Federal Acquisition Executives Grapple with Retirement Wave

April 17, 2013

As the government’s largest buyer, the Defense Department is building up expertise in its acquisition workforce, perhaps with greater success than some other agencies in this era of contract austerity. The exception likely comes at the most senior executive level.

So said Shay Assad, director of defense pricing, defense procurement and acquisition policy, on Wednesday speaking before an Arlington, Va., audience of contractors in the Coalition for Government Procurement. His own section of the Pentagon, despite the pay freeze and likely furloughs, he said, “has done remarkably well” in retaining talent, with employees who’ve moved on “only in the single digits, mostly because either they decided we weren’t right for them or they weren’t right for us.”

With mortgages and kids in college to pay for, “most could do a little better on the outside,” Assad said, “but our ace card is that what we do really does impact the warfighting force.” The tendency of many in his acquisition workforce of 160,000 to stay on during the past decade of wartime may be changing, however. “My biggest concern is the senior ranks,” he said, “where some may be doing the math and asking themselves, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” In response, Assad’s staff is “staying engaged with senior leaders and mentoring the next wave.”

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