Back to the Future in Federal Contracting

Back to the Future in Federal Contracting At some government…

March 04, 2022

Back to the Future in Federal Contracting

At some government agencies, COVID hit like a one-two punch. The pandemic caused demand for services to spike while simultaneously disrupting agencies’ ability to deliver. At the outset of the most serious global health crisis in a century, federal health IT acquisition professionals were told to work from home.

“The pandemic has made us think about what the workplace of the future will look like,” said Derrick Heard, Director for the Office of Acquisition & Grants Management (OAGM), CMS. Heard was among the acquisitions pros who talked about the impact of the past four years on federal acquisitions.
Redefining Relationships to Technology
The pandemic changed everything; and it changed nothing.
“For GSA, the core values of convenience, compliance, cost and making sure customers are at the center of all that we do did not change,” said Amy Haseltine, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Acquisitions, Office of Information Technology Category (ITC), Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) GSA. “What changed is the reliance on technology.”

The pandemic catalyzed inevitable changes that were already underway, according to panelists. Ricky Clark, Deputy Director, NITAAC, said COVID simply “accelerated adoption of digital formats.”

Leonard Grant, Director of Acquisition & Grants, FDA, said his agency is “on the cusp” of deploying robotic process automation and artificial intelligence to automate business processes and “close out contracts faster.”

Forced Innovation

COVID was disruptive – at times in a good way.

“The pandemic gave us a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities,” Haseltine said. “It encouraged us to push for innovative approaches in contracting.”

Benefits accrued during the pandemic have had broad impacts, according to Derrick Heard, Director for the Office of Acquisition & Grants Management (OAGM) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “We’ve learned to work better with partners and to get information better We’ve been able to use data better, technology better, work with industry better, and to partner together to create efficiencies.”

Looking Ahead

The way agencies do business will continue to evolve. As that happens, it’s important to stay focused on missions and values.

“We want people to do more with less. Looking at our acquisition system, how can we do it quicker while protecting the integrity of the procurement process?” Heard said. “I don’t want to take an old business process and make it faster. I don’t want to speed up a bad process.”

Panelists said the pandemic had the unintended consequence of refocusing agencies on people, their interactions with technology and employees’ well-being.

“All of us are stressed to do more with less,” Clark said. “There’s a renewed focus on the quality of work balance and quality of life.”

Haseltine suggested that leaders can change the culture. Workers should be “engaged in a strategic way and able to take the time needed to decompress and recharge,” she said.

“In this environment, you’re always connected,” Heard said. “You have to be cognizant about turning it off.”


Thought Leadership