Federal Procurement Chief Lays Out IT Acquisition Efforts

Acquisition

Lesley Field, the acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), laid out the key areas where OMB is trying to improve IT acquisition, and detailed the initiatives underway.

Field set the stage for her speech at FCW’s Federal IT Acquisition Summit on Thursday by listing OMB’s key priorities on IT acquisition: leveraging the Federal government’s IT spend, adopting innovative business practices, building a modern acquisition workforce, and engaging industry partners.

“All of these priorities are laser-focused on delivering the mission better and faster, using better solutions and more innovative solutions and practices, all while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Field.

Leveraging Federal IT Spend

“We’re trying to move our valuable resources, our time, our vendor’s time, our money, and our workforce away from this unnecessary repetition of contracts, where we have a lot of duplication,” said Field. “We want to move all of those resources up the value chain, so we can spend more time and more energy on our higher impact, high-value kinds of contracts.”

To achieve this goal, OMB brought category management under the President’s Management Agenda to help bring more attention to the issue. Field pointed to the consolidation of contracts, such as the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) Contract and mobile unlimited plans. She claimed that with category management, the program has achieved $15 billion in cost avoidance across the entire Federal budget, with $1.2 billion for common IT goods and services.

“As we develop a little more core policy, and you’ll probably see that fairly soon, we need to ensure that our category management is understood to be a tool in the toolbox, and certainly not the only thing out there,” Field said.

Innovative Business Practices to the Mainstream

“As we move up this value chain…we want to make sure that we are bringing innovative practices to the acquisition cycle,” said Field.

She highlighted the role of the TechFAR playbook in improving practices as a “first foray into targeting acquisition strategies for a particular kind of commodity or services.”

“Within the FAR, there’s a surprising amount of flexibility. The TechFAR was supposed to showcase exactly what you could do when you’re buying IT, without trying to circumvent anything, and we really unlocked a lot of potential,” she said, pointing to the Department of Homeland Security’s Procurement Innovation Lab as an example.

Outside of the TechFAR, Field highlighted agency Acquisition Innovation Advocates, the innovation hub on the Acquisition Gateway, and bringing service acquisition workshops from the Department of Defense to civilian agencies.

Supporting the Workforce and Engaging Partners

“As we were putting the PMA together, Margaret Weichert, who is the deputy director for management at OMB, reminded the entire team that on the acquisition side, we actually bring money to the table,” said Field. “The acquisition team, because they know how to get things done,…they actually bring savings in terms of time and money to the table.”

She highlighted the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting for Digital Services, which was developed this year, and expected to use that model for other kinds of acquisitions.

On the industry front, Field emphasized the need to separate facts from fiction. She noted that her agency released 3 mythbusters documents to clear up confusion about engaging with the private sector. She also encouraged presentations -overwritten RFIs, the use of advisory downselects, and better vendor feedback.

“We don’t always know what the dynamic forces are, especially when it comes to IT, and we really rely on our industry partners for this.”

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