New survey identifies procurement challenges, solutions from both industry and government perspectives

There are as many ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal acquisition process as there are procurement challenges, and rapid improvements to the procurement process are possible.

These are the overarching conclusions reached by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) in conjunction with their recent government and industry procurement survey.

APMP’s survey highlights the fundamental differences between industry and government viewpoints.  The survey focuses on the difference between official policy, as represented by the Federal Acquisition Regulation and “myth-busting” memos issued by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and what actually happens in day-to-day practice.  The significant difference between policy and execution provides the foundation for the title of the survey report: “Closing the Procurement Gap.”

In all, nine specific actions are recommended to industry, and eight recommendations are made to government acquisition professionals.  Highlighted among them are:

Recommendations to Industry

  • Focus on providing solutions to government.
  • Respond seriously to RFIs and market surveys.
  • Stop filing so many protests, and consider their validity and business impact.
  • Help the government evaluate risk, cost, probability of success, and paths to success.
  • Communicate with government acquisition personnel and don’t waste their time.
  • Make white papers focus on a successful procurement, not skewing the procurement to your favor.

Recommendations to Government

  • Mandate that communication with industry remain open until final RFP release, and make sure contracting and program officials know the communication rules.
  • Eliminate the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) procurement strategy for services and allow its use only for commodities.
  • Include sections L and M in draft RFPs (section L addresses proposal preparation requirements, and section M discloses the government’s proposal evaluation factors).
  • Regularly publish and update projected release dates for RFPs.
  • Consider eliminating “alternate proposal” options.
  • Carefully review RFPs to ensure they are complete.
  • Quit being so risk adverse of debriefings, and provide more meaningful information to offerors in debriefs.

The APMP’s survey report is based on more than 500 responses — 350 from industry and 157 from government.  The full survey, including detailed findings and all recommendations, can be downloaded by clicking here.



Protests delay implementation of NASA’s SEWP contracts

Four companies have filed bid protests to be included in NASA’s slate of IT solution contracts under the SEWP V program.

The space agency announced 97 contracts in four groups earlier this month, scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1. With the four protests logged with the Government Accountability Office, implementation of those contract awards has been delayed.

Four companies – UNICOM Government Inc., BahFed Corp., NCS Technologies Inc. and KPaul Properties LLC – submitted protests on Oct. 20. All four protests are under review by the GAO, which must issue decisions by Jan. 28.

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NASA awards flurry of contracts under SEWP

NASA has a host of new vendors to buy IT services from, after awarding 56 contracts to more than 40 companies under the latest version of its Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement, known as SEWP.

Announced Oct. 1, SEWP V is the fifth generation of the multiaward governmentwide acquisition contract. This particular iteration has a total value of up to $10 billion over the next decade.

NASA staggered its SEWP V vendor and contract announcements. The Oct. 1 announcement covered two subcategories: Group A, for computer-based systems, and Group B, for networking, security, video and conference tools.

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White House releases Georgia Tech-influenced national manufacturing roadmap

Leaders from Georgia Tech participated in the release of the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP 2.0) final report, a one-year endeavor to outline a roadmap to secure U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson served on the 19-person AMP 2.0 Steering Committee and numerous faculty and staff put in many hours serving on various workstreams that focused on different aspects of manufacturing competitiveness.  This effort builds on the original AMP which kicked off in 2011 and ended in 2012 and also included Georgia Tech as one of a select few universities invited by the White House to participate.

Presidential SealBoth President Obama and Commerce Secretary Pritzker attended the out-brief from the AMP Steering Committee on Oct. 27, 2014 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, and Georgia Tech Provost Rafael Bras represented Georgia Tech.

“The Georgia Tech community should be proud of the role that our team played in influencing this important report,” said Georgia Tech President Peterson. “Manufacturing has been central to Georgia Tech’s mission since its founding and we’re honored to add our collective experience and expertise to help grow the manufacturing economy in our country.”

Building upon the report, Obama announced a series of executive actions to strengthen U.S. advanced manufacturing, including a $300 million investment in the emerging technologies of advanced materials including composites and bio-based materials, advanced sensors for manufacturing and digital manufacturing.  Read about the multi-agency and private sector effort > 

Following the White House meeting, Georgia Tech researchers were invited panelists at a briefing hosted by the Innovation Policy Forum of The National Academies to discuss the report’s recommendations for enabling innovation, securing the talent pipeline and improving the business climate for manufacturing. Georgia Tech’s Tom Kurfess, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, addressed the report’s findings for enabling innovation, specifically on developing technologies to build a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Jennifer Clark, Director of the Center for Urban Innovation at Georgia Tech, spoke on Improving the Business Climate and recommendations related to Scale-up Policy. The U.S. has been the leading producer of manufactured goods for more than 100 years, but strengths in manufacturing innovation and technologies that have sustained American leadership in manufacturing are under threat from new and growing competition abroad.

