Reinforcements are on the way for overworked federal acquisition pros

It may not seem like the most glamorous of federal vocations, but don’t tell me it isn’t among the most critical. The government’s acquisition workforce is collectively responsible for buying vast volumes of goods and services—from tanks and planes to computer software to office furniture to maintenance and cleaning services and well beyond.

Government contracting pros provide a cluster of essential skills. They clarify their respective agencies’ acquisition needs; they organize and referee the competition among commercial vendors to meet these needs; and they frequently manage the resulting contracts. This is big business. Last year alone they rode herd on more than $530 billion in acquisitions, up from $220 billion in FY2000 [source: Federal Times]. And please take note: this is a leap in volume that hasn’t come close to being matched by a parallel increase in full-time staff.

Bad news, good news. If you’re a federal acquisition professional, the magnitude of these government-wide numbers is probably bad news, because it likely means that you’re stressed to the limit. The good news is that administration officials feel your pain. There’s a host of innovations brewing to take the pressure off over the next few years, and most of them involve big increases in hiring. According to Federal Times, “consensus is building that the government probably needs more than 10,000 business professionals today to effectively manage its contracting burden.”

For instance, the Department of Defense is planning to bump up its full-time acquisition workforce by 15 percent—even as it moves 11,000 or so acquisition positions from outside contractors over to the government’s employment rolls. What’s more, the Navy and Air Force have acted quickly to eliminate the frustrating delays in on-boarding new acquisition hires, establishing expedited procedures that will reduce the average application-to-hire process from months to a matter of weeks and even days.

Of course all this is great news for experienced budget and procurement professionals interested in moving from private industry to the government. Entry-level candidates are also likely to benefit from expedited agency hiring and transition programs like the Federal Acquisition Institute’s Intern Coalition.

For our part, TMP Government has contributed to this timely wave of innovations through our continuing work with several DoD and civilian agencies, where our team members have analyzed workplace cultures, refined approaches to career mapping, and devised recruiting strategies for acquisition professionals.

As my TMP colleague Ellis Pines points out in a panel presentation he links to his May TALENTBREW post, the big picture is encouraging. Over the coming months and years, substantial hiring will bring relief to the overworked teams who keep the government going.

Thomas Delorme
Written by Thomas Delorme

VP, Digital Products & Strategy

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