We Already Have the Tool We Need to Get the Most Out of Federal Contractors
It’s called CPARS, and we’re just not using it the way we should.

Government services have never been more essential to the American people than they are today. The need for the government to excel in meeting all of its responsibilities will persist given the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, racial and social inequities, and other crises in the United States and around the world.

As the Biden administration addresses these challenges, it’s critical to get the most not only from federal agencies, but from the contractors who help implement agency missions. The federal government relies heavily on a blended workforce of dedicated federal employees and contractors to get its work done. The government spends about 40% of its discretionary budget on contracts for goods and services, adding up to more than $586 billion in fiscal 2019.

We believe there is an underutilized tool that can better leverage the spending of that taxpayer money and help achieve desired mission outcomes by motivating federal contractors to improve their performance. That tool is called the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System, or CPARS.

CPARS tends to be used as a report card at the end of a performance period of a contract. It should be used as a management tool to help improve contractor performance, and in turn, improve outcomes on contracts. This would be a paradigm shift for many procurement officials, but the change could be as simple as this: The contractor submits a mid-term performance self-assessment (with appropriate supporting data and metrics) and the government rating official provides feedback on the contractor’s performance.

This creates the perfect opportunity for both parties to reaffirm or realign priorities, ensure proper resources on both sides are focused on the priorities, and make other adjustments necessary to ensure better contract and mission outcomes. Those outcomes would be reflected in the CPARS rating for that period.

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