Contracting Officers Must be Willing to Take Risks, Panel Says

December 1, 2011

Smart contracting in a time of tight budgets requires a trained agency acquisition workforce that is willing to take reasonable risks to achieve innovation, federal procurement specialists said in Washington on Thursday.

In a discussion headlined "Innovation in a Budget-Constrained Environment," the Congressional Smart Contracting Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va., heard Obama administration acquisition officials and a private sector spokesman say that fears of conflicts of interest or protests from unsuccessful contract bidders should not make agencies so "risk-averse" that they can't find creative ways to invest in future innovation that benefits taxpayers.

"As we approach the federal debt problem and seek efficiencies, we need to separate what's nice to have from investments that we can't afford to walk away from," said Connolly, a former federal contractor whose district is heavily dependent on such public-private partnerships. 

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