Contracting officers work for federal government agencies where they bind the government to contracts that surpass the micro-purchase threshold, which is usually $3,000 as of 2014. They also handle a wide variety of contracting duties, from acquisition planning to contractor performance evaluations. To become a contracting officer, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in business, public administration or finance, and possess strong analytical and communication skills.
The main responsibility of contracting officers is to oversee the contracting process. They help develop acquisition policies, procedures and strategies; evaluate purchase requests to ensure they're consistent with the agency's needs; publicize forthcoming acquisitions to inform the public and invite bidders; and evaluate bid proposals to assess prices and contractor reliability. They also conduct market research, negotiate contract terms and conditions with interested suppliers, and award contracts to successful bidders. In addition, contracting officers ensure contractors adhere to regulations by periodically evaluating their performances and taking appropriate actions, such as terminating contracts when contractors repeatedly violate terms and conditions.
Representing the Government
When there is a dispute between an agency and a contractor, the contracting officer represents the government in the resolution meetings and upholds its position. Contracting officers also have a duty to recruit and supervise staff, such as contracting officer technical representatives, and consult with contracting officers in other government agencies to share market information.