Last December, I laid out a strategic plan to create a more innovative, effective and efficient acquisition system to support the needs of a 21st century government. This roadmap was built around three core elements: (1) build stronger vendor relationships, (2) buy as one through category management, and (3) drive innovation. I’m pleased to report on our progress over the last three months.
Our ability to save taxpayer dollars and reduce duplication in our acquisition and management practices depends on having strong partnerships with industry. OFPP has taken several steps, including the launch of its first online national dialogue with industry last year and partnering with GSA to improve customer-facing tools, but more can be done. On March 18th I will issue guidance to agencies directing them to seek feedback from vendors and internal stakeholders – such as contracting officers and program managers – on how well certain high-dollar IT acquisitions perform. We’ll use Acquisition 360, the first ever transaction-based feedback tool that allows agencies to identify strengths and weaknesses in their acquisition processes with the focus on pre-award activities, contract execution, and certain post award activities, such as debriefings.
Additionally, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) is preparing for a second open dialogue beginning this spring to get industry feedback on steps being taken to ease contractor reporting and improve commercial item acquisitions – issues raised by stakeholders in our last open dialogue. One important step is laid out in a notice issued by the General Services Administration (GSA) this week which announces a Federal Supply Schedules pricing pilot to test alternative and more effective ways to negotiate Schedule pricing without the burdens often cited by industry associated with current pricing practices. The dialogue will be announced in the Federal Register. We encourage you to review and comment on the pilot and participate in our next dialogue.
To help streamline spending for common every day items, like office supplies and furniture, we are working to implement and institutionalize Category Management, a practice adopted from industry that breaks down federal spending into 10 common categories such as IT, travel, and construction and treats them as individual business units. Through this effort, category leads with expert knowledge will examine wasteful spending and duplicative practices that hamper the acquisition process and waste money.
A key part of category management is creating greater transparency into federal contracting. In partnership with GSA, we have started to collect and share important contract and pricing information in a central location called the Acquisition Gateway. (Please check it out and help us “connect and collect.”) This site will make the acquisition workforce aware of existing contracting solutions and avoid creating duplicative contracts. It will also help drive down the vast price disparity that exists for identical items by shedding light on prices paid. This first version of the site covers key contract information for a range of commonly purchased goods and services, like office supplies, computers, and small package delivery. In accordance with our December 2014 memorandum, the Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council, now called the Category Management Leadership Council (CMLC), has prioritized the collection of IT contracts. In a few short months, the government acquisition workforce will have access to key contract information for all major IT commodity contracts across government, including bureau-wide, agency-wide, and government-wide contracts.
Additionally, to help launch the IT category, we will hire an IT Category Manager at OMB, who will work with me and our new Federal CIO, Tony Scott, to improve our buying and demand management practices for the more than $25 billion spent annually on IT commodities, such as hardware and software. GSA is hiring an IT vendor manager who will provide full-time focus on improving relationships with key types of vendors – especially those who have multiple contracts for similar goods and services with many agencies
Progress has been made in bringing greater innovation into the acquisition system. We will soon launch a “TechFAR Hub” on the Acquisition Gateway as a follow-on to the TechFAR handbook which helps agencies utilize regulatory flexibilities to produce better results for IT acquisitions. The Hub will allow agencies to accelerate information exchange on the use of agile software development and other techniques used by industry. To ensure these practices take hold, we have drafted an initial plan for training and deploying a cadre of certified digital IT acquisition professionals to agencies to assist in this area. We will encourage agencies to stand up “Buyers Clubs,” as HHS did last summer, to test, document, and scale new ideas. We are emphasizing strategies that are designed to produce quality results in a budget-constrained environment, such as those in the Digital Services Playbook. We are working with initiative-taking agencies to explore other cost-savings ideas, such as no-cost contracting (where certain public services performed by a contractor are paid for by user fees). Finally, as described in the President’s Budget, we are seeking Congressional support for legislative proposals that can help us acquire innovative solutions from both existing federal contractors and new contractors. One proposal, aimed at existing contractors who sell inexpensive services, would raise the simplified acquisition threshold from $150,000 to $500,000.
We’re sprinting, trying new approaches, gathering experiences and moving ahead to make your government work better. I look forward to working with all of you on the exciting initiatives underway to strengthen the acquisition process.
Anne Rung is the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.