Multiple companies protest $1.6 billion Pentagon contract

Several companies have filed bid protests over the Defense Information Systems Agency’s recent $1.6 billion Defense Departmentwide licensing agreement with VMware.

Since Feb. 19, Amazon Web Services, Citrix, Nutanix and Minburn Technology Group, a Microsoft reseller, have filed formal bid protests with the Government Accountability Office on the DISA joint enterprise license agreement with VMware, citing an overly broad agreement that stifles competition.

Based on the contracting language, the bid protesters also contend the contract re-up is an improper sole-source request for cloud services that would give VMware an unfair advantage competing for DOD’s growing cloud demand.

So many vendors responded to the Feb. 9 solicitation that the government requested additional time to respond to questions received Feb. 19, suggesting the feedback received was highly contentious.

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Critics warn DOD’s EHR contract could mean ‘vendor lock and health data isolation’

A defense think tank says the government may regret its plan to lock the U.S. Defense Department into a 10-year contract with an electronic health-record vendor.

The Center for a New American Security released a report that sharply criticizes the department’s procurement process for a new EHR system, which is expected to cost $11 billion over the life of the contract and has attracted fierce competition among four bidding teams.

“DOD is about to procure another major electronic (health-record) system that may not be able to stay current with—or even lead—the state-of-the-art, or work well with parallel systems in the public or private sector,” warn authors, who include retired Gen. H. Hugh Shelton and former Veterans Affairs Chief Technology Officer Peter Levin.

“We are concerned that a process that chooses a single commercial ‘winner,’ closed and proprietary, will inevitably lead to vendor lock and health-data isolation,” they conclude.

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6 simple fixes for the federal procurement process

As the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, our government has a rigorous procurement process in place to protect the American taxpayer, designed to facilitate helping Uncle Sam buy what he needs to perform his myriad missions efficiently, effectively, and economically. Unfortunately, the federal government fails to spend taxpayer money wisely with such frequency that newspapers and television reports are rife with examples of overspending, failed projects and bloated contracts.

Procurement goes through reforms every few decades, but the current environment could not be worse. From the Brooks Act in 1972 to the Service Acquisition Reform Act in 2003, much has been done to address the “mechanics of procurement,” but little has been done to address the human aspect of procurement, either on the government or the contractor sides. From a $10 stapler to a $1.2 billion failed technology system, our government tries to legislate fixes, but it is hard to legislate human nature.

There are things that can be done without formal change; leaders need to lead, managers must manage, and the workforce must exhibit good judgment, be honest and realistic, achieve value, and learn to manage risk. Procurement personnel need to be well trained, their workload must be better managed, and they need to possess strong problem-solving skills. Contractors need to help the federal government with its procurement issues, provide the right solutions, and be realistic about what it can do.

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DoD doesn’t know if it can sustain contracting database, says GAO

The Defense Department doesn’t know what resources it needs to sustain it’s contracting database, says a Feb. 18 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The DoD has not assessed all resources that it will need to sustain the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker-Enterprise Suite – a repository of information on contracts and contractor personnel in contingency operations.

DoD has not updated its life-cycle cost estimate or fully defined and assessed its plans to determine the resources needed to sustain SPOT-ES, GAO says.

Specifically, the agency hasn’t updated its life-cycle cost estimate since 2010, despite changes to costs due to schedule delays, the report says.

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Delaware businesses benefit from Academy’s instruction

A group of Delaware business people braved snowy conditions on the morning of February 26th to gather at the Biotechnology Institute on the main campus of the University of Delaware (UDEL) to learn about the significance of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to their participation in federal contracts.

The educational workshop was hosted by the PTAC of Delaware Program, part of the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, Small Business Development Center.  UDEL’s Juanita Beauford made arrangements for the workshop to be conducted by representatives of The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech (The Academy).

The businesses were provided with a half-day of intensive instruction on how to use the FAR, along with insights into how the government plans, forms, and administers its contracts.  Each participant was provided with a 190-page workbook mirroring the workshop’s content, along with FAR flash cards and a contract administration pocket guide.  “We’re confident the attendees will find the workshop’s materials to be useful desktop references for years to come,” pointed out Chuck Schadl, group manager for government contracting services at The Academy.

Delaware workshop participants received expert instruction and resources on the business implications of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Delaware workshop participants received expert instruction and resources on the business implications of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Lead instructor Kevin Grimes led the business group through a thorough examination of the FAR and its implications for contractors.  Covered topics in the “Complete FAR Guide for Businesses” workshop included:

  • Market research and how the government defines its needs.
  • Commercial item determinations and acquisition strategies.
  • The concept of full and open competition.
  • The Simplified Acquisition Procedures.
  • The government’s small business policy.
  • The principles of contract formation.
  • Solicitation and evaluation of offers.
  • Source selection, debriefings, and protests.
  • Adjustments in contract terms, modifications, and claims.
  • Quality assurance, acceptance, and payment.
  • Disputes, appeals, and contract terminations and close-outs.

Highlighted during the workshop were 24 “Win Tips” — informational resources and strategies designed to help businesses better understand contracting standards in order to win contracts with the government.  Workshop participants also were given access to an exclusive web site where government contracting resources are maintained for the business community.

