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Supplemental Guidance for Specialized Information Technology Acquisition Cadres

I. Purpose

During FY 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spent approximately $1.7 Billion on IT services – representing roughly 9% of HHS’ $18.6 Billion in overall supply/service spending, and 12.9% of HHS’ $13.1 Billion in spending for services.  Nevertheless, HHS can benefit from reviewing its IT acquisition workforce, program needs, business case justifications, and returns on investment to determine whether establishing a new IT Acquisition Cadre or expanding existing IT Acquisition Cadres would reduce the risk and improve the performance of its IT portfolio.

II. Analysis

Due to the Department’s highly decentralized structure and the differences in the missions of its agencies, HHS has a unique set of challenges with respect to planning, managing, and monitoring an IT Acquisition Cadre.  To meet these challenges, HHS envisions the holistic development of a pilot IT Acquisition Cadre based on deliberations and consultation at the following three levels:

  1. Departmental level: This would entail close collaboration between HHS’ Chief Acquisition Officer (CAO), Senior Procurement Executive (SPE), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) – and their colleagues at the agency and program/project levels.  Major policies, organizational analyses, and review/approval protocols for IT acquisitions would support a potential cadre.
  2. Agency level: Communication and collaboration among our many agency contracting and IT offices may set the stage for a productive HHS IT Acquisition Cadre pilot. Developing procedural guidelines, formulating appropriate business strategies, and leveraging existing acquisition and IT resources would be instrumental in forming a possible cadre. 
  3. Project/Program level: In support of a potential cadre, we can build upon the best practices of our Integrated Project Teams (IPT) (including Contracting Officers or Specialists, IT Project/Program Managers or Contracting Officer’s Representatives, and related Subject Matter Experts) as well as benefit from their expertise in developing IT requirements and using optimum IT acquisition vehicles.

III. Determination

To support government-wide acquisition and IT initiatives, lower program risks, and improve performance outcomes, HHS plans to explore the feasibility of designing and implementing an IT Acquisition Cadre.  This professional cadre may be comprised of senior-level cross-trained Contracting Officers (COs), Contract Specialists, Program Managers (PMs), and Contracting Officers’ Representatives (CORs).  Also, we envision that any such cadre would span the acquisition life-cycle – from requirements generation, acquisition planning and award through test/acceptance and contract closeout.  Further, HHS will be in a better position to move forward with a potential pilot cadre after its CIO office implements OMB Memorandum M-11-29 (dated 8/8/11) by expanding its enterprise-wide leadership role regarding IT portfolio management.

IV. Resources

HHS expects to establish any cadre by reallocating existing staff.  We would coordinate and consult with executives from across HHS’ IT and acquisition communities to determine where and how to shift roles and responsibilities while minimizing any negative impacts on the existing workforce and programs.  HHS would then recruit highly qualified COs, PMs, and CORs for the pilot IT Acquisition Cadre.  To maintain the cadre and to support additional cadres, HHS may require each agency to designate a CO, PM, and COR.  HHS will then have a group of professionals to solicit for membership at all times.  As an added benefit, we could keep both cadre members and the larger group of professional candidates apprised of the latest acquisition strategies and technology innovations.  In addition, to help retain the cadre, HHS plans to provide training for both cadre members and external stakeholders. 

V. Pilot Plan

HHS plans to use the best practices of the NIH Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center (HHS/NIH GWAC) and the Information Systems Designated Procurement (ISDP) program (offering HHS/NIH personnel volume discounts for software) as benchmarks of successful programs where close collaboration between the acquisition and IT communities exist.

Further, HHS will explore the feasibility of piloting an IT Acquisition Cadre to support the Department’s migration to the cloud.  This effort would take place under the auspices of the Department’s joint IT/Acquisition team that is currently developing the HHS Cloud Computing Strategy and Implementation Plan.  HHS may ask three COs, three PMs, and three CORs (each at Level III) who have expertise in developing, managing, or overseeing a variety of complex, high-risk acquisitions to help pilot the cloud-related cadre.  Prior to piloting the IT Acquisition Cadre, we would prepare guidelines to govern its organization, size, function, and decision-making process, which would lay the groundwork for future cadres.

VI. Development

HHS will require members of any IT Acquisition Cadre to receive their Federal Acquisition Certifications (FAC) in their designated areas (i.e. Contracting, Contracting Officer’s Representative, or Program Management).  Each member will be required to have met their certifications at the highest level (Level III) and to maintain that certification as outlined in the applicable certification program guidance.  HHS anticipates developing initial guidelines and training for the start-up operation of the IT Acquisition Cadre.  As the cadre evolves, specialized training will be developed and evaluated for course suitability and optimum methods of delivery, at specific timeframes to be determined.

Also, HHS will hold Department-wide meetings to encourage frequent communication, collaboration, and sharing of best practices among member of the cadre.  This will help HHS meet its program goals and spend taxpayer funds appropriately and effectively.

VII. Results

HHS will survey customers of any pilot IT Acquisition Cadre to elicit feedback on the cadre’s strengths/weaknesses and program outcomes.  The surveys will be conducted at specific intervals to be determined by both the cadre participants and Departmental officials within the CIO’s and CAO’s organizations.  Survey findings will be analyzed and compared to previous results, and opportunities to improve the cadre through revisions to guidelines and expanded training would be identified.

VIII. Agency Leads

What follows are the senior HHS officials in the CAO and CIO organizations who collaborated on this Acquisition Human Capital Plan update.

Office of the CIO:
John Teeter, Acting CIO
Scott Cory, Acting Director, Office of IT Budget and Capital Planning

Office of Grants & Acquisition Policy and Accountability (under the CAO):|
Angela Billups, Senior Procurement Executive
Al Schoenberg, Director, Office of Acquisition Policy