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On the Frontlines in the Acquisition Workforce’s Battle Against Taxpayer Waste (Part 2 of 2)

excuse us our brief conversation we’d like to welcome our second panel of witnesses mr. John Hutten director of the acquisition sourcing manager of the United States government accountability Accountability Office mr. Roger Jordan vice president for government relations professional services counsel mr. donna jenkins the director the federal acquisition is to the General Services Administration and miss Katrina MacFarlane’s the director of the defense acquisition University all of you have very busy days I appreciate very much after you being here the time that you put in on both your written statements and being here for oral statements and allowing us to be able to ask questions and help you understand this will be a dialogue want to get chance to get as much information as we can pursuant to all committee rules witnesses are sworn in before they testify you please rise and raise your right hands thank you you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony about to give this committee to be the truth the whole truth nothing but the truth so help you God thank you let the record reflect the witnesses have answered in the affirmative may be seated where did a lot of time for discussion same rules would apply we’d ask you to limit your testimony to five or so minutes I’ll be a little bit gracious with the timing on that so we can hear your entire statement to your entire written statement of course be made part of the record on that I’d like to recognize first reading for an opening statement Thank You mr. chairman chairman Lankford ranking member Connolly and members of the subcommittee I’m pleased to be here today to discuss our recent work on acquisition workforce issues at the Department of Defense the government’s largest by an entity the federal government’s current budget and long-term fiscal pressures underscore the importance of a highly capable workforce our work has found that a lack of an adequate number of trained acquisition and contract oversight personnel has placed DoD at times at risk of potentially paying more than necessary my remarks will focus on two topics based on our recent work first I will discuss DoD’s process progress in rebuilding the capacity of its acquisition workforce second I will offer specific insights into the defense Contract Management agency’s efforts to rebuild its workforce as an illustration of the overall challenges of department faces our work shows that DoD has made some progress in rebuilding a capacity of its civilian acquisition workforce DoD has established the goal of increase in this workforce by 20,000 by fiscal year 2015 and DOD plans to reach this goal in two key ways hiring personnel using the defense acquisition workforce development fund and in sourcing functions that were being performed by contractor personnel using these two methods DoD reports that I hired about fifty nine hundred individuals in fiscal year 2010 however the department’s plans for continued acquisition workforce growth are uncertain DoD announced it has halted the insourcing initiative except on a case-by-case basis and announced a hiring freeze for the civilian workforce Sudan due to anticipated budget constraints DoD has indicated that initiatives using defense acquisition workforce development fund including hiring for the acquisition workforce will continue but just as important is increasing the size of the workforce is building the workforce skills and expertise we found that DoD has continued to make progress in completing the competency assessments which identified the skills and capabilities of the workforce and help identify areas needing further attention DoD reports that has used these competency assessments in part to help revise the training curriculum for its contracting career field now while these actions are focused on what is considered the traditional acquisition workforce we have also reported that DoD needs to identify the other personnel outside this traditional workforce whoever role in acquisition such as those who helped set the requirements or serve as a contract contracting officers representative to manage and oversee contractor performance these are functions that are key to sound acquisition outcomes EOD notes that identifying this population is challenging in part because it’s spread across many organizations also the acquisition duties these people perform are often done as a secondary duty nonetheless DoD agreed with several of our recommendations to help it get a better handle on who these people are and the skills they need to perform their roles in the acquisition process I will now briefly touch on our work related dcma by the early 2000s dcma had experienced significant erosion of expertise such that it could not fulfill all of its oversight functions since 2008 however dcma has been rebuilding its workforce making increasing use of the defense acquisition workforce development fund to do so for example in fiscal year 2011 dcma hired a little over 1,200 new employees under this authority dcma has also taken steps to rebuild their skill sets for example by the late 1990s dcma had lost a majority of its contract cost price analysts and as a result dcma reported that deal these acquisitions were subject to unacceptable levels of cost risks over the past two years dcma is hired almost two hundred eighty new contract cost price analysts and cost monitors now one challenge facing tcma is its large percentage of retirement eligible employees making the agency vulnerable to the loss of valuable technical expertise and organizational knowledge in part dcma plans and mitigate this risk too aggressive recruiting and bringing back retired annuitants to help raise the skill levels of the newer employees in closing DoD has made some progress in terms of growing the acquisition for workforce and identifying the skills and competency it needs however more needs to be done the fiscal and budget challenges facing this nation and DOD underscore the need for DoD to strategically manage its workforce so that it has the right skills capabilities and training to effectively manage the billions of dollars it spends on goods and services each year whether DoD achieves its planned growth and unrelated workforce improvement initiatives remains uncertain but what is certain is that DoD can ill afford not to succeed in preparing its workforce to meet its future needs I would be happy to respond any questions you may have mr. odden mr. Jordan chairman Lankford ranking member Connolly and members of the subcommittee thank you for the opportunity to provide an industry perspective on the acquisition workforce I’ll begin by highlighting why the federal contracting community believes in the need for a highly-skilled well-trained and adequately staffed acquisition workforce savvy businesses understand