Air Force suspends, begins debarment process of reverse-auctioneer FedBid

The Air Force has suspended FedBid from federal procurement activity, both new contracts and follow-ons, as of Jan. 26, 2015 and proposed the reverse auction company for debarment.

FedBid’s listing in the System for Award Management (SAM) says the Air Force suspended and is proposing debarment with proceedings pending.

The Air Force wrote in the listing on SAM that it deemed FedBid ineligible for new contracts or follow-on deals “based upon adequate evidence of conduct indicating a lack of business honesty or integrity, or a lack of business integrity, or regulation, statute, executive order or other legal authority, pending completion of an investigation and/or legal proceedings.”

“As promised in our previous reporting on VA’s contracting and relationship with FedBid, the OIG referred FedBid to the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee for an independent decision whether the company should be debarred. Through the Committee’s processes the Department of the Air Force agreed to be the lead agency,” said an VA OIG spokesperson in an email to Federal News Radio.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/395/3789803/Air-Force-suspends-begins-debarment-process-of-FedBid-

Audit: HHS failure to screen Obamacare contract recipients cost taxpayers $400M

Not even good enough for government work.

An internal investigation into how the federal government awarded contracts for developing and building the Affordable Care Act’s most important public element — the online exchanges that were to be used by millions of Americans to purchase health insurance — has found the process was fraught with obvious and expensive errors.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed to conduct background checks on prior work by companies awarded many of the Obamacare contracts and failed to require those same companies to be accountable for cost overruns, leaving taxpayers on the hook instead.

The report published Jan. 22, 2015 by the Office of the Inspector General for HHS concludes those mistakes soaked taxpayers for more than $400 million in unexpected costs — essentially doubling the expected cost of building the exchanges in the first place.

Keep reading this article at: http://watchdog.org/194839/obamacare-contracts-cost-taxpayers/

Enterprise Innovation Institute’s VP talks about ATDC … and rockets

Georgia Tech vice president Stephen Fleming was interviewed Jan. 24, 2015 by 11Alive “Atlanta Tech Edge” host Angel Maldonado.  They talked about  about ATDC, Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, and rocketships (XCOR Aerospace).

You can see and hear the interview here: http://www.atlantatechedge.com/ATLANTATECHEDGE/article/325878/554/Stephen-Fleming-Ohand-rockets.

Survey: Acquisition workforce falling behind on training

The buyers of products and services across government are not receiving the fresh training or modern skill sets needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today’s agency missions, according to a survey of federal acquisition employees released on Thursday.

“The acquisition workforce’s skills in areas such as business acumen, negotiation, risk mitigation and understanding complex information technology fall well short of what acquisition professionals say is required,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. PSC and Grant Thornton prepared the seventh edition of a biannual survey titled “A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?”

“This not a failure of the workforce,” Soloway said, “but a result of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change” in education and support.

In a session with reporters, he cited frustrations over a “growing gap” between acquisition specialists and the end users who increasingly say the technology being delivered isn’t suitable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/survey-acquisition-workforce-falling-behind-training/103512/

See more on this topic at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1719

Contract formation is featured in March course offering

What is the Government’s simplified acquisition process?    What is meant by the term sealed bid?  Did you know that the Government can enter into contracts on the basis of both competitive and noncompetitive negotiated arrangements?  How does the Government deal with required and preferred sources of supplies and services?  What must be done to ensure competition?  What are the policies for policies and procedures for pricing negotiated contracts and contract modifications?  What are the policies and procedures for filing bid protests?

To answer these questions — and explain the entire process that federal agencies follow to formulate a contract — Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy is presenting a one-week course, beginning March 2, 2015, entitled CON 090-3: Contract Formation in the FAR.

The course is designed for contracting professionals, but is open to anyone who is interested in gaining insights into the federal acquisition process.  Typically, both federal contracting officers and contractors take this course.  This course provides vital instruction for Government contracting personnel as well as important insights for contractors.

By attending CON 090-3, students learn how to locate, interpret, and apply the acquisition regulations applicable to federal agencies.  CON 090-3 is the third of four modules from CON 090 – Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Fundamentals.  The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech offers CON 090 in four, one-week classes.  Each module stands on its own, allowing students multiple opportunities throughout the year to complete the entire CON 090 course without the challenge of being away from work or home for an entire month.

The course consists of limited lecture, and is heavily exercise-based.  Students should be prepared to dedicate about an hour each evening for reading.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is an approved equivalency training provider to the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and provides continuing education training to Acquisition and Government Contracting professionals as well as to business professionals working for government contractors or pursuing opportunities in the federal contracting arena.

For more information on this course and to register, please visit: http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-090-3-contract-formation-far.

Georgia Tech offers the entire CON 090 course series in world-class facilities on its campus in midtown Atlanta.  For groups of 10 or more, Georgia Tech also brings any of its government contracting courses to your workplace.

For details on any of our courses, please visit http://www.pe.gatech.edu/Subjects/Acquisition-Government-Contracting.   To make arrangements for any of the courses to be taught at your place of work, email us at: info@ContractingAcademy.gatech.edu or give us a call at 404-894-6109.

VA failed to vet dubious contractors

An internal VA study has found that an east coast office that handles about $4 billion in business each year didn’t do enough checks to vet the backgrounds of companies to which it awarded contracts.

