract management portion of the contract." These problems have been exacerbated in wartime: "In Iraq and Afghanistan, there were 170,000 contractors. CORs were tapped on the shoulder, took the two-week course online and then were 'experts. " By failing to train CORs and recognize the importance of their work, government and industry run the risk of not being appropriately aligned to achieve mission outcomes. Furthermore, errors can occur in basic contract management functions. However, one agency executive reported on progress in improving communication between contracting personnel and the program of ces they serve, which occurred as a result of leadership from acquisition executives and support from other senior of cials. However, the overall picture was one of only marginal improvement. Regarding communication between government and industry, the picture was no better. The purpose of OMB s Mythbusters campaign is to help government of cials understand that the rules do not prohibit meaningful communication with industry and that programs will have better outcomes if all parties communicate early and often. But when we asked if the campaign was making a difference, we heard skepticism. "Industry loves the Mythbusters campaign, but there is a very real question about how much the government side is changing its behavior." Virtually all the participants in our discussion indicated approval of the message but made it clear that only limited progress has been made. And one executive voiced the concern that the threat of intense oversight could cause government employees to avoid communication with industry. In sum, although some progress has been made, much work remains if we are to change the culture of communication both within the government and between the government and industry. ■ Industry loves the Mythbusters campaign, but there is a very real question about how much the government side is changing its behavior. | November 15, 2012 FCW.COM 13
October 30, 2012
November 30, 2012