Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Section 809 Panel - Government's Acquisition Workforce Needs Reforming

Why should Government contractors care about the Government's acquisition workforce? Well, for one, the acquisition workforce (AWF) is pivotal to acquisition and the efficiency of Defense acquisition depends on and is determined by the people who are responsible for all phases of the acquisition. Long-time Government contractors know - they know that acquisitions, be they easy or long drawn-out affairs, are greatly influenced by the competency of the Government's AWF.

The Section 809 Panel recently released its second of three reports on streamlining acquisition regulations and the Panel was specifically requested to address the needs of the AWF. Here's a paraphrase of their assessment and the things that need to be done to ensure that the workforce is capable of implementing much-needed acquisition reforms in the 21st Century.
Challenges faced by the acquisition workforce (AWF) are well known. They include a cumbersome hiring process, budgetary constraints that hinder recruitment incentives, training and development and a professional certification process that is increasingly disconnected from the practical skills and experience requirements. There are cultural challenges as well that include a personnel system that fails to incentivize success, political and administrative decisions that promote adherence to process and procedure instead of creativity and innovation, and a lack of authority on on the part of key players in the acquisition system to properly perform their duties. Underlying all of these challenges are rigid, bureaucratic rules, overly prescriptive regulations, and a slow process of integrating new technologies into existing processes. DoD recognizes these problems and has called for a new emphasis on critical thinking, risk management, flexible decision-making that would constitute a significant cultural shift away from existing regimented process and zero-risk mentality.
In this report, the Section 809 Panel made several AWF recommendations and promised more recommendations in its third report. These recommendations include:

  • Simplify and expedite hiring authority - right now it takes seemingly forever to bring someone on board and the Government is not necessarily attracting the best qualified candidates.
  • Convert a pilot project that provides DoD with greater control over personnel processes and functions that enable DoD to attract and retain employees who contribute most to successful organizational mission outcomes to a permanent personnel system.
  • Enhance the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund - monies used for recruitment, training, and retention of acquisition personnel.

These recommendations do not seem to address the Panels main criticism, that being the adherence to process and procedure instead of creativity and innovation. As long as there are IG (Inspector General) organizations running around beating up on workforce personnel for not complying with some obscure and unimportant procedure, innovation will always take back seat to adherence to procedures. Perhaps the additional recommendations promised in the Panel's third report will be to redirect the IG's activities.

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