Department of Homeland Security ‘kicks it out of the park’ when it comes to awarding contracts to small businesses as the agency moves forward with its strategy to increase industry collaboration and to improve the procurement experience, Chief Procurement Officer Paul Courtney said Wednesday at the Government Technology and Services Coalition’s 10th anniversary annual meeting and celebration.
Courtney, who had served as Deputy Director of Purchasing since June 2019, took over as interim CPO following Soraya Correa’s retirement in late July 2021 and was named the department’s new CPO in August. Prior to joining DHS, Courtney led the contracting activity as a section chief at the Department of Justice from 2013-2019.
“It’s been a great ride,” Courtney said of following “the great footsteps” of Correa, who had served as CPO since January 2015.
Last month, DHS announced that it had received an “A+” rating on the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Procurement Scorecard for fiscal year 2021 – the 13th consecutive “A” year for the department and the 6th straight “A+” year, making DHS the largest federal agency to achieve such a record since the SBA began handing out ratings in 2009.
During the past fiscal year, DHS awarded 38.25% of total eligible contract dollars to small businesses, exceeding the governmentwide target of 23% and the department’s target of 33.25%. For 10 consecutive fiscal years, DHS has also exceeded its historically underutilized business area (HUBZone) target by 5.50% against the governmentwide target of 3%.
With 33 business days remaining in this fiscal year, as of Wednesday, Courtney said DHS has committed between $16 billion and $17 billion in total, and is on track to reach $23 billion to $25 billion. “Our people will get through this,” he said.
The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer’s strategic plan for fiscal years 2022-2025 indicates that its first priority is to empower the workforce by attracting and retaining a diverse and highly skilled team, inspiring a culture of empowerment and innovation, maximizing the potential of individuals and teams, and building confidence to enable creativity and critical thinking. The department intends to achieve these goals by strengthening workforce acquisition succession plans through entry and career development programs; enhancing the department’s reputation as a workplace of choice through empowerment, flexibility and trust; provide “as needed” training, professional development and mentorship; and maintaining trust in leadership by listening to employees and acting in the collective interest of DHS and all who serve its mission.
Courtney said preparing procurement teams to be innovative, embrace new approaches and “take those risks” better prepares them to work with industry – sharing lessons learned and best practices, and escalating. good ideas at the top. “We want them to have a voice at the table,” he said.
The second priority focuses on energizing partnerships through collaboration, including evolving inter-organizational relationships, partnerships and coalitions; strengthen communication within the global procurement community; unite with industry, academia, partner organizations and other communities; and building mutual trust within the procurement team. DHS intends to achieve this by expanding the use of technology to enable greater communication, collaboration, and networking; improve procurement results through meaningful exchanges with industry, academia and other institutions; defend the interests of DHS through proactive and transparent engagement with oversight entities; and leveraging the agency’s reputation as a leader in federal procurement to influence change.
“I mean a dialogue, not a one-sided conversation,” Courtney told industry representatives. “I really want to emphasize that.”
Flipping industry days and individual conversations, while emphasizing that the door is always open to the industry, helps DHS know what worked well on specific purchases, he said, and to learn from what went wrong.
The third pillar of OCPO’s strategy focuses on inspiring innovation to improve mission capability. This involves creating solutions that anticipate client needs, challenging the status quo to enable mission readiness, expanding access to innovative ideas and solutions, increasing equity and inviting new new entrants into the DHS industrial base. The department’s goals are to create and scale solutions that enable DHS to keep pace with evolving threats, cultivate a culture that assumes and manages acceptable risk, strengthens early acquisition planning and collaboration cross-functional team building, and to welcome the perspectives and contributions of a diverse community of partners. , including small businesses.
The fourth and final priority outlined in the strategic plan focuses on enriching the DHS procurement experience by building trust in the DHS procurement brand, serving as flexible business advisors, challenging perceived limitations of traditional roles and measuring the quality of the procurement experience. Achieving this requires streamlining policies and processes to promote efficiency and flexibility, adopting collaborative oversight throughout the procurement process to improve outcomes, increase customer satisfaction with solutions, and services, and leverage emerging data and technologies to optimize results and the customer experience.
Asked about the challenges facing the DHS supply store, Courtney said the ongoing resolutions passed by Congress pose an “ongoing” problem — but one that is anticipated. The department is also working to address other key issues impacting procurement, such as supply chain issues and the impacts of inflation; DHS currently has a lot of personal protective equipment, he said, but “trying to get all of this made in America – we’re getting there.”
Courtney encouraged the industry to “continue to provide us with information” and to “help us become a better organization – we really appreciate what comes from our mission partners”.
“We want to have that dialogue and that conversation with you,” he said.