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Contracting officers play key role in greening government

Agencies seek green provisions in almost all new contracts

Jun. 14, 2013 - 05:25PM   |  
By JIM McELHATTON   |   Comments
SBA's Paul Christy says agencies are training contracting officers to include clauses for energy-efficient products and services in new contracts.
SBA's Paul Christy says agencies are training contracting officers to include clauses for energy-efficient products and services in new contracts. (Mike Morones / Staff)

Training contracting officers ranks as the Small Business Administration’s top effort toward meeting federal sustainability goals, chief operating officer Paul Christy said.

“The biggest effort we’ve put out there is in training our contracting officers and ancillary staff on green procurement terms,” Christy, who also is SBA’s senior sustainability officer, said in an interview.

Among the initiatives outlined in President Obama’s 2009 executive order, agencies are aiming to have 95 percent of new contracts include sustainability provisions for energy-efficient services or products.

“For us, the biggest goal is making sure the contracting officers know to put these clauses in the contract, and they know to advise their agency counterparts that this is a big deal,” Christy said.

Though it is a small agency, SBA has a broad reach, overseeing set-aside contracts across government.

Christy is one of more than four dozen senior sustainability officers at federal agencies, a position mandated under Obama’s executive order.

In meetings held about four times a year, often at the White House conference center, sustainability officers talk about issues such as fleet management, cutting travel and eliminating waste, Christy said.

“I know that most of my counterparts at other agencies are training all of their contracting officers on sustainable clauses to put in contracts,” he said. “That’s the big deal right now.”

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said in an email to Federal Times that a recent sampling showed 95 percent of contracts reviewed complied with the sustainable procurement requirement.

Wright said it’s too early to say whether the sequester will affect that figure, however, noting there is no automated system to track compliance.

“Any impact to the labor force [furloughs] could impact the department’s ability to conduct an adequate contract review,” he said.

Inside SBA, Christy said officials avoided furloughs but “we have had to cut back in certain areas, especially contracts.”Still, he said, earlier moves on the sustainability initiative helped cut costs in ways that put the agency in a better position amid the sequester.

He said, for instance, SBA has lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 9 percent since 2009 and now has 15 fewer vehicles. SBA also is consolidating by moving its Washington, D.C., field office into SBA’s headquarters.

Among the biggest early challenges in the agency’s sustainability efforts was getting solid data, Christy said.

“That was a challenge at first to centralize all of the information we knew about our footprint. … I think we’ve largely gotten over that in the last couple of years.”

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