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Challenges to innovation in Federal contracting

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

For decades, the federal contracting system has been criticized for being unduly expensive and complicated, especially for those outside government. While some of that criticism may be deserved, Congress has tried to improve the efficacy and efficiency of its acquisition model.

Our colleague Jimm Rich, who joined Dawson & Associates in 2016, is an expert in Federal contracting, having spent more than 30 years overseeing contracts and contract procedures for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Jimm served as Chief of Contracting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Baltimore, Kansas City and Galveston districts.

Contract Management magazine is published by the National Contract Management Association, which has more than 20,000 members and is focused on contracting best practices. The magazine’s October 2020 issue includes an in-depth article from Jimm about Federal contract management innovation. An excerpt:

A serious issue for top-down models is the fact that a small percentage of all employees will have input on initiatives that are intended to shape the future culture of the organization. Models that drive change without regard to input from the organization seldom succeed in reshaping the collective values of the culture. The top-down thinker generates ideas that he or she consider sound, collects evidence of the soundness of their ideas by driving change throughout the organization via fiat, and the new vision is rolled out. However, evidence of true cultural adaptation and change with such a process may be hard to find….
There is plenty of employee intellect in the contract management community, so why don’t we hear more about great ideas for change coming off the “plant floor” of the contracting office? I think it has to do with what contracting professionals at the lower levels see as the “ceiling of the possible.” What innovation can we advocate for that has a reasonable chance of being approved? Most innovators operating at the base level of their organization have a sphere of influence that allows them to effect change within the parameters of their influence—and that influence tends to be more horizontal than vertical. Thus, initiatives at the base level of the organization tend to focus on data- driven issues—i.e., process and the day-to-day mechanics of the bureaucracy. Still, employees at any level of an organization can be key stakeholders who, while they may not initiate change, are essential to implementing and sustaining top-down directives that seek support for innovation.

© 2020, National Contract Management Association. Used with permission.

Jimm’s article raises and answers important issues for anyone involved with Federal contracting. For the full article, click here.

Maj. Gen. (ret) Rick Stevens

Senior Vice President

A member of the Dawson team since 2018, Rick was Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 2014-2017.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.


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