Billions of dollars are being spent on cost overruns on government contract due to careless monitoring of contractor performance by Contracting Officer’s Technical Representatives (COTR). I propose that COTRs should have its own professional job series and be required to undergo more extensive training as suppose to their current 40 hours of VERY basic, rudimentary training.
A COTR’s primary responsibility, as delegated by the Contracting Officer, is to monitor contractor performance on a programmatic level, which is NOT being prudently and effectively performed. Contracts run over budget mainly because COTRs did not intervene timely during the performance of the contract until it is too late, usually when funds on the contract have already been fully exhausted. Effective COTRs should be able to identify problems that could jeopardize timely delivery of the product or service stipulated on the contract and then work with the Contracting Officer to intervene and cure any failures in the contractor’s performance before the issue advances into an uncontrollable problem that can only be resolved by adding more money onto contract.
COTRs simply do not have the training or the business acumen to detect these types of deficiencies in the contractor’s performance. Their basic 40 hours of required training to obtain their COTR certificate is simply not enough. Contracting Officers are required to have many more hours of training just to obtain their level 1 (out of 3) certification. On average, to become a Contracting Officer, one would have to complete at least 240 hours of training prior to getting their FAC-C level 1 certification, and only then they are able to award contract of up to only $100,000. The reason for such extensive training is because we place great emphasis on these professionals since they are in essence stewards of the taxpayer’s money. But aren’t COTRs just as important if they are to monitor contractor performance and how contractor spend that money? COTRs are supposed to warn the Contracting Officer when the contractor works outside the scope or if the contractor is not progressing/delivering what is required on time. However, this careful monitoring of contractor performance has been subpar and is getting worse every year, hence contributing to the enormous budget deficit.
In order to address this issue and save billions of dollars of cost overruns, two fixes need to be put into place. First, create a professional job series for COTRs. By doing this, COTRs would be viewed as a profession with a career path/ladder, which would incentivize current high-performing COTRs to continue their service with the federal government and attracting new talented individuals to pursue a career as a COTR. Second, in concurrence with creating a professional job series, COTRs should be held to a higher standard of training and certification. Such training should be on par with the training a Contracting Officer would receive (240+ hours of training). This will ensure that COTRs are well versed in contract administration and program management in order for them to effectively carry out their contract oversight duties and prevent cost overruns. These changes would incentivize talented individuals to pursue a COTR career in the federal government and ensure they are well-trained in their profession.