Senate report contributes to discussion about acquisition reform and support for training

Last week, the U.S. Senate published a compendium of expert views on acquisition reform within the Department of Defense (DoD).  While the report contains no recommendations from the Senate itself, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations points out that the report documents shortcomings in the acquisition process that may serve to guide Congressional deliberations in the future.

The Oct. 2, 2014 report, entitled “Defense Acquisition Reform: Where Do We Go from Here?”, contains the views of 31 government Defense policy and procurement experts.  Significantly,

  • Nearly half of the experts feel that cultural change is required while over two-thirds believe improving incentives for the acquisition workforce is necessary for reform.
  • Two-thirds of the contributors feel that training and recruiting of the acquisition workforce must be improved.
  • Nearly half believe that DOD needs to attain realistic requirements at the start of a major acquisition program that includes budget-informed decisions.
  • More than half of the submissions noted the need for strong accountability and leadership throughout the life-cycle of a weapon system – with several experts stating the need to further integrate the Service Chiefs into the acquisition process.

Seal_of_the_United_States_SenateAbout 70 percent of the report’s contributors express the view that although Congress has taken steps to address deficiencies in DoD’s acquisition workforce, more should be taken. Several contributors state that the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF), which Congress established in 2008 to ensure that the acquisition workforce has the skills to ensure the DoD receives the best value for taxpayer dollars, should be continued and strengthened.

Former Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Dan Gordon, now Associate Dean at George Washington University Law School, states in the report that improvements in training through Defense Acquisition University (DAU) coursework will help the acquisition workforce “buy smarter” in the current budget environment.  Gordon notes that of the three phases of the contracting process — planning, award, and administration — the “weak links in our procurement system [are] poor acquisition planning, especially poor definitions of what the government is trying to buy, and lax contract management.”  These two problematic areas, notes Gordon, “are those least amenable to legislation” and instead tend to rely on the experience, judgment, and training of acquisition professionals.

Gordon calls for “better training for purchasing services, and creation of specialized acquisition cadres, at least in large entities such as the military services, to help run procurements in areas that demand education and experience in the field, such as the acquisition of IT and professional services.”

Many of the report’s contributors believe that DoD should create a clear career path for acquisition professionals similar to the military promotion system and designate acquisition billets to be on the same level as operational billets.  According to those contributors, that may grant more opportunity for promotion, thereby attracting a higher quality workforce.

The report includes input from many current and former officials, including the Pentagon’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics chief Frank Kendall; former Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman retired Gen. James Cartwright; former acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox; former Chief of Naval Operations retired Adm. Gary Roughead; former Air Force Chief of Staff retired Gen. Norton Schwartz; former F-35 program manager retired Vice Adm. David Venlet; and former President of the Defense Acquisition University Frank Anderson.

The full report is available here: Defense Acquisition Reform – A Compendium of Views – 10.02.2014

IG finds faults in training of contracting officer’s representatives in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service

A federal certification program, which establishes general training, experience, development and best practices for contracting officer’s representatives, isn’t being applied consistently, potentially leaving them without the necessary skills, abilities and competencies to do their jobs, a recent audit found.

Additionally, the General Services Administration’s inspector general said in the Sept. 29 report that a system designed to oversee the workload and certification status of contracting officer’s representative’s, or CORs, is only accessible to a few managers and supervisors. This means some CORs could possibly conduct unsanctioned work, opening the government up to potential legal problems.

Contracting officers authorize CORs to perform specific technical and administrative duties on contracts or orders. These CORs ensure that federal contractors meet their performance requirements and typically identify if a contractor or program is underperforming.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gsa-ig-finds-faults-contracting-officers-representatives-training-program/2014-10-01

Read the IG’s report at: http://www.gsaig.gov/index.cfm/oig-reports/audit-reports/fy-2014-audit-reports-october-1-2013-to-september-30-2014/

VA official investigated for fraud loses lucrative DOE gig

The Energy Department has withdrawn an offer to hire Susan Taylor, the Veterans Health Administration’s deputy chief procurement officer, because of an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general that found Taylor violated numerous federal procurement laws and regulations.

In an email obtained by FedScoop dated Sept. 12 — two weeks before the VA’s IG report was made public — Thomas Johnson Jr., the associate deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and project management in DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, announced the selection of Taylor for the career senior executive service position of director of the Office of Procurement Planning, effective Oct. 5.

Two senior officials at DOE familiar with