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Attention to Detail, Including Procurement Planning, Lacking in Rollout of Affordable Care Act, ODU Prof Says

Old Dominion University procurement expert Stephen Gordon says the federal government followed a familiar pattern when acquiring the services needed to roll out the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known popularly as "Obamacare."

"It's all too common. They followed the 'Ready, Fire, Aim' model," said Gordon of the rollout of the national program, which has been plagued with technical problems such as a poorly functioning website.

Gordon, a faculty member in the Department of Urban Studies and Public Administration of ODU's College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA), said the difficulties with implementation of the ACA stem from the lack of planning as the policy neared its implementation date.

"This happens a lot with major policy initiatives like the ACA. There is so much focus on the grand vision, and not nearly enough about the details, and the details are vitally important. Effective procurement planning, execution and administration are among the details frequently not paid enough attention," Gordon said.

Gordon joined the CBPA in 2011 after more than 35 years as one of the country's leading experts in public procurement, and he has led ODU in the introduction of a for-credit graduate-level procurement program, one of two such programs in the country. The online ODU program focuses on strategic, best-practice public procurement and contract management, a critical activity in a region where governmental entities at all three levels spend billions of dollars every year.

Gordon said government procurement and contracting is a frequently overlooked area of opportunity for agencies and contractors to work together to figure out how to squeeze maximum value from every public dollar - something that is vitally important at a time when budgets are under assault.

"The leadership of every public-sector organization must understand the benefits of doing procurement and contract management right. And they must have the will and the ability to assure that it is done right," Gordon said.

Because the need for effective procurement crosses disciplines, the CBPA has introduced an online undergraduate course in public procurement and contract management, to be offered in the spring 2014 semester. The course, offered as part of the public service minor at the university, teaches students about the purchasing of goods, services, technology and construction for governmental entities.

"The field of public procurement and contract management provides internships, employment opportunities and career possibilities for young employees. It's important for anyone who intends to go into public service - in any role - to understand public procurement and contract management," Gordon said.

Gordon came to ODU from the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, where he was a visiting research fellow and served as president and member of the board of directors. Previously, he had been director of procurement for the city of Alexandria, Va.

The graduate certificate in public procurement is designed as a stand-alone program composed of four required courses and one elective (15 credits total). Additionally, students enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program may take the certificate courses as their electives, earning both the certificate and an M.P.A. simultaneously. Individuals who complete the certificate program and later decide to complete an M.P.A. have the option of applying the certificate credits toward their M.P.A. degree. Admission to the certificate program is open to anyone who has completed a bachelor's or master's degree at an accredited institution.

For more information about ODU's offerings in public procurement and contract management, see http://bpa.odu.edu/uspa/academics/procurement.shtml or send an email request to PublicProcurement@odu.edu.

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