that the best customer is a well informed educated customer as a business when you have a client that accurately defines its needs communicates openly and clearly and recognizes the fundamental elements of the risks being adopted by your company through the partnership then you have a customer you can work with best to deliver real capabilities and enhancements to meet their mission needs but these important understandings are not always inherent it’s a critical cog between government and the private sector it’s important that the acquisition workforce contain the expertise training continuing education and commitment to collaboration that fosters successful interfaces with the private sector the acquisition workforce suffered as a result of numerous factors dating back to the mid-90s and appropriately this workforce has garnered much need of attention in recent years as a result there are signs of improvement that considerable threats to the acquisition workforce remain and industry has a number of observations and recommendations first the biggest challenge facing the acquisition workforce is how the government will address pending budget restructure in the private reductions as workforce reductions related to the budget scenario continue to be debated PSC recommends that federal departments engage in thorough human capital planning based on evaluated mission needs inclusion of the acquisition workforce should be a critical component of such planning and as a result PSC believes agencies will discover that the acquisition workforce should not be slashed this certainly has been the finding of DoD and as a result their efforts have exempted cuts to the acquisition workforce also as budget pressures persist federal contracting was sharing the burden savings may be achieved as government makes difficult decisions about what it is buying but if greater significance will be decisions about how the government buys for example the administration has pushed for greater use of firm fixed price contracts in conveying such guidance the administration also acknowledged that the use of such contracts is only encouraged or suitable to the nature of the acquisition however the latter message has not effectively filtered down to the field resulting in the use of firm fixed price contracts were inappropriate and thus creating an ordinate risk to contractors and high costs to government in addition industry is witnessed a dramatic increase in the use of lowest price technically acceptable well LptA is an important component of the acquisition toolbox it’s Miss application can lead to reduced quality mission capabilities for the government where a focus on value may have produced greater benefits and long-term cost savings to avoid mass application of these approaches PSC recommends training of the acquisition workforce foster critical thinking and strategic decision-making rather than simply teaching strict adherence to procedures and avoiding any government risk in addition for more complex procurements those involving cyber security for example the work force must be encouraged to avoid over reliance on the cheapest proposal and instead be encouraged and supported when they apply when they apply appropriate costs and technical trade-offs that is best value considerations communication and collaboration between the acquisition workforce in the private sector also diminished in recent years and in order to foster meaningful partnerships such communication must not be permitted to deteriorate further Oh FPPs initiative of a myth initiation of the Mythbusters campaign part of alum B’s broader 25-point IT management improvement plan seeks to encouraging clarify how industry and government can appropriately engage one another during the acquisition process this is a positive development yet it’s not readily apparent the message has been adopted by rank-and-file acquisition personnel hence PSC recommends that oFPP take additional steps to build upon the Mythbusters campaign additionally PSC encourages the examination of individual Department efforts to increase the capabilities of their acquisition workforce gains have been made on this front as departments have established successful internship and Trent or training programs DHS and VA are two examples PSC believes that Congress can taken steps to enhance such initiatives the Federal Acquisition Improvement Act for example would build upon these initiatives by clarifying the role of fif AI and government-wide acquisition workforce training and would increase FAI responsibilities to include collaboration among existing civilian agency acquisition workforce training initiatives lastly I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of consistent funding for the various acquisition workforce training initiatives comprehensive acquisition skills are not developed overnight and the efforts that have been initiated in recent years are not likely to yield immediate results hence it’s important that the funding staffing levels and education and training for the acquisition workforce remain a priority as a result we strongly believe that long-term savings associated with the investment in the acquisition workforce excuse me as a result we strongly believe that long-term savings associated with the investment in the acquisition workforce will pay future dividends that far outweigh any short term savings being touted as a result of acquisition workforce cuts and the government will truly establish itself as the private sectors best customer this concludes my testimony I’d be happy to answer any questions mr. drew mr. Gibbs good afternoon chairman Lankford ranking member Connolly members of the committee as you’re aware i’m donna jenkins the director the Federal Acquisition is too and I’m pleased to be here today to tell you about the progress FAA has made over the last eight months since I’ve assumed the position taxpayers rely on the workforce to make critical business decision they impact the lives of every American from protecting the homeland to supporting the small businesses that fuel our economy this demands an agile workforce with diverse and sophisticated sets skills to define requirements make complicated trade-off decisions among competing alternatives and manage complex projects with tight budget and schedule constraints agencies have shifted from buying products requiring a process-based procurement approach to ensure the right products delivered on time to now an acquisition of complex services and technologies the success of which depends on the knowledge base lifecycle management approach our professionals must navigate an evolving commercial marketplace driven by rapid advances in technology global supply chains and emerging security concerns keeping the workforces skills is imperative to our success improvements have been realized but we still face three fundamental challenges the first as mentioned by everybody else is the demographics of