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Sequester may undo gains in building contracting workforce

Jul. 24, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By JIM McELHATTON   |   Comments
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The need for a beefed-up Pentagon contracting workforce has been well documented over the years. (AFP)

NASHVILLE, TENN. — The sequester could undermine the steady progress the Army has made in rebuilding its once-outgunned acquisition workforce, a top military contracting official said Wednesday.

“Quite frankly, quite abruptly, we look like we are going to stop that growth and are likely to reverse most of that growth that we had in the past seven or eight years,” Michael Hutchison, deputy to the contracting general at Army Contracting Command, said in a panel discussion here at the National Contract Management Association conference.

“The fear is ... it’s going to drive out all of our experienced people.”

Hutchison said about 20 percent of the Army’s contracting workforce could easily retire within a day, but officials also worry about retaining all of the newly recruited thousands of younger contracting officers who have rebuilt the acquisition workforce after it was downsized during the 1990s.

After three years of pay freezes, furloughs this year and the prospect of more furloughs next year, Hutchison said there could be a point where new contracting officers just decide to leave the job altogether.

“We have a really motivated workforce, I’m really proud of our workforce,” Hutchison said. “They’re good people.”

But, he added, soon enough, people could grow tired of the tightening budget situation and leave.

So far, that hasn’t happened among the ranks of contracting officers, but the Army has lost interns to private industry, he said.

Hutchison also said retention incentives designed to keep contracting officers around are “likely to go out the window.”

The need for a beefed-up Pentagon contracting workforce has been well documented over the years. In a report last year, for instance, the Government Accountability Office noted that the Pentagon had obligated about $375 billion in fiscal 2011, while the congressional watchdog and others have documented “shortcomings in DOD’s strategic and acquisition planning, contract administration and oversight, and acquisition workforce.”

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