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Official: Rotate contracting officers between government, private sector

Jul. 23, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By JIM McELHATTON   |   Comments
Joseph Jordan, the White House's top contracting policy chief, floated the idea Tuesday of having contracting professionals bounce back and forth between industry and agencies.
Joseph Jordan, the White House's top contracting policy chief, floated the idea Tuesday of having contracting professionals bounce back and forth between industry and agencies. (Thomas Brown / Staff)

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Joseph Jordan, the White House’s top contracting policy chief, floated the idea Tuesday of having contracting professionals rotate between government and the private sector.

“Is there a way where we can have people kind of bounce back and forth ... between industry and agencies?” Jordan said in remarks here at the National Contract Management Association conference.

“There are all sorts of issues, I know,” said Jordan, who is the administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. “But I refuse to say this is off the table.”

The Obama administration has placed tight rules clamping down on the so-called revolving door between government and special interests among political appointees, though Jordan’s remarks were aimed an audience of career workforce professionals.

His comments came amid a broader discussion about the challenges of retaining and recruiting contracting officers across government.

Jordan said 40 percent of the federal contracting workforce is eligible for retirement in the next five years, while a third of the workforce has five or fewer years experience.

Jordan said a sign of a healthy workforce is one where people feel they’ve got a myriad career options.

In a wide-ranging speech, Jordan also discussed efforts to root out fraud and abuse in contracting, including one little-known, cheap but effective tool used by the Small Business Administration, where Jordan was associate administrator before taking the White House procurement job.

SBA’s HUBZone program gives contractors an edge in competing for work if they’re based in certain economically distressed neighborhoods. Much of the fraud in the program involves companies setting up phantom addresses to qualify for the program while actually working elsewhere.

One SBA strategy to root out that fraud cost the price of a stamp. SBA sent letters to companies telling them to send back a notarized letter indicating that they’re eligible for the program.

SBA lawyers had said it didn’t matter legally whether the letter was notarized or not insofar as proving a company was making a false certification, but some contractors were leery about that and just dropped out of the program instead.

“If they signed it fraudulently that’s just as bad as if they got it notarized,” Jordan said. “But we realized there’s a behavioral thing about going down to your local bank or insurance agent and asking them to get involved in their malfeasance. And so we got a bunch of people sending a letter back saying, ‘Heh, you know what, I just realized I’m not really eligible.’ ”

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