the acquisition workforce we do have a younger more educated workforce but they still require the necessary technical training to be successful we also need to ensure that the sea half of the workforce expected to retire over the next 10 years transfers their knowledge to the new and less experienced members the second challenge is to make smart investments that result in shared workforce management tools and use technology to eliminate inefficient duplication across the government the third challenge is to continue to improve collaboration across the acquisition community we can no longer afford for each agency to solve its own human capital challenges we need to collectively develop tools training and share leading practices to improve standardization reduce redundancy and costs and cultivate a mobile workforce FAI has been working with key stakeholders and collaborating on these challenges we’re partnering with oFPP and the Office of Personnel Management to establish the first-ever acquisition track in the presidential management Fellows Program for fiscal year 12 we’re reaching a broader base of acquisition professionals and have added new training on critical topics such as price analysis and human capital I mean human trafficking for the first time FAI is training program managers and contracting officers representatives positions critical to responsibly defining the government’s requirement and managing the contracts after award we are investing in technology that pays off this month FAI trained 5600 acquisition workforce members in a single session through an online webinar class enrollment for FAI sponsored courses increased by thirty percent in fiscal year 11 FAI is using a risk-based approach to improve the certification programs now the highest level of certification for the contracting officers representative combines additional training and experience requirements to optimize the taxpayers return on investment in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security FAI has launched the Federal Acquisition Institute training application system or fate as it’s a robust workforce management tool Fatah’s will eliminate the need for standalone stovepipe systems across governments by providing agencies with a way to manage their workforce certifications warrants and training delivery programs soon agencies will be able to use the systems business intelligence tools to analyze the demographics of the workforce supporting more effective human capital planning fai has also worked to re-energize its many interagency committee which helped shape the initiatives program and training so that the government only has to invest invest in these items only once in conclusion with the support and leadership of gsa and oFPP fai has delivered innovative solutions which demonstrate the value of cross agency collaboration i appreciate the committee’s attention to this critical issue and ranking member Connolly’s proposed legislation that would support smart investments in the acquisition workforce thank you for the opportunity to be here today and I’m happy to answer any questions thank you Miss MacFarlane chairman Lankford ranking member Connolly distinguished members of the committee my name is Katrina mark MacFarlane and I’m the president of the defense acquisition University I’m really thankful for this opportunity to testify and I also appreciate your support to this very critical area and also to the panel members because they’re right on target so my testimony will be brief and focused strictly on what the defense acquisition University has seen as developed on the best way to ensure our war fighters get what they need and that our taxpayers get their money’s worth and that we combat fraud waste and abuse is oil trained and fully qualified acquisition workforce the defense acquisition workforce is comprised of individuals from a broad spectrum of technical expertise program a business skills and institutional wealth memory the workforce is approximately 150,000 strong the standing army of the potomac and its current s fans 15 career fields program management systems engineering logistics contracting with the drawdown in the 1990s as referenced we left our acquisition workforce and organizations in a significant reduction in capacity and capability especially in critical areas like contracting auditing pricing engineering still with us this bathtub effect that has been discussed means that many people are leaving us with that critical expertise and leaving behind less experience in the 1991 defense acquisition workforce Improvement Act de whea d established a statutorily mandated career development program for people who are formally identified the acquisition workforce the certification program consists of three pieces education experience and training diu provides the training piece of this program which has grown through our 40 years of experience serving the acquisition community DOD began its to rebuild of its defense acquisition workforce in approximately april of 2009 with the help of the defense acquisition workforce development fund atif established by Congress in the fy2008 NDAA we increased our workforce capacity and began redressing our workforce capacity concerns but while workforce size is important and skill moscoso is important quality is paramount today we offer about a hundred courses both classroom and online entry level training is predominantly provided online as is continuous learning we have a lot of online training that’s self-paced it provides knowledge management communities of practice and is open to the public our IT infrastructure is critical to in our ability to reach that workforce 24-7 around the world as a result of the funds from dada if in addition to be able to expand our web-based learning diu has been able to hire additional faculty and additional infrastructure pertaining in classrooms for what is our advanced defense acquisition training our faculty provide in addition to training and classroom consulting targeted training rapid deployment training and all of this to the acquisition organizations throughout the department and at call a combined total of our web and facility I’m sorry our web and faculty services is tallied this year at 11 million learning hours we stay responsive to current DoD concerns in addition to having recognized that services are a larger part of what our spend is we’ve recognized the need to provide our workforce services acquisition training we’ve developed a services acquisition mall online we have developed automated services requirements developments tools so that you stress on what’s on what you want before you issue forth the solicitation and deliver services acquisition workshops across to the department we’ve worked this past year with the DoD inspector general’s office and the defense and services oddest agencies to identify acquisition training requirements for the auditor community and have signed an