White House procurement office releases data circular as it celebrates 50th anniversary

OMB, which houses the procurement policy office, called the circular aimed at improving agency access to governmentwide acquisition data “a paradigm shift.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. - APRIL 22, 2018: An American flag flies over the south facade of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

The White House’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy marked its 50th anniversary Tuesday by issuing guidance that seeks to leverage acquisition data across the federal government to improve the contracting process.

Before the policy, agencies and their contracting officials were limited to only data from their respective agencies, hampering data-driven decisions, according to a White House fact sheet. But the finalized circular (A-137) establishes that acquisition data is an asset to be used across the government and instructs agencies to be prepared to collect and share that information. 

The policy “marks a paradigm shift in the government’s acquisition data management practices,” the fact sheet said.  

Jason Miller, the deputy director for management in the Office of Management and Budget that houses OFPP, told reporters at a Tuesday roundtable the circular makes acquisition information a “government asset” rather than an agency asset.


“It’s just a huge step in us unlocking the business intelligence that allows those 40,000 contracting officials to operate smarter, better — both on delivering on mission and addressing costs and requirements in ways that result in better outcomes,” Miller said.

Christine Harada, senior adviser who leads the OFPP team in the absence of a Senate-confirmed director, told reporters the guidance changed slightly since a draft version was released for public comment last year. The final version incorporates other work the office has done on data and data-related strategies.

Harada also noted that the administration has created a tool called the Procurement Co-Pilot that “demonstrates the value and the power of having such an enterprise-wide access, and we’ve been rolling that out with our acquisition workforce.”

Better contracting

The data circular is one of the four elements of the Biden administration’s Better Contracting Initiative to improve efficiency and save money on federal spending. The others focus on enterprise-wide software license negotiation, improving contract requirements, and getting more value from sole source and high-risk contracts.


Those other elements of that initiative are also moving forward. On improving negotiation for enterprise-wide software, Miller said the administration has already taken the first step by bringing together agencies that are big buyers of those products to navigate where they have common requirements. He said he’s hopeful that the administration will have more to share on that progress “very soon.” 

Under that prong of the Better Contracting Initiative, the General Services Administration will “lead a government-wide IT software license agreement with a large software provider.”

Harada said in the workshop process, all 24 Chief Financial Officers Act agencies agreed on over 80% of the requirements, and the remaining ones can be tailored agency-by-agency. “There’s been a lot of really good buy-in from the agencies on this,” Harada said.

The Tuesday announcement came as OFPP marked half a century as an office. Harada and Miller remarked on the accomplishments of the office since then.

“When we were first established, the acquisition workforce had no training — no training whatsoever,” Harada said, noting they’ve since made progress on “investing in the acquisition workforce.” 


She also highlighted the establishment of things like the Chief Acquisition Officers Council and the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, adding that the theme of the past 50 years has been the government getting “more organized and buying as one.”

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