The AMP 2.0 report identifies the role of the Executive Office of the President in coordinating the federal government’s advanced manufacturing activities and defines responsibilities for Federal agencies and other Federal bodies in implementation.

New FAI course – FAR Fundamentals – now offered in Atlanta

The Federal Acquisition Institute’s  newest course offering, FCN 190 – FAR Fundamentals, is now scheduled for presentation on the Georgia Tech campus in January and March, 2015.  The course is two weeks in length and provides students with a comprehensive review of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Registration information may be found by clicking here.

By attending the FAR Fundamentals course, students learn the basic policies and procedures for acquisition planning, source selection, and contract administration. Students work through realistic, scenario-based problems by identifying the relevant regulations, guidance, provisions and clauses that govern the federal contracting process.

The FCN 190 – FAR Fundamentals course came about as a result of recent changes to the government’s professional development standards for federal contracting officials.  A recent OMB Memo on the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting Program established what’s known as the FAC-C (Refresh) program. The effective date of the FAC-C (Refresh) is October 1, 2014.  Per the memo, all civilian agencies must fully implement the FAC-C (Refresh) by October 1, 2015.  Details of the training standards established under the FAC-C (Refresh) program can be seen by clicking here.

FAI logoFAI has verified that the FCN 190 – FAR Fundamentals course offered by the Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech meets the requirements for delivery of the new FAC-C (Refresh) Level I certification requirements.

FCN 190 – FAR Fundamentals is scheduled on the Georgia Tech campus on two sets of dates in 2015: Jan. 26-Feb. 6 and Mar. 16-27.  Registration information appears here.  The course is also available, on a contract basis, for presentation both on-campus at Georgia Tech and on-site at government facilities.

Agencies must improve payment card security by year end

In the wake of massive data breaches involving consumer credit cards, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Friday to strengthen security measures on government credit, debit and payment cards and the readers that scan them.

The new order — part of the president’s BuySecure initiative — requires federal agencies to use chip-and-PIN security on all government-issued cards and update card readers to work with new technology.

“With over 100 million Americans falling victim to data breaches over the last year and millions suffering from credit card fraud and identity crimes, there is a need to act — and to move our economy toward stronger, more secure technologies that better secure transaction and safeguard sensitive date,” the White House said in a statement.

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GAO partially upholds bid protest against embattled security clearance contractor

Security clearance contractor USIS suffered another in a series of setbacks Monday when the Government Accountability Office partially upheld a bid protest that removes the company from a contract it was given by the Homeland Security Department.

DHS had awarded a $210 million Field Office Support Services contract to USIS in July after the Office of Personnel Management said it wouldn’t do business with the company anymore.

The OPM decision was prompted by claims by the Justice Department that say the Falls Church, Va.-based security contractor took shortcuts and submitted files to the government that had not undergone a full review.

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Contract management continues to be a challenge at Energy

Contract management at the Energy Department continues to be a significant challenge, says an Oct. 7, 2014 DOE inspector general report.

The DOE is the most contractor-dependent civilian agency in the federal government. It awards contracts, grants and other financial assistance to industrial companies, small businesses, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations.

About 90 percent of the DOE’s budget is spent through those contracting vehicles, the report says.

The Government Accountability Office has included the DOE on it’s high-risk list since 1990 because of inadequate contract oversight.

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FAR council lays out process for standard contract ID system

Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued a final rule Monday that lays out how and when agencies should transition over to a standard identification system for federal contracts.

Agencies have until Oct. 1 2017 to implement the new Procurement Instrument Identification numbering system. PIID will only affect new contracts after the effective date, the rule says.

The proposed rule was introduced back in June 2013 and came at the suggestion of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board’s recommendation to develop a governmentwide numbering system for contracts.

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The final rule is published in the Federal Register at:

VA contracting official resigns amid agency’s attempt to fire her

A top Department of Veterans Affairs contracting officer who allegedly steered work to a Virginia firm resigned Tuesday, eight days after the agency announced that it had begun the process of firing her.

Susan Taylor, the Veteran Health Administration’s No. 2 contracting official, said in an e-mail to employees that she decided to “resign and retire,” effective Oct. 14. She has worked with the federal government for 29 years, spending four of them with the VA.

“I will definitely miss the terrific staff I have had at VHA, both at headquarters and in the field nationwide, but I know that you will continue to admirably serve our veterans through your dedicated service,” Taylor wrote. She also indicated that the VA is trying to recruit a replacement for her.

The VA inspector general’s office said in a report last month that Taylor helped steer a contract to Vienna-based FedBid and worked with the government-services company to overturn an agency moratorium on work by the firm, in addition to interfering with an investigation of the matters.

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