Friday, January 23, 2015

New Survey on the Health of the Acquisition Workforce

The Professional Services Council (PSC) and Grant Thornton LLP just released the results of their 2014 Acquisition Policy Survey. The report is titled "A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?" and the theme centers around the Government's failure to ensure that its buyers of good and services are receiving "fresh training" and "modern skill sets" needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today's agency missions. One might think so given all the documented acquisition inefficiencies such as the spectacular and costly "" debacle we reported on just a couple of days ago.

Here are some comments from the report's Executive Summary.

The ability of the federal acquisition workforce to deliver quality outcomes ... is only partially determined by their individual commitment and talent. Outcomes are also driven by the environment and culture inwhich the workforce operates. Professional development opportunities, required policies and practices, and other external factors also play key roles... Respondents have consistently identified a lack of training resources and opportunities, misalignment of critical skills to operational needs, process-driven decision making, resistance to communication and collaboration, and excessive oversight, as primary areas of concern.

These concerns were similar to concerns raised in prior surveys so the designers of this year's survey set out to determine whether things have improved in the intervening two years. They wanted to find out whether the budget situation improved, whether the Government's investments in acquisition workforce development - which have been significant - helped to restore and create needed capabilities, whether the relationship with industry become more open and collaborative, and whether the application of oversight has been employed in appropriate and streamlined ways to minimize risk.

Their conclusion - "Regrettably, the answer to these questions is "not really."
One of the most significant takeaways was the low value place on pursuing innovation through the acquisition process. In sharp contrast to the stated goals of administration and agency leaders, and many on the  operational side of government, survey respondents ranked innovation as next to last in a list of key objectives for acquisition.
The survey identifies a number of challenges that the Government faces.

  1. There is a growing risk that the acquisition workforce and ecosystem will be increasingly distanced from the kinds of innovations that can greatly enhance mission performance.
  2. There remains a clear need for the various communities across government to align their objectives and interests
  3. The survey clearly documents gaps in the acquisition workforce's business acument and related skills, strongly suggesting a continuing need to re-think and re-design the education and training of the acquisition workforce.
  4. The acquisition workforce is increasingly buffeted between policy prescriptions and on0the-ground expectations.
  5. Congress needs to act to restore regular budget order so the proper planning needed to address theses challenges can be put in place.

You can read the entire report by clicking here.

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