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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!