Government Officials Optimistic About OMB Acquisition Reforms

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Federal officials are optimistic that the recent Office of Management and Budget agency reform plan will have a positive impact on government acquisitions.

“There have to be new and better ways to buy IT and we need to modernize these systems, because there are obviously operational problems and security problems,” said Lesley Field, deputy administrator for Federal procurement policy at OMB. “So, I think there is a focus on it, and I think the memo sort of makes it clear we still need to continue in this vein while continuing to meet these goals.”

Field made the comments during the Association for Federal Information Research Management’s speaker series on Thursday.

The OMB memo requires agencies to reduce workforce, save money, and increase worker efficiency, while modernizing and streamlining operations. However, agencies will be asked to develop and submit reform plans based on individual needs, rather than ascribing to governmentwide reform.

In particular, Field said that it was good the memo didn’t try to be too prescriptive, allowing the career officials to tell the new members of the administration what the agency really needs.

“I thought it was a very good nod to the importance of the career teams,” said Field, adding that her office will be hosting workshops for acquisition executives to better understand their role under the new memo.

“I find the memo very supportive of the efficiencies that can be had in procurement,” said Thomas Sharpe, commissioner of the Federal acquisition service at the General Services Administration. “The message I read in that is that we want to continue to find the efficiencies that can be found by sharing, acting as one, and collaborating. And that’s what I read into the memo, and I thought it was terrific to see.”

According to Lisa Roberts, transportation and logistics category manager at the Department of Defense, that collaboration and communication “is absolutely key” to creating efficient acquisition.

Sharpe said that GSA’s Acquisition Gateway, which is now closing in on 13,000 registrants, aims to communicate what other agencies have already acquired and pave the way for more shared services.

“If you ascribe to the notion that we should talk to each other across the acquisition community, both within government and outside government, you need a place to do it,” said Sharpe.

Field said that in the past she had department representatives come into her office looking for signoff on an acquisition that another department had already accomplished.

“There was really virtually no way to find out what was already out there unless you talked to people at a conference,” said Field. “That process led us to the gateway which will lead us to much better things. They need to have a place for contracting officers and program managers to go to see what’s already out there.”

“We think that is going to be the place that we can have the dialogue and collaborate and share,” said Sharpe. “Whatever the administration desires of those outputs, you need a place to do it.”

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