agreement to that for we’ve also signed a memorandum with the defense Contract Management Agency Charlie Williams to establish a new da you college the college of contract management for on-site management of major weapons systems contract and in theater contract operations we’re increasing our training for these do deep employees that are not included in the statutorily mandated defense acquisition workforce but whose role is critical for their successful acquisition outcomes to be had for example in response to the 2007 and daaa we now train those DoD employees responsible for generating requirements for major defense acquisition programs we’ve also increased training for deployed contracting officers and contracting officer representatives we are not alone in our training role as you see beside us we cooperate and training initiative with the Federal Acquisition Institute VA Academy NASA Department of Homeland Security many others we’re currently working to achieve efficiencies in that area by sharing our curriculum our IT infrastructure governance facilities in some cases and a great number of cross jency recognition of workforce credential so our workforce can be transitory our contracting courses are a great example of this specifically tailored for the civilian use a process that we’re expanding because da you is a provider of practitioner training what we teach particularly in classrooms is focused on what our people need to do on their jobs with that and the fact that we’ve trained and grown over the 40 years in our own learning we’ve expanded and taken a look at how we can improve what we do and how we teach we’re engineering right now our next steps to develop a qualified acquisition professional the department’s most recent effort towards a fully qualified acquisition workforce is this qualification initiative our goal is to have the workforce that is both certified which is formal classroom the ax sundry associated testing that comes with but also to take it into the workplace environment and qualify those folks on the job to effectively perform their duties as acquisition professionals we will ensure that the workforce both understands the job when they leave the classroom and also can effectively perform it successfully this qualification initiative i might add response to a statutory mandate section 17 23 c of the title 10 USC acquisition is inherently a responsibility of the government and successful acquisition outcomes are critical to our national security we must increase our buying power and deliver efficiently and affordably and responsible stewards and with to do the taxpayers resources the Justice it deserves we must always ensure that our warfighters have products and services they need to win to do this we need a fully qualified acquisition workforce that honorable Kendall said our legacy is to leave behind a stronger workforce a more capable workforce than we inherited I promise you we will do that and I thank you for this opportunity again and welcome your questions thank you and thanks to all of you as well we’ll probably do several rounds of questions back and forth through cucina so this will be an ongoing conversation available at what we can on it you give an overall concern for me and this is not something that you can solve on it in the 1990s with a wonderful peace dividend we dialed back a lot of things including this contracting work force and so we dial that back and just get a dial back and reduce our numbers in time for September 11th when we dramatically increase the number of contracts that are out there and so we spend ten years trying to catch up on personnel and training about the time that we now start to slow down our purchasing again how do we hit a balance on this so that we do not overreact in the same way that we suddenly dramatically increase our numbers and our training and all the investment into it over do that if that’s imaginable right now and get out of balance again so any quick ideas on that on how we manage that in the days to come because I’d hate to see as 10 years from now go through a cut and go through the same cycle again yes sir Michelle mr. chairman the way I would frame that question is to make an intelligent decision one needs to know at each agency what you’re buying what your current capability is in terms of an acquisition workforce and what are your needs to assure yourself you’re going to get good outcomes for what you need to buy the extent to which you have gaps I think you need to identify those I could who’s the best person to track that is that the agency head in each area or who can best determine that I think it starts at the agency I thank the procurement officials I think other stakeholders such as human capital people people from the CFO shop I think it takes a team like that to put it at a high enough level in an organization to have a good understanding of what the condition is right now also you need to look at the demographics if you have a lot of senior people in your organization and as it’s been discussed here before bringing in a lot of new people they can get the initial training but they need that experience they need that entering that is something that comes up consistently in a lot of the conversations that I have with contractors it is the we we understand the process better than the person that’s actually working through our contract and it’s because they’re occasionally getting someone new and and as they work through that system it’s frustrating for them because they’re saying no this is how it’s done it’s frustrating because they know there’s flexibility and contracting vehicles and they get frustrated mr. Jordan I think you mentioned the the fixed price vehicle is being a preferential so all that challenge is getting chest work through both both training and age and experience and all those things that you all live and breathe every single day to be able to work through it’s getting that down to every single person in the organization tell me how you feel like progress is being made in that I’m hearing some optimism in that and obviously you’re very aware of this I’m not the first to bring it up by far miss Jordan you wanted men tonight real quick you barter brought it up chairman i think i think that i’ll start with the myth-busting campaign there was a significant deterioration in the communication between industry and government dating back several years and the myth-busting campaign has really started to turn that around I still think it needs to be an additional focus like I said that the direction from leadership has been right but how that message is permeated down for the field has been it’s been a little slower and I think that mr. Gordon has recognized that and recognize that that needs to be an additional area of focus so I would start with that and I think that you know with the drive towards more firm fixed price contracts again it’s not necessarily guidance from leadership