The internal study by consultants found that the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ “Service Area Office East” failed more than half the time to perform at least one of the required responsibility determination reviews, which include checking lists of banned companies or checking basic corporate facts with Dun and Bradstreet and other databases.

The study, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, found the office would often neglect to fill out required paperwork on why they selected “high risk” contractors and found 94 percent of Federal Supply Schedule contracts had some kind of problem, including lack of proof that contracting officers pushed for government price reductions.

Some contract files didn’t even have signatures.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jan/5/va-failed-to-vet-dubious-contractors/

Acquisition 101: When a bargain isn’t a bargain

When my wife and I purchased our first vacuum cleaner, we selected a cheap model. It met all the specs of what we needed, did a minimally acceptable job and lasted little more than a year before it died. Not learning the lesson that buying the first vacuum should have taught us, we immediately bought another cheap vacuum to replace the first one, and it died an early death about 18 months later. We finally did learn our lesson with the third vacuum and paid slightly more for a better vacuum that has lasted six years (and counting).

Much like our predicament with the rotating vacuums, federal contracting professionals are facing increasing pressure to purchase goods and services as cheaply as possible using a method commonly referred to as “lowest price/technically acceptable” (LPTA)—even if it means minimal acceptability.  This push is laudable in theory, but the reality is often higher prices and a smaller pool of quality contractors, while robbing contracting officers of any discretion to choose a solution or product that is more cost-effective in the long term.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/acquisition-101-when-bargain-isnt-bargain/102672/

About the authors: Eric Crusius, a partner with Fed Nexus Law, focuses on government contracts, cybersecurity, employment law and complex litigation. Mitchell Bashur, an associate at Fed Nexus Law, also contributed to this column.

Air Force to reshape ‘cost curve’ via targeted acquisition reforms

The Air Force is kicking off a series of targeted acquisition initiatives that its leaders hope will bring in more competition, cut out internal bureaucracy and ultimately lead to faster, cheaper procurements.

Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, announced the plans under an overall banner she dubbed “Bending the Cost Curve.” She described the initiative as a series of actions that are complementary to DoD’s Better Buying Power initiative — but more specific and tailored than the DoD-wide project.

James said the changes, which the service developed after a months-long series of roundtables with industry groups, will help the Air Force do a better job of communicating with its existing vendor base, welcoming new firms into the fold and removing bureaucratic processes that seem to serve little purpose other than to slow things down.

“We are simply too slow in all that we do,” she told the Atlantic Council Wednesday evening. “Here’s one horrifying factoid: We currently average 17 months to award a contract in situations where we already know there’s only one supplier who can do the work.”

To tackle costs on its major systems, the Air Force will institutionalize a new program that will attempt to make price more of an independent variable in the service’s decisions about precisely what it wants its weapons systems to do.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/395/3781054/Air-Force-to-reshape-cost-curve-via-targeted-acquisition-reforms

Feds’ procurement shortcomings a threat to industry

In 1994, I attended a lunch meeting in Washington, D.C., where the speaker, who worked for the federal government, discussed the anticipated shortage of qualified federal procurement people. The speaker expressed great concern that the development would adversely affect the government and industry, and stressed the need for professional development, certifications, expertise in managing large programs and a more robust career path, and highlighted the challenges of working in an increasingly politically charged environment.

Fast-forward to 2015: Do those concerns sound familiar?

In the past 20 years, there have been countless articles, blog posts, speeches, plans and conferences that decry this problem. Numerous senior government leaders have repeatedly sounded the alarm: The federal government does not have enough procurement employees now or in the career development pipeline to properly perform its mission. Our industry has heard the alarm bells for years, but it is not listening.

The problem will have an increasingly serious impact on our industry and, in turn, the government’s ability to serve its constituents. Proposal evaluations, contract awards and modifications are already being delayed. Incumbent contractors, of course, can game the system to their advantage — for example, by overwhelming government procurement personnel with new inquiries, modifications and requests.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/01/05/federal-procurement-shortcomings.aspx

Who’s the boss in government contracting?

he management structure of government procurement, where one of every six federal dollars is spent, has remained generally unchanged for many years, even as the volume and percentage of products and services performed by agencies has evolved to today’s outsourced, dependent model. One continuing characteristic of this model is decentralization.

For example, since its creation in 1971, governmentwide acquisition policy responsibility rests with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), residing within OMB. It helps shape the policy and practices governing over $500 billion of annual contract obligations. It does so with a very small budget and staff and relies on interagency cooperation to develop policy and workforce development planning in the form of memos, circulars, guides, or reports. OFPP chairs the FAR Council, consisting of senior procurement executives from GSA, NASA, and DoD (the largest contracting agencies at its creation), to manage cases (changes to the FAR) from civilian and defense agency councils, extensively relying on agency-provided “teams” for assigned subject areas. In addition, OFPP oversees the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), chairing its “board of directors” (agency procurement executives) to ensure training priorities are addressed, including development of a professional acquisition workforce. OFPP’s mandate relies on words like “collaborate,” or “assist” in describing its role over other civilian agencies. FAI itself has a small staff and relies on other, better-funded agencies, to develop training programs and schools, as well as private contractor-approved providers.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/01/16/government-contracting-leadership/21858713/