Friday, January 11, 2013


Today, we heard Joe Jordan, Administrator of the Office of Procurement Policy (OFPP), at a meeting of the Government Affairs Committee of the Professional Services Council (PSC), allude to the statement of guiding principles for the federal acquisition system set forth in FAR 1.102(d).  Essentially, he said that if your proposed action is not proscribed by FAR you probably can take it provided it is in accordance with sound business judgment.  Let's remind ourselves what the regulation says:
The role of each member of the Acquisition Team is to exercise personal initiative and sound business judgment in providing the best value product or service to meet the customer's needs.  In exercising initiative, Government members of the Acquisition Team may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interests of the Government and is not addressed in FAR, nor prohibited by law (statute or case law), Executive order or other regulation, that the strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority.
Notice the word "initiative" is used twice as if to suggest the entire statement is designed to engender such behavior.  Also noteworthy is the reference to the Acquisition Team, which Mr. Jordan described in other remarks as including program management and all people supporting the contracting officer.

So if the strategy, practice, policy or procedure "is not addressed in the FAR", you can do it, provided it is not prohibited by a statute or case law, executive order or other regulation.  (In these articles we are constantly calling attention to the case law which teaches both what to do and what not to do.)  Joe Jordan's emphasis is on taking the initiative to try something new unless the law just flat out says you can't do it.

In our comments on what needs to be done to fix the procurement system, we have emphasized that senior leadership needs to pass down best practices and see to it they are followed in the field.  But we also have criticized people at the working level for lack of initiative.  We hope to hear more from Mr. Jordan about exercising initiative.  Giving us some exemplary case histories of success stories would help.

But he also made a solid point that the acquisition team needs to increase its tolerance for taking risks.  Initiative may lead to mistakes.  They are to be expected. Our philosophy is that if you are not making mistakes, you are not improving the process.

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