has been wrong they’ve said we want you to focus more infirmary it what I’ve heard back from contractors is I’m glad to do it firm fixed price but it’s going to cost more because I don’t know what the risk is involved where another vehicle maybe and understand this reaction the other direction but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that I’m glad to do it but I’m going to always charge more for this because I’m assuming all the risk that’s true that so it’s it comes back to the guidance from leadership about using it where it’s appropriate and that guidance has been been right but again it’s it’s the full message is not filtering all the way down to the people that needs to filter down the chickens ms McCrone either one how do we worth it because obviously that’s got to be someone with clairvoyance to be able to determine which one’s going to be cheaper and which one’s going to be better for the taxpayer at the end of it so understand there’s not gonna be a perfect way to be able to determine that how do we what’s your suggestion on how to process through this i’m going to start if i could back on your original premise which is how do we get there how do we get in the midst of this economic decline attention to the detail that you’ve brought to the attention of the workforces competency and i think one of the things the Department of Defense has done under the guidance of dr. Carter and mr. Kendall as with the recognition that was the outfall of a lot of the better buying power initiatives was this sudden recognition that the workforce wasn’t up to the par to be able to perform the duties that this policy which was accurately written was r intended outcome wise so one of the things they did was with the university to step up that another thing is the services themselves are taking a very very conscious and disciplined approach to take a look at their workforce and where their needs are what can you do to improve it or fix price for example you need to explain to people where they get the resources to help them understand which is related to why you would go into a fixed price arena cost and price certainty you have to have a good on standing of the configuration of the item before you try to engage in a fixed price situation and unfortunately people just as mr. Jordan said engaged in the act of compliance by stacked of understanding that critical thinking is one of our challenges when I defer to mr. Collier for serious questions that will come back we’ll finish this up Thank You mr. chairman and before you start the clock just for a second this whole conversation reminds her the story John Glenn used to tell I used to work with John guns on the Senate that when he when he was a sent into space you know he was in a capsule on top of a rocket with hundreds of thousands of thrust with comforted in the knowledge that both had been won by the lowest federal bitter so uh contracting was even on his mind way back then I want to thank our panel for being here and let me just ask this first question if I may miss McFarland I’m listening to your statistics for some very impressive 100 courses 11 million learning hours how many people trained this last year um this year 57,000 seats went through 57,000 Wow and and I I want to thank mr. Jordan miss Jenkins for the kind remarks with respect to the MPI Improvement Act do you have any view on how that might make your job easier or harder or you don’t hear personally I think it’s an excellent opportunity to for improvement working with Donna and particularly I’m sorely disappointed Dan’s going because he’s been a bright light and the support that you all have been providing for this area is certainly moved us forward and it needs to continue to move forward thank you and I HR 14 24 has the right emphasis and it excludes the DoD appropriately so it looks for my personal view excellent support thank you very much um and this Jenkins I you gave a wonderful example of an online training program with fifty six hundred people in one session very impressive would how many were totally trained this year would you venture to guess yeah so we did it seven thousand actual seat classes and then the civilian workforce has continued to benefit from the FA idea you partnership completing 87,000 online course modules at defense and would you is it your impression that if you I’m not trying to set it up and if you had augmented resources that you might be able to meet a much larger population I mean ta use doing 57,000 a year so what we do is their demand that’s unmet is what I’m getting at we do appreciate the support that that you provide the work for something I think we all want the same thing a competent and efficient acquisition workforce to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars FAI has a slightly different role in that we don’t do organic teaching we don’t teach the classes ourself we hire our vendor support so in in collaboration with the number of the other federal agencies we assist them by setting the standards that they must all meet which is a little bit different role than for instance the VA academy or the large training program that exists at DHS and NASA just to name a few of the other agencies so I think as long as we’re all training to the same set of standards that that we work collaboratively together we can we can meet our need would it be fair to say that for example an online class like the one you cited and I’ve taken those myself when I was in the private sector of a lot of that either entry level or continuing learning kinds of classes but sometimes there’s no substitute for in the classroom technical training to make sure I’m mastering what I need to master would that be a fair observation from your point of view I think in general yes you’re absolutely correct and would it also be true that virtually every federal agency despite the wonderful work of da you and fai still needs to have its own specialized training because the VA mission is different from FDA yes I would agree with that and I see the role of FAI there as being a collaborative because there is still even a baseline portion of the training program that would be consistent across all the federal agencies so I’m very excited to actually say that the chief acquisition officers council just approved us to do what we call a training collaboration border to establish a training collaboration board and what that would do would be allow us to discuss any developmental items that we’re going to any courses were going to develop and we would be able to say come up with a eighty percent solution once and then leave the room for agencies to add it there specific mission requirements in the remaining portion I think that’s a good role for FAI Thank You mr. Jordan you heard Mr Gordon actually observed that in his conversations with many contractors he’s heard frequently how tired they are having to Train federal contract officers on the contracts are