April’s blog posts are dedicated to the fundamental “blocking and tackling” of our procurement system. Given recent events, this week I am going to focus on the vital importance of nurturing and maintaining a highly qualified, professional acquisition workforce. I believe in the professionalism and dedication of our acquisition community and am proud to be a part of it.

In preparing for our recent “Common Sense in Government Procurement Awards” to Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, I found a quote from Senator Collins that truly struck me as the fundamental truth about our procurement system. Senator Collins observed that “no matter how many laws we pass or OMB guidance documents are issued, the effectiveness of our federal acquisition system depends on a vital human component—the acquisition workforce. “ That is why the Coalition strongly supports investment in the professional development of the acquisition workforce including training through the Federal Acquisition Institute, the Department of Veteran Affairs Acquisition Academy and the Defense Acquisition University. In addition, GSA has significantly increased their schedules training webinars and has received immensely positive feedback on these courses from customer agencies. Finally, events like the GSA Expo, with over 12,000 hours of acquisition training, play a critical role in providing the acquisition workforce with the latest information regarding new acquisition policies, procedures and best practices. The Expo training is not limited to government personnel— contractor acquisition professionals also benefit.

In the spirit of Myth-Busters, exchange programs between the government and the private sector should be expanded. Exchange programs, where government acquisition professionals spend time in the private sector and then take their experiences and lessons learned back to their agencies or departments, can dramatically improve contractual operations. The more government and industry understand each other’s operations the better they can work together to deliver best value to the taxpayer. Think of it as another form of transparency that can improve outcomes for government and its contractors! Finally, the Myth-Busters campaign should consider how to improve communication and interaction between contracting officers and program managers. Too often during the course of an acquisition engagement, communication between government contracting officers and program managers is limited. The better these two key players coordinate and work together the more likely the procurement and resulting contract will lead to a positive outcome.

The Coalition is committed to training the procurement community as a whole. For example, on April 18 we will hold a forum on the Civil False Claims Act and the key compliance requirements of the GSA schedules. It will provide attendees an opportunity to learn more about the schedules compliance requirements and the vital importance of investing in compliance programs. Our Spring Conference (April 26 and 27) provides a wonderful opportunity for government and contractor personnel to learn more about key initiatives, acquisitions and policies coming from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs and GSA. The information and dialogue that take place at the Conference helps better inform everyone, which improves decision making. Finally, we will have a webinar on GSA Federal Supply Schedule Option Extensions on May 3. Over the coming weeks, the Coalition will take significant steps to further enhance our professional capabilities and training. Stay tuned!