“Learn, Discuss, Connect” was the theme of the U.S. General Service Administration’s (GSA) recent Federal Acquisition Training Symposium – and that’s exactly what happened when close to 1,250 acquisition professionals came together for two days of educational sessions and face-to-face meetings on April 25-26 in Huntsville, Alabama. As we did in 2016, GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) partnered with one of our largest customers, Army Contracting Command-Redstone, in planning an event that attracted not just members of the local Huntsville acquisition community, but customer and industry partners from across the country.
FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe opened the symposium by telling attendees the event is important not just because of the training offered but because of the community building aspect. “This is an opportunity for us to help each other and learn from each other. So, share with each other – talk about what is working and what’s not.”
The keynote speaker on Day One was James B. Johnson, Jr., Deputy to the Commander, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (USASMDC/ARSTRAT). Johnson is the command’s most senior civilian, providing leadership for the Army’s space and missile defense programs, acquisition, personnel and resource management. In his speech, Johnson gave an overview of SMDC and some of the agency’s most pressing activities. He also talked about the vital role the acquisition workforce plays in helping the command provide products and services to soldiers defending the nation. “We can’t do our mission without strong support from (the) acquisition professionals who are in this room today.”
Throughout his speech, Johnson stressed the importance of agile and growing technologies. “We can no longer wait years to contract and produce a system.”
The theme was echoed in the Day Two keynote speech delivered by Claire Grady, Director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP). DPAP is responsible for all contracting and procurement policy matters, including e-Business, within the Department of Defense (DoD).
Among the other featured speakers was Becky Weirick, Executive Director for the Army Contracting Command-Redstone. In her talk, Weirick stressed the importance of taking time to walk around the exhibit hall. “Make some new friends and learn from them,” suggested Weirick. “Make connections.”
The ballroom at the Werner Von Braun Conference Center was packed for the Day Two mid-day interview session featuring Erv Koehler, Acting Regional Administrator and FAS Regional Commissioner for GSA Region 4(Southeast Sunbelt Region) chatting with FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe. The pair discussed a wide range of acquisition related topics including:
- The development of GSA’s Acquisition Gateway and how it’s evolved, based on user feedback;
- GSA’s continued efforts to organize around Category Management;
- How GSA is Making It Easier to work with government – moving toward a more customer-centric model;
- Transforming the Multiple Award Schedule to better align with customer needs.
But the Federal Acquisition Training Symposium wasn’t just speeches. The two-day event included 62 training sessions specifically tailored to federal acquisition professionals responsible for mission critical acquisition spending. Training focused on GSA tools, products and services, such as: Interagency Acquisition, Keeping Your GSA MAS Contract Compliant, Security Solutions Through Schedule 84, How To Obtain A GSA Professional Services Schedule (PSS) Contract, and overviews of both the OASIS and HCaTs Solutions. These sessions were well attended with more than 4,900 Continuous Learning Points (CLPs) awarded.
The symposium also featured 102 GSA Schedule/GWAC contractors who had displays in the exhibit hall. Many of the exhibitors were “second timers,” returning because the 2016 training symposium provided such a great opportunity for engaging with federal customers. “I’d call this an invaluable opportunity,” said a vendor. “Time spent at an event like this gives us a better understanding of the challenges facing our government customers.”
As the 2017 Federal Acquisition Training Symposium drew to a close, FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe said he was pleased by the high level of customer participation and praised the FAS employees who had planned and participated in the event. “The success of this event is a testament to their hard work. We hope to continue to offer our customers more events like this one in the future.”