managing is that is that something you also here at the professor professional services council terms of the members you represent and any other observation we have about that absolutely we hear we hear a lot of the same and it comes back to my my opening comments about the the need or the desire for a well-educated customer is really our best customer we do find that we’re having to do a lot of explaining a lot of educating ourselves on some acquisition related issues it would certainly be beneficial to both sides if if that training is is our understanding is brought to the table in advance so that we can get to the you know to the process of contracting versus educating my time is up mr. chairman thank you let me ask a question how do we move into a couple things one is best value for something and the best values this wonderful nebulous concept that everyone has to have open work for a conversation but as we did with the best value how do we move from best value is cheapest this year versus cheapest in ten years or maybe most efficient in 10 years or has a greater life expectancy because things are different energy usages some may be more efficient than their energy uses it may be bit made a better equipment and so it’s going to last longer those are pure judgment calls how is the criteria set and for the evaluation for that contracting officer to say this was actually is it I guess what I’m asking is there a second guess ur in this to go back and teach them and say you made this decision this one was cheaper than this one but by the way as I go back and look at everything I think this would have been a better deal because of this do they give that is there someone that’s stepping over their shoulder and helping train them in that is there some way to be able to evaluate that so take off yeah I think you understand where I am yes I do sir one of the things the department had to build into its acquisition process do d5000 is milestones and decision points to facilitate life cycle costs which is what you’re talking about best value and we have not the Contracting Officer inclined to make that determination it’s a team because the engineer needs to understand what the trades are the largest ition the price are the costs are so when there’s a source selection to be made that is when you’re deciding upon what you’re going to buy those people come together in consensus and then the department has to take a loot a look at it from the administration’s view so when they come forward to make a decision it’s not just the local decision it’s the organizations and department decision so do you feel like you’re we’re on top of this at this point or you feel like it’s improving or where do you think we are in this process it will and has improved is that improving as fast as we need it no in the midst of this decline will have challenges okay same way they are other comments you want to make so now I couldn’t agree more with miss miss McFarland statements and I think the challenge is in the civilian agencies is that we don’t have a baseline process like the DoD 5,000 that as a civilian federal government we all follow so fai is working very hard to establish some baseline processes that are just good business decisions that then regardless of what agency you’re at or you’re buying we can we can drive those kind of same milestone decision type choices ok mr. Jordan looks like you want to be obsessed them as well chairman i think the real threat to the best value is coming as budgets get tighter there is a downward pressure on cost and you tend to your tents there’s a tendency to to focus on short-term savings in terms of those those long-term lifecycle costs and and so i think it he needs to be cogs incentive okay let’s not let’s not focus on the short term let’s keep our focus on long-term savings right part of that is how that Contracting Officer is affirmed how they’re encouraged if they’re encouraged based on speed and number that they got done after encouraged based on the final price obviously that makes a huge difference or if there’s some way to be able to affirm them and you made a good judgment here this was a tough one to be able to get it done I hear lots of stories on that that person is risk-averse they’re gonna do whatever safest they’re going to work with a contractor they know it’s very difficult to be able to break in as a new person or as a new company getting in the mix people that are not the prime they’re trying to work to get to the prime they have a sub out there at some point and I’ve had it for 56 years everyone knows they’re doing a good job but can’t ever break in at being the prime these same story seemed to be replicated one person after another that I talked with in the process and so some of that is again I can’t imagine the first person to bring this up but it’s how do we get down into that level to train them to help new companies jump into the process and move into that because it obviously saves us money do not have the middleman just in the transition but it adds more work to that contracting officer because now he’s not grouping a whole bunch of things together and getting that off his desk now he has to deal with multiple smaller but it also is cheaper for us so yes sir Machado mr. chairman a lot rides on the requirement how will you define that requirement up front and we should report a couple months ago that just looked at the acquisition planning process and I think you’re kind of talking about some of the things that we observed is that the planning doesn’t start soon enough because when you start sooner you can be more thoughtful about the process what is it we’re going to buy what is the best approach to buy it you also allow more time for competition you also allow more time if you have some of the critical eye taking a look at that statement of work that you think you’re going to have and looking at it and seeing is this going to open it up for us for competition we’ve done work looking at competition at DoD you have competition advocates that are starting to get more involved in trying to promote more in competition I think just as an examples doing it early better understand your requirements up front will hopefully give a increased likelihood that you’re going to have better outcomes right i would agree on that and depends on whether you’re close to the end of the fiscal year or not on that decision as far as how much advanced planning goes into it as well I’m going to defer an additional two minutes real quick on as well as the Chairman’s privilege on this one need to ask about where we are on trafficking in persons we had a hearing that was extensive talking about the issue and especially dealing with State Department contracts in the Middle East and on our bases in Afghanistan and Iraq and third country nationals no one disputed us on either panel that day to say this is not occurring there was a common nodding of her heads as we’re fighting