DEBRA BEAN’S 30TH ANNIVERSARY VIGNETTE
WAPA’S PROCUREMENT MANAGER REFLECTS ON CHANGES IN TECHNOLOGY, BIDDING AND WORKFORCE
Debra Bean began her career at WAPA in 1992 as the Construction Procurement Branch chief in the former Headquarters office. She was named WAPA’s procurement director in 1994 after acting in the position for six months, and served in that position until reorganization in 2001 gave her the added responsibility of leading WAPA’s Human Resources function. In 2003, she served as WAPA’s Corporate Administrative Officer, overseeing administrative functions and then in a 2005 reorganization, she returned her sole focus to procurement.
During her tenure she has been recognized for supporting small and minority-owned businesses, implementing innovative procurement processes and systems, implementing new hiring and other online HR tools and leading WAPA through the Human Capital Management process to hire and retain qualified workers. She also earned an Exceptional Service Award in 1997.
Here are her thoughts on changes she’s witnessed at WAPA:
CHANGES IN BIDDING
“The biggest change has been in the way we send out the solicitations—how we communicate with vendors and the public since many functions have been automated, which must be obtained through www.usa.gov/. Previously, solicitations were sent out hard copy. You developed a bidder’s list and you issued a synopsis in Commerce Business Daily. Now most solicitations are issued electronically and there is no Commerce Business Daily publication.
“We had a bid opening room and posting boards, and we had visitors daily. That’s rare now. We still have some bid openings in the regional offices. We have a variety of flexible ways to do business. And, of course, the Internet changed the way we do business completely. In the last seven years, the change has really been dramatic—I mean it’s almost like night and day dramatic. Bidders can get so much online that the requirements to have posting boards and that kind of thing have changed, too.”
WAPA’S SUPPORT OF SMALL BUSINESS
“What I established when I became what they formally called the procurement director 12 years ago now is a program where we would give preference first to small business. But, there is a caveat in there—if it made good business for us to do so. For example, we weren’t going to give some of our high-voltage work to a novice small business contractor just to support socioeconomic goals. The Small Business Administration normally supports us in those decisions because of the outstanding program we have.
“About five years ago, the congressional groups at the House and the Senate wanted DOE to improve and to work harder to support the small business program. What that has done is driven more emphasis down to every field organization in DOE, so it has put more pressure on us to do more in small business. What we’ve done in response is to try to ratchet up our goals. For the last four years, our goals have been 68 percent of our appropriated dollars. That’s what we’re supposed to do with small business. So if you budget $100 million dollars, 68 percent of that should come out at the end as going to small business preference programs. We’ve run as high as 79-percent achievement. So we’ve done very well.”
SECURING SUPPLIES FOR PATH 15
“The first thing we did was to get the Department on board with us. Our delegated procurement authority in Western is $2.5 million. Contracts over $2.5 million dollars require DOE approval. So they either have to give us approval to sign the contracts and move forward or they approve them. For Path 15, we were very successful because of our history of successful contracting with construction projects that DOE basically waived most of the approval levels. The actual construction contract was for $90 million. They had never seen a $90 million contract from us and they waived review of it, which means when they waived (it), they gave the authority back to us.”
“Transformation decentralized many procurement functions and decision making authority to the regional offices. For example, construction work went to the regions. When I came to the old headquarters office, there were 28 FTE, and in Transformation the level was cut to 13. It was a 60-percent reduction in this one office and significantly changed the culture and how procurement operated in Western.
“Of note was the change in the number of GS 12s in the new CSO office. I had to reduce from eight to three in the new office. The fact is that the eight went to zero by the time we met the reduction target. I had to hire more people because we either placed GS-12s in the regional offices or they left Western for other organizations. It’s a testament to the creativity and energy of the people in procurement that we effectively supported the mission of Western during Transformation, while these key people were leaving.”
CHANGES IN TECHNOLOGY/HR TOOLS
“What’s interesting is when I took on the leadership of HR, I assumed that role on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon were attacked. I was faced with a leadership challenge that became bigger the next day because of employees’ fear of what happened. I had several new HR people, like Cheryl Zimmerman and Kristen Oest, to help to learn their new jobs. Cheryl was hired to implement or improve CHRIS and Quick-Hire systems in DOE and WAPA, which implemented the HR parts of the President’s Management Agenda in e-government.
“Many of the HR staff were strong proponents of these systems. They believed they could make their jobs easier, but knew that a lot of work and change was needed in HR and customers.
“As a customer, it’s much easier to find the tools and resources. There are not a lot of HR people to hold your hand. Of course, people still want a call and say, ‘Tell me what to do.’ That’s not the way HR is now. These automated systems are our future to efficient business.
“It was a huge change for HR. Just like Procurement had to apply the skills they spent years learning and apply a new technology set, so has HR.”
HUMAN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT/RECRUITMENT
“I led the WAPA recruitment team in creating a corporate way to do recruitment. There were five offices doing things differently. We wanted consistency and we had to determine mission-critical occupations. In the end of this challenging project, we did standardize the recruitment process and the way we market ourselves to applicants. I want to add a personal note here about Judy Farrell. She was tireless on this team. She really made a difference in how we branded ourselves to the outside world. I still get sad when I think about her untimely passing, but I know she would be happy to know she made a difference in this important area for Western.
“Going back to recruitment, the team worked with our most critical occupations and used the Workforce Plan to design recruitment strategies. It was interesting trying to figure out how to keep people here—offering recruiting bonuses and family-friendly programs. We worked a long time on the student program to make it easier to understand and use for managers and students. We went over marketing and branding, fine-tuned the student program guidance and tools and worked very hard on making sure the hiring process was sound. We connected the workforce planning team and connected the objectives of both teams to deliver deliverables that made sense for WAPA’s future.
“The lasting legacy of the team is a multi-functional and focused look on how WAPA looks to the outside world and how we work together to promote WAPA.”
MANAGING DIFFERENT ROLES
“I’m very proud of the Chief Administrative Office. It was a success on many different levels. It wasn’t my success, it was our success. I’m proud of the way I led them, leading them into being a more service-oriented group.
“To that end, I believe HR and Procurement has become more flexible, adaptable. For HR staff, I appreciate them so much for welcoming me when I became the HR manager. The experience totally helped me be a better leader for Western.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve personally accomplished. Now with my focus back on Procurement, we can work to make it more efficient and effective in support of the mission.”
Last modified on August 23rd, 2023