Key Issues > Best Practices and Leading Practices in Acquisition Management
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Best Practices and Leading Practices in Acquisition Management

With hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent each year on goods and services, it is essential that federal acquisition be managed in an efficient and effective manner. Our work has shown that four interrelated elements promote an efficient and accountable acquisition environment and process: 1) Organizational Alignment and Leadership, 2) Policies and Processes, 3) Human Capital's Acquisition Workforce and 4) Knowledge and Information Management.

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Organizational Alignment and Leadership

Acquisition activities can be facilitated by ensuring the procurement function is appropriately placed within the agency and by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders. Officials are able to make strategic decisions to achieve desired acquisition outcomes when they have the committed support of senior leadership.

Agencies should:

  • Establish and fill the position of chief acquisition officer, designating the officer with primary responsibility for managing the agency's acquisitions.
  • Define roles and responsibilities for all participants in the acquisition process.
  • Establish and communicate to all levels of the agency a strategic vision for the acquisition function, including goals and metrics related to acquisition efficiency, effectiveness, and achieving mission results.
  • Evaluate and adjust the current structure of the acquisition function to assure changes in mission, budget, workforce, and technology are incorporated.

 

Policies and Processes

Clear, transparent, and consistent policies and processes are needed to implement strategic decisions through acquisitions. Such policies and processes govern the planning, award, administration, and oversight of acquisition efforts.

Agencies should:

  • Establish cross-functional teams in which key stakeholders coordinate and execute the acquisition tasks.
  • Identify metrics, assess performance, and provide feedback on performance to agency suppliers.
  • Establish mechanisms that promote the participation of small business suppliers.
  • Strategically assess agency needs and how acquisition can meet those needs, including:
  • identify and analyze agency-wide acquisitions planned in the next 12-24 months.
  • ensuring needs in the agency budget request submission are consistent with planned acquisition strategies.
  • Implement continuous improvement mechanisms, including revisions to acquisition-related policies and processes when appropriate, to incorporate staff and affected parties' needs and concerns.

 

Human Capital's Acquisition Workforce

To successfully acquire goods and services and execute and monitor contracts, agencies need to value and invest in the acquisition workforce. Agencies must think strategically about recruiting, developing, and retaining talent, and creating a results-oriented culture within the acquisition workforce.

Agencies should:

  • Include acquisition officials in the agency's human capital strategic planning process.
  • Identify acquisition needs in the human capital plan, including strategies for recruiting, retaining, and developing acquisition staff.
  • Conduct an acquisition workforce assessment to ensure employees have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, performance measures, and the appropriate workload, skills and training to perform their jobs effectively.
  • Establish performance expectations and metrics for acquisition officials and managers at all levels.

 

Knowledge and Information Management

Effective knowledge and information management provides credible, reliable, and timely data to make strategic acquisition decisions in support of organizational missions.

Key practices are:

  • Identify and maintain an inventory of key agency suppliers.
  • Collect and maintain data on major categories of spending to inform agency decision-making.
  • Use knowledge on spending patterns to leverage agency-wise acquisitions to obtain favorable pricing and other concessions from key suppliers.
  • Conduct and maintain an inventory identifying activities performed by government personnel as commercial or inherently governmental, and provide justification of inherently governmental functions.
Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Homeland Security:

DHS Requires More Disciplined Investment Management to Help Meet Mission Needs
GAO-12-833:
Published: Sep 18, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2012.

Defense Acquisitions:

Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs
GAO-12-400SP:
Published: Mar 29, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 2012.

NASA:

Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects
GAO-12-207SP:
Published: Mar 1, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 2012.

Auditing and Financial Management:

Framework for Assessing the Acquisition Function At Federal Agencies
GAO-05-218G:
Published: Sep 1, 2005. Publicly Released: Sep 1, 2005.

More Reports

Large Partnerships:

Growing Population and Complexity Hinder Effective IRS Audits
GAO-14-746T:
Published: Jul 22, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 2014.

U.S. Launch Enterprise:

Acquisition Best Practices Can Benefit Future Efforts
GAO-14-776T:
Published: Jul 16, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 2014.

Defense Acquisitions:

Review of Private Industry and Department of Defense Open Systems Experiences
GAO-14-617R:
Published: Jun 26, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 2014.

Coast Guard Acquisitions:

Better Information on Performance and Funding Needed to Address Shortfalls
GAO-14-650T:
Published: Jun 18, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2014.

Coast Guard Acquisitions:

Better Information on Performance and Funding Needed to Address Shortfalls
GAO-14-450:
Published: Jun 5, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2014.

Defense Acquisitions:

Update on DOD's Efforts to Implement a Common Contractor Manpower Data System
GAO-14-491R:
Published: May 19, 2014. Publicly Released: May 19, 2014.

Defense Acquisitions:

Defense Contracting:

Early Attention in the Acquisition Process Needed to Enhance Competition
GAO-14-395:
Published: May 5, 2014. Publicly Released: May 5, 2014.

Defense Acquisitions:

Defense Acquisitions:

Addressing Incentives is Key to Further Reform Efforts
GAO-14-563T:
Published: Apr 30, 2014. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2014.
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  • portrait of Michael J. Sullivan
    • Michael J. Sullivan
    • Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management
    • sullivanm@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-8214