through this no one came back to us and said we need one more rule the rules are in place the processes seem to be in place it’s just not stopping how do we stop indentured servitude on our bases and in our embassies um well the Federal Acquisition Institute in partnership again with the Department of Homeland Security developed a course an online module on human trafficking to make people aware of on the acquisition workforce of the signs of human trafficking as well as the far clause which is associated with that we also worked with the Department of State in developing the requirements as a subject matter expertise so that’s available with on the DA you learning management online system for the entire federal workforce in everybody else part of our frustration was we can’t seem to find any contractor that’s been suspended or debarred because of this so what real issue is follow through I mean as you stated all of this is in place there’s only a certain part that you can get to with the teaching in the training right the second piece is follow through right but if some contractor that’s doing this feels no threat of being suspended in the bard if the prime up the food chain from them feels no heat on it they’re not going to stop they’re making a ton of money and using people as slaves in the process and they end up on our bases or enter embassies and the people that are working around them service members don’t know that at some point we’ve got to be able to put some heat down and say this has got to stop but that is the accountability on the other side and what I’m asking is how do we get that how do we get that accountability that somebody’s head starts rolling in this process to say you’re you’re for the first time we know this is happening we know it’s happening consistency we have a low threshold of proof with the suspension and debarment on this on the facts that we’re finding on the ground you’re suspended as we work through this process until we can get this resolved and so suddenly the word begins to spread cut it out how do we get there chairman I think that first identifying it is is of critical importance and its really an oversight function and and obviously we would support greater oversight kind of tracking in a contingency environments a little bit more complicated I think here within the u.s. obviously the first night suspension and debarment is substantial um companies are very cognizant of it I’m not sure that that subcontractors third cat third country nationals for example fully understand the threat of suspension and debarment or for that matter care but I certainly think that there needs to be a greater focus on it but I also think that in doing so you need to understand the dynamics of a contingency contracting environment i understand it somewhat if we hadn’t been there ten years so that that’s tougher to explain after ten years and it’s even tougher to explain in our embassies on the ground so i need to defer to mr. Connolly as well I would just thank you for bringing that up mr. chairman because I think in our just as a take back but I mean in our hearing not a single prosecution has occurred not one I mean there were tens of thousands of kind of tracks in Afghanistan Iraq tens of thousands thousands of contractors and the practice is widespread we had testimony tens of thousands maybe many more of human beings who are being trafficked as sort of pay off the contracts or or just necessary cost of doing business irrespective of the terrible harm to these human beings not one that i know of debarment or suspension 33 referred 44 sort of a warning and that was it and in a practice that the test undisputed testimony widespread and you know from our point of view absolutely on a bipartisan basis not acceptable not acceptable and has to be stopped and we have to go beyond training as you said I mean it’s about enforcement how serious are we about this and we ain’t serious enough but any rate I certainly echo the Chairman sentiments and that and we’re going to stay on top of that but coming back to the topic at hand the Chairman earlier asked some questions about well sort of we saw the the acquisition and procurement and contracting personnel sort of shrink in ratio to the growth in contracting in the previous decade we’ve done some ketchup especially made some progress in the Pentagon but now we’re seeing contracts sort of stagnant and maybe they will fall given the budgetary pressures we’re all under and we don’t want to sort of be in this kind of cycle I guess I want to focus less on the numerical balance and more on the qualitative aspects of why this makes sense as an investment because when we have smart contracting officers acquisition officers in the federal government we can save money we can make sure things are being run efficiently we can avoid cost overruns and the kind of tragic problem the Chairman talked about in terms of human trafficking mr. Hatton I want to give you an opportunity to comment on that well in terms of the quality and the expertise and versus the numbers you’re absolutely right and when you’re playing catch up which is I think is what we’re doing you’re going to get a large influx of newer people and they can get that initial training and then get the certification but just like in GA we’re building our workforce we have a lot of junior people and we are spending a lot of time on the day to day on the job training trying to bring them in expertise up to the level where we want them to be to be actually journeyman and go out on their own it’s certainly a big challenge I think you have to have the mentors if you’re losing too many of your senior people then who is going to train those those folks plus the fact that you have a workforce and it might depend on an eight each agency they got a lot to do and when you have a lot to do you wonder sometimes are we just being too quick and not doing the job is through it thoroughly as we should and so I think it’s a trade-off of like the workload it’s a trade-off of the demographics of the people we have do we have the senior people to mentor and just the overall number of people when you’re bringing in a lot of new people I think this is a little bit of a transition for everyone right now with it presumably it’s also about technical knowledge I mean we’re now getting you know it’s one thing to say I need you to manage a contract whereby we produce and we order 300,000 pencils every year that’s one kind of contract we’re moving out of that kind of contact we’re not talking about sort of broad systems integration contracts that required a fairly intimate knowledge of how technology works so that when when somebody in the department says here’s what I need I I have the skill set to translate that into the technical language in the RFP and then manage that once the contracts awarded to make sure that those specs are being met and the and and sometimes what the lay person who’s deeply into