Since our four-part series about the acquisition reform report, there’s clearly been a lot of discussion about these issues. The perception is that it’s the acquisition workforce that is the predominant issue – not in terms of competence, but in terms of innovation.
The acquisition workforce tends to focus on following the FAR clauses and getting everything right from a compliance standpoint, yet is not really trained on how to go out of the box in order to foster innovation and obtain better products, solutions and service levels.
I also saw one statistic somewhere that said that pretty close to half of the acquisition workforce has less than five years experience, which means that they’re essentially just learning their craft. That’s a pretty serious matter, given that these are the people who are negotiating and creating acquisitions for literally billions or even trillions of dollars.
So how do we address this perceived deficiency? Is it just a perceived deficiency or is it a real one?
As a sidebar to that, what constitutes adequate training for acquisitions? We can send someone to the Defense Acquisition University for training and certification, but that gets us right back to what we already have – a workforce that has training in FAR clauses, but not training in innovation, new methods and new things.
If we’re not going to just repeat the past, then we need people with training in new stuff. We don’t need the same old same old training. We need something different in order to transform how people are operating.
We’re all in this dilemma. I don’t know how to solve it, but it’s clear that with new people coming on, it’s not enough just to give them the fundamentals of FAR clause and compliance training. That strategy is not working.
Requirements specification is a lost art, and that’s not what the contracting specialists are focusing on. If someone has no proper specifications about what they’re buying, what they want, and what constitutes success after they’ve bought it, then no amount of contracting innovation is going to make a damn bit of difference.