Michael P. Fischetti, J.D, CPCM, is executive director of the National Contract Management Association, with membership comprising 115 chapters worldwide. Previously, he was the acquisition executive and head of contracting activity for the Defense Department's Military Healthcare System. Fischetti has more than 30 years of leadership, operations and policy experience across multiple government, civilian and industry sectors. ()
Problems in government contracting today include complex issues of pricing, staffing, and outcomes. Solutions are often arrived at quickly; new legislation or regulation, adopting commercial practices, adding or reducing staff and oversight. Wherever we lie on the oversight or streamlining continuum, we always seem to want to get to the other side. Short term actions result in winners and losers, but long-term results donít significantly change.
Government agencies are now largely dependent upon contract support to meet their mission. Yet, their organizational structure doesnít reflect this new dependence. A robust contracting infrastructure in both the public and private sectors is necessary and must include the knowledge and experience embodied in professional competencies in program management, system engineering, finance, quality assurance, property, logistics, information technology, etc. to positively impact program outcomes and reflect organizational leadership and culture. These core competencies are necessary to plan and execute a mission that reliant on contracted support of products and services. GAOís acquisition framework includes an analysis of organizational structure and placement when reviewing risk factors for agency success.
Issuing new policy, regulation, statute, or initiatives emphasizing one acquisition strategy over another (one risk management tool over another, one contract type over another, one technical solution over another, or additional, specified training) donít reach the root causes of program challenges facing todayís government. In bipartisan fashion, we have evolved to a dependence on the private sector for solutions to complex government mandates, but havenít evolved the necessary contracting infrastructure within government to manage it.
More often than not, agencies deliver services to citizens through government contractors. Federal employees fund, define and oversee that effort, but donít always know how it occurs, as performance is via contractors. Those contractors must play a role as well to ensure meaningful communications and understandings remain open and clear, with issues addressed as they occur. The contracting infrastructure must extend beyond the often too few contracting officers available or held responsible. Accountability rests with everyone in the organization; all organizational elements. Anything less is piecemeal.
This requires the complete set of professional competencies necessary to properly define, award and manage contractor activities from both the government and industry sector working together to properly manage and execute their collective mission.
Todayís government contracting process includes the entire village. A focus on ďcontractingĒ as the staff that issues solicitations and makes the award misses the point and doesnít acknowledge the overall infrastructure on the hook of responsibility; from legislative and oversight authorities to government and industry executives to the laborer on the loading dock. The contracting function needs to be raised more than one notch in the hierarchy and become wider in breath. It is an executive suite responsibility and includes everyone. Not doing so prohibits tackling the real problem in favor of short-term solutions. All must take responsibility and build the wider contracting infrastructure to achieve the results we desire.