the mission says has you know they may not have an understanding of the boundaries of technology or what that really means in terms of cost linking up the field offices and data big data bases and data entry and the coordination and being able to recognize it those are all different kinds of capabilities we wouldn’t have even talked about 30 years ago but they’re commonplace today so I assume it’s also about tech technical expertise and and that’s got to be that that is the concern of mine mr. chairman because the higher level of technical expertise now you’re competing with the private sector trying to get those people now the private sector generally pays a lot more than we in the public sector and that is of concern to me moving forward will we be able to have that skill base not just how you manage a contract but do you have the technical knowledge to make sure that contract is being you know fulfilled and the taxpayer interest and I know I talk too much but mr. mess no that’s fine mr. Connolly and I would agree with you and that’s why you know it’s important to really have a good understanding of what you’re buying and what your current capacity is things change all the time like you said ten years ago or we weren’t by and half the things we are now but we’re buying very technically complex things so you have to constantly be revisiting your acquisition workforce plan which and have a good understanding of who we have again what the current capacity are we’ve done some work looking at acquisitions planning i mentioned earlier just some anecdotes people were starting to process to add the requirements yes it was very technical they started bringing in those anybody within the organization that had insights on some of this technical issues some of the agencies are bringing in like business specialists or industrial type people to help support the front end of the process you know those are certain ways you can do it but of course for certain types of things you might have to get the expertise outside but the important thing is you do that upfront you do it early enough so you really nail down what the heck it is we’re buying what can I just just one more question mr. chairman and I think its pedigree we got 24 agencies figuring out how to do smart contracting and some of them avail themselves of fai some might avail themselves of da you some man belum cells are both but they also do their own training your point of view about how well we’re looking at best practices we’re creating some base uniform standard for all contracting officers and how this coordination works or doesn’t well I have to say sir we’ve gotten a request recently by the full committee about a month ago and it’s asked us to look at the role oFPP plays as well as fa fa I in the training civilian acquisition professionals we talked this morning that or this afternoon that there are several agencies that have their own institutes and academies I can’t tell you today what how many there are out there and what who they’re serving and what type of training oh maybe like the folks on the panel can but we haven’t done work in that area but we have been asked to look at that particular issue as well as a physical location of the training facilities and the cost of the develop and deliver that training I think that review is going to be touching on some issues we haven’t looked at more recently and I think that’s going to help inform a lot of the discussion here Thank You mr. chairman this quick follow-up on that as well you mention all the different cameras do we know how many training academies are out there sir I don’t know the exact number but I can can let you know that it’s part of the legislation that requires each senior procurement exact to establish a line item in their budget to train their acquisition workforce so my guess is that every agency is complying with with the regulation and therefore is providing some form of training whether it’s sending them to individual vendor locations or there they’re establishing central locations like the VA DHS is there some collaboration that could occur that could be coordinated to be able to combine some of these or suggest accommodation for smaller agencies and say three or four of you let’s come together and let’s find a way to do this more efficiently obviously that we’ll talk about all day and we’ll talk about for a long time about budget issues so are there some of those things being explored so so absolutely and I’m actually glad you answered that or ask that question in that way because we have at FAI developed the Federal Acquisition Institute training application system I mentioned it before and it’s a robust workforce management tool but what it actually also allows is every agency to load its course offerings into the system and that any other agency can see when that agency doesn’t Phyllis eat that there’s open seats so that then no seat would go left unfilled at the expense of the taxpayers resources and additionally as we move towards the training consortium board will move into trying to collaborate on the development of new course we’re okay so you’re targeting to have your training areas as full as the airplanes coming in and out of reagan airport more so okay that’d be terrific on that any other collaboration and that is currently occurring between the two major groups here obviously there’s a lot of resources connectivity I’m hearing website development and their certification issues and trying to share some of that other projects that are ongoing that we need to be made aware of as far as sharing resources one of the main efforts that we’re trying to do together is have the same learning management system if we keep our systems close together as we upgrade our courses and our curriculum they can take advantage of it and the same thing the other way around so really the central IT is I emphasized during my testimony is very important okay every building the wheel is not not important if we can take websites we take certifications in a depth and that’s much preferred which coming up phone mr. Chairman I just wanted to thank you this is a very important hearing this topic well maybe not universally sexy you know the taxpayers interest is lost or won frankly at this level of Management and it is so critical and it may seem our came but it’s very important and I just thank you and congratulate you for having this hearing because I this is one area I’m confident we can proceed in a very bipartisan basis thank you no thank you and thank you for your time as well I getting to this end up going through all the research and information and the work that you’re doing on it look forward to continuing to hear the progress is we’ll meet again and the days to come to be able to get an update where we are with that we’re adjourned

One Comment

  1. Prentis Goodwin
    Prentis Goodwin April 27, 2012

    Same old BS

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