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Importance of a common certification for contract managers

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) was landmark legislation for contract managers working for DoD. The statute was enacted to improve the overall effectiveness and professionalism of military and civilian personnel charged with management and administration of Defense acquisition programs. And it did that very well – for the DoD acquisition workforce.

Unfortunately, as DAWIA certification became embedded as a mandatory DoD workforce position requirement it had the unintended consequence of eliminating virtually all non-DoD contract managers from qualifying for other than entry level contracting positions or internships.This situation was remedied, in part, by the creation of the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in 2006.

There has been a gradual acceptance of FAC-C as a DAWIA equivalent. Interestingly, DAWIA certification is accepted without reservation by civilian agencies as a FAC-C equivalent so the ability to transition between DoD and civilian contract management positions has historically been much easier for the DAWIA certified job applicant.

But what if you are a private sector contract manager and you want to transition to work in the federal sector? You are bright, motivated, well educated and you hold a certification issued by the National Contract Management (NCMA). You also face a rather substantial challenge having neither FAC-C or DAWIA certification. And there is something inherently wrong with that.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act proposes a partial solution. The Act is more suggestive than explicit, but the language clearly supports a vision where training and certification opportunities are common across the contract management community of practice. The Act directs the Defense Department to redesign the workforce training process to align with that of the private sector for the first time.  Specifically, the ACT states:

"The certification requirement for any acquisition workforce career field shall be based on standards developed by a third-party accredited program based on nationally or internationally recognized standards."

While the certification process will remain a DoD product, the language leaves the door open for adoption of standards that might apply across all sectors. NCMA’s ANSI accredited Contract Management Standard comes to mind.

DoD is making an emphatic commitment to align contract management training with the identification of key skill gaps in the acquisition workforce. Putting the right person with the right skills in the right job only works if you are able to find, hire and train the right person. Having professional certification standards that are accessible to all members of the contracting profession is a step in the right direction.

Jimm Rich

Senior Advisor

A member of the Dawson team since 2016, Jimm served as Chief of Contracting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Baltimore, Kansas City and Galveston districts.


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


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