New Certifications Could Help Ease Acquisition Shortfall

ICCM-D logoWith the number of certified and experienced federal acquisition professionals expected to drop in 2013, two new certifications could help industry fill the gap.  Here’s my take on the DAWIA/FAC-C Certification equivalents for ICCM-F logopeople looking to expand their skills.

When I entered the acquisition career field in the early 1990’s the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) had just been initiated.  The purpose of DAWIA was to professionalize the field by setting forth mandatory training courses and levels for military personnel and their civilian counterparts.  A few years later the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) did likewise for all Civilian Agency employees, introducing the Federal Acquisition Certification-Contracting (FAC-C) program.  Over the years DAWIA and FAC-C certifications have become the “gold standard” for acquisition certifications within the Federal Government. Accordingly, these certifications are very often required under Federal acquisition/contract support solicitations.

DAWIA/FAC-C Required but Not Available to All

This poses a problem due to the limited number of contractor support personnel possessing DAWIA/FAC-C certification. There was no way for qualified contractor acquisition support personnel to gain DAWIA/FAC-C certification due to those programs being available only to government personnel.  The reason the federal government contracts out for acquisition personnel is because of the high demand and low supply of these skill sets.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) just predicted huge shortfalls in the 2013 acquisition workforce, and in December the Professional Services Council (PSC) released a survey showing federal acquisition is understaffed and undertrained.

So how can otherwise qualified acquisition personnel obtain DAWIA/FAC-C equivalency, and help the government meet its acquisition needs?  The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) has addressed this long-standing dilemma by introducing the Industry Certification in Contract Management (ICCM) program, which began accepting applications January 31, 2013.  Here are some program specifics and my perception of the effect these new certifications will have on the federal government acquisition industry.

Certification Program Comparison

Federal Certifications NCMA Industry Certifications
DAWIA ICCM-D mirrors DAWIA requirements
FAC-C ICCM-F mirrors FAC-C requirements
Three levels for each Three levels for each
Open to members of military or federal agency staff Open to qualified contracting professionals
Education, experience requirements Education, experience requirements are the same
Training source must be a DAU-approved provider Equivalent courses available through NCMA Education Partners or check DAU for list of approved providers

 

To ensure there is recognition that the ICCM standards are as demanding as the DAWIA and FAC-C standards, NCMA will not waive any requirements. Please note that a bachelor’s degree is not required for FAC-C Levels I and II, therefore it is not required for the ICCM-F Levels I and II.  There will be no grandfathering provisions for the ICCM.

Certification Costs

What is the cost of the ICCM? The major portion of the cost is in obtaining the required number of courses. The exact cost depends on the provider chosen. The NCMA application fee for the ICCM is $299 for NCMA members and $349 for non-members.  ICCM certifications are valid for two years. They can be renewed upon request. Renewal requires documentation of 80 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE). The 80 CPEs are equivalent to the 80 Continuous Learning Points (CLP) required for maintaining DAWIA and FAC-C certifications. The NCMA CPE Guide has details on how to earn CPE.  The renewal fee is $50 for members and $65 for nonmembers.

Although the ICCM is not for contracting professionals who are current military members or federal employees, NCMA will evaluate requests from individuals who have been out of federal service for five years or less and can document an average of 40 hours of Continuing Professional Education for each year.

Do not confuse ICCM with the CPCM, CFCM, and CCCM which are completely separate NCMA certifications, each requiring a specific rigorous examination. Federal Employees typically attempt these certifications after attaining the minimum DAWIA or FAC-C required certification, however, qualified professionals may attempt them at any time.

Bottom Line – More Opportunities

I predict that the ICCM-D and F will become the certifications of choice among industry providers of Federal Government acquisition services.  This is based on the current high demand for Level II and Level III personnel and the inability of contractor personnel to apply for and obtain DAWIA and FAC-C certification.  At a time when federal agencies are looking at a potentially dramatic shortfall in its skilled workforce, this certification is just what industry needs to be able to fulfill Federal requirements for qualified acquisition personnel.

Related Story – Read My Top Government Contract Career Advice – Get Your Certifications!

Comments

  1. In your post you mentioned that a bachelors degree isn’t needed for FAC-C and ICCM levels I and II. What do you recommend for a person who is looking to enter into the acquisitions field of work? Should the individual obtain the certifications first? Should they obtain some level of experience in the field before they take on the rigorous task of gaining the certifications? If you recommend the training first would the individual be in danger of falling behind with what’s currently going on in the field of acquisitions? Should they get in first and obtain certifications later?

    • Chuck Woodside says:

      Renate, there is no substitute for experience and all these certifications have experience prerequisites. If you are looking for a federal 1102 job, apply for an intern program. Interns are typically sent to the required schools during 3-4 years as they are gaining on-the-job experience. The largest are run by DoD agencies, but a degree is required.

    • Kevin Drummond says:

      Renate, I also would recommend gaining contracting experience via an entry level position or by applying for and gaining acceptance to one of the many Federal Contracting Internships. The reason for my recommendation is the majority of certification exams (CFCM, CCCM, CPCM, ICCM-D and ICCM-F) require at least one year of formal contracting work experience as a prerequisite for sitting for the exam. The following link is a comprehensive list of available Federal Contracting Internships: http://www.fai.gov/drupal/acquisition/paid-acquisition-internships
      The exception to the one year formal contracting work experience requirement is that individuals with an acquisition enhancing Baccalaureate degree or higher, (those degree listed as the education standards for any in of the Certification & Core Plus Development Guides) can be credited with twelve (12) months of acquisition experience.
      See the attached link for DAU experience requirements: http://icatalog.dau.mil/onlinecatalog/CareerLvl.aspx?lvl=1&cfld=3
      So what it comes down to in essence is you can qualify for ICCM certification without formal contracting experience as long as you have “the right degree.” However, there is no alternative for those with no degree and no experience.
      Kevin

  2. For protection of everyone in the field of contracting having standards and required certifications insure that the most qualified individuals continue to grow the industry. To increase the number of qualified contractors a standardize recruitment policy should be adapted for both government and private sector.

    • Kevin Drummond says:

      Thanks Vonne, I agree whole heartedly with the need for high standards within the contracting/acquisition career field!
      Kevin

    • Liane Murphy says:

      DoD will have an experience gap which could be filled with industry certified professionals. Training resources could be saved if DAWIA equivalent certifications were recognized when government support contractors cross over into DoD Service.

  3. K. Thomas says:

    Mr. Drummond:

    Your information provides valuable information for federal aquisition professionals. Are you aware of certifications that are specific and beneficial for individuals that have an interest in pursuing careers in Procurement and Contract Management at the state government level? Would the National Contract Management Association be a good resource?

    Thank you.

    • Chuck Woodside says:

      The National Institute for Government Purchasing (NIGP) is to state and local purchasing professionals what NCMA is to federal contracting professionals.

    • Kevin Drummond says:

      NCMA offers a Certified Commercial Contracts Manager (CCCM) certification that is geared towards all entities engaged in commercial acquisitions utilizing the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) as opposed to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). See this link for more information on the CCCM: http://www.ncmahq.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/cccm.cfm?ItemNumber=10676&navItemNumber=9988

      However, as Chuck says, if your goal is to work for a local (city/county) or state level purchasing office I would recommend you seek certification from the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) who offers the Certified Professional Public Buyer (CPPB) and the Certified Public Procurement Officer (CPPO) certification programs (see this link for more information: http://www.uppcc.org/certified/eligibility.aspx )
      Precautionary note: these certifications also have experience requirements!

      • john sherman says:

        An 1102 coded positon requires a college degree and (I believe) 12 or 24 hours of business classes before you can be hired. This is in the FAR.

  4. Kevin Drummond says:

    Please see the attached link for NCMA application and membership standards: http://www.ncmahq.org/Membership/Content.cfm?ItemNumber=9186&navItemNumber=9949
    An important point to make is that you can become a student member for a vastly reduced price of $25 per year if you are a full-time student who is not employed in the Contracting career field!
    Please see the attached link for in depth information on getting started with any NCMA certification Program: http://www.ncmahq.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/content.cfm?ItemNumber=6086&navItemNumber=9985#iccm

  5. Jose Vasquez says:

    Renate, as Chuck mentioned, I would advise to look at 1102 intern positions, anywhere from DOD to Homeland Security they all have intern positions where you can get the on the job experience and get your required certification levels at the same time..

  6. R.E. Watts says:

    Mr. Drummond,
    This is an interesting topic and I am sure good news for individuals looking to enter the field of Federal Acquisitions. While I share your optimism, my experience as a Contracting Officer does not allow my enthusiasm to match your own. I am concerned about the level of experience for these newly certified persons and how that will be addressed, or if it will be addressed at all? At Level I of course, this is not such a big issue. However, beginning at Level II thru Level III, the issue becomes exponentially larger? As I alluded to earlier, I share your optimism, but its one thing to bring a newly certified Level I person on board at an agency with no contracting experience and place that person on a team procuring items that are at or below the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT), however, it’s quite another to bring a newly certified Level III person on board and place them on a $100M Cost Reimbursement Contract using Early Contractor Involvement? This worries me? I am interested to know your thoughts on whether my concerns are warranted?

    • Kevin Drummond says:

      NCMA has properly addressed your concerns by virtue of making the program requirements (including years of experience) identical to DAWIA (for ICCM-D) and FAC-C (for ICCM-F). The only real difference between DAWIA/FAC-C and ICCM-D/F is the eligibility requirements – this is necessary so that ICCM-D/F carries the same weight. I agree wholeheartedly that experience is the cornerstone in a complex acquisition environment!

  7. Mr. Drummond

    In reference to an earlier comment regarding experience, I have of twenty years of contracts experience and currently working as government contracts specialist. I worked in DOD for two years in which I was completing my level II certification. During that time the curriculum changed which required more classes and created a backlog for the classes being offered by DAU. The requirements changed in which those contracts specialist who did not complete level II by a cutoff date had to go back and complete a level 1 requirement to move forward for level II. Needless to say I had two classes remaining to complete level II. Since that time, I have transfered from DOD to another government agency in which training requirements are not offered that often and are different from DOD. The concern I have is there are specialist who have completed the certification but lacks the experience. Do you foresee the government offering more training classes in order for the new personnel to achieve the requirements and do you think there should be consistency in the requirements for DOD and other government agencies? If so, how will the training you mentioned be affected?

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