Business groups interested in arranging for the “Complete FAR Guide for Businesses” workshop to be brought to their community may contact The Contracting Academy at Georgia Tech at 404-894-6109 or

Secret Service taking steps to strengthen certain acquisition policies, oversight, says DHS IG

The Secret Service has adequate oversight and management of its acquisitions, but it needs specific internal policies for acquisitions valued at less than $300 million – an issue that the agency is addressing, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said recently.

The IG’s revised audit dated Feb. 10 said the Secret Service should have its own policies and procedures and a designated “component acquisition executive,” or CAE, to strengthen its program. The agency should also integrate best practices into its daily operations, the report added.

“Taken together, these actions will decrease the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse and improve the Secret Service’s ability to acquire goods and services in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost,” the audit said.

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Air Force claims $2 billion in acquisition savings from ‘should-cost’ management

The concept of “should-cost” management was a key component of the first version of the Defense Department’s Better Buying Power program when it was first rolled out almost five years ago.

But the Air Force’s top acquisition official said the idea hasn’t been forgotten: his service has used it to cut programs’ actual costs by an estimated $2 billion over the last several years, with more potential savings to come.

Should-cost is not strictly a new idea in government procurement. It’s been codified in the Federal Acquisition Regulation for decades, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the Pentagon ordered the military services to use it in all of their major acquisitions. In a nutshell, it requires program managers to set-aside the historically-based independent cost estimates that are developed for all big programs and that DoD is required to base its budgets on, and instead, manage their programs according to what they ought to cost.

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GSA Schedules and DoD’s confusing FAR 8.4 deviation

On March 13, 2014, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) issued a class deviation to FAR 8.404(d). This deviation directed that ordering activity contracting officers are responsible for making a determination of fair and reasonable pricing when using GSA’s Federal Supply Schedules (FSS). The deviation essentially incorporates complex FAR 15.404-1 price analysis techniques into the streamlined FSS ordering procedures with the vague caveat that the complexity and circumstances of each acquisition should determine the level of detail of the analysis required.

In discussing the rationale for this deviation, DPAP has consistently focused on the variation in pricing across the FSS program. In particular, the example of a $29 stapler listed on an FSS contract has been cited by DPAP as creating a “significant” risk that Department of Defense (DoD) contracting officers will simply order the $29 stapler rather than search for a cheaper stapler on another FSS contract. For those of us of a certain age, the use of this example reminds one of the $600 toilet seat reportedly purchased by the DoD back in the 1980s. Like the toilet seat purchase, however, there is greater context that undercuts the stapler example cited by DPAP.

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IT buying experiments preview ‘Acquisition of the Future’

“Acquisition of the Future” is an initiative that seeks to frame a vision in which acquisition creates significant new value for the government through fresh approaches, modern technologies and a new generation’s capabilities.

Participants include a growing number of federal executives, industry leaders, notable academics and rising acquisition professionals who have been meeting since 2013 to create a framework for what federal acquisition can become, to meet the demands of the Collaboration Age — and beyond.

Acquisition of the Future supporters are continuing their quest to find and capture real-world examples that uncover emerging trends. AOF leverages these initiatives to demonstrate the new value that vibrant, forward-focused federal acquisition can provide, and that model the strategic decision-making and investments required now to transform the future.

Especially in the realm of information technology, such experiments are emerging everywhere. That’s not surprising, because technology is one of the chief disruptors driving change and creating higher expectations in government, society, industry and our economy. Because IT is evolving so rapidly, government has difficulty acquiring, modernizing and maintaining it in a way that keeps pace with innovation and commercial best practices. And current government buying processes and culture make it difficult for agencies to keep apprised and take advantage of the pace of technological innovation. Consequently, IT is a hotbed of acquisition experimentation.

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Two-week contracting course, beginning Mar. 23rd, appeals to both business and government sectors

“Mission Focused Contracting” — a two-week course that is perhaps the most intensive and comprehensive of any of the courses offered by The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech — begins on Mar. 23, 2015.    It’s designed to create benefits for both business people as well as agency officials involved in the government contracting process.

  • From a business perspective, this course is a boot camp that’s designed to provide insights and details about the government’s entire acquisition process.  Business people will leave this course better prepared to submit bids for government work, creating a positive impact on business growth and the bottom line.
  • From a government standpoint, this is a course originally developed by the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) — that can be used to satisfy both FAC-C and DAWIA certification requirements — educates contracting officers on the entire acquisition process, from initial meetings with internal customers to completing the contract closeout process — and everything in-between.

All participants have the opportunity to learn and apply problem-solving and negotiation skills in a highly-interactive class setting.

Known as CON 120 – Mission Focused Contracting, this course  includes a complete review of DAU’s CON 110, 111 and 112, on-line courses that are normally prerequisites for CON 120.   Because a review of CON 110, 111 and 112 is built-in to Georgia Tech’s CON 120 offering, students are not required to complete any prerequisites to attend.

As a part of this course, business and agency personnel learn side-by-side how the government:

  • Completes a market research report.
  • Develops a bid or proposal package.
  • Evaluates proposals and award contracts.
  • Monitors contractor performance, apply remedies, and make proper contract payments.
  • Modifies contracts, conduct negotiations, exercise options, and complete the contract closeout process.

As a result:

  • Businesses discover new growth opportunities and learn how to develop more competitive bid proposals.
  • Government contracting officials gain a better understanding of their role as important members of their agency’s acquisition team.

This 10-day course is very reasonably priced at $2,050 and is next offered March 213 through April 3, 2015 in world-class facilities on the Georgia Tech campus in midtown Atlanta. For more information or to register, please visit