While some might argue critics like myself can make a decent career out of nitpicking issues and opportunities for savings in the private sector, there's no doubt that I could fill many lifetimes getting my hands dirty in everything that is wrong in Federal procurement. But alas, as one who has primarily gone down the private sector path, there's only so much for me to get involved with in government and especially the Federal sector. Still, I'll admit I'm excited that President Obama may finally nominate an administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. One candidate who has surfaced is David Gragan who currently serves as CPO for the District of Columbia. But in his new role, if nominated -- not to mention confirmed, what responsibilities would Gragen take on in the complicated and cloudy world of Federal procurement?
I did some digging to try and understand just what the Office of Federal Procurement Policy's role is given that so much Federal spending is decentralized. Perhaps the best way to explain is that it should, in theory, provide the same type of centralized structure and processes as a private sector company with decentralized buying but a centralized organization that creates policy and structure. The website for the OFFP suggests that the organization "plays a central role in shaping the policies and practices federal agencies use to acquire the goods and services they need to carry out their responsibilities ... [providing] overall direction for government-wide procurement policies, regulations and procedures and to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in acquisition processes". What does this translate to? Ultimately, the role of the OFFP is to represent interests that deliver the "best value to the taxpayer".
But if you look at the recent activities of the OFFP, it's clear that their well-intentioned activities have come up short. To wit, I fail to see consistent examples of the types of success they've had with developing "a better skilled and more agile workforce, consistent and effective use of competition, contract vehicles that reflect the government's buying power, and a data system that gives federal managers the information they need to evaluate results and plan effectively for the future". Let's hope that Gragen -- or whomever ultimately assumes the executive role in the OFFP -- focuses entirely on executing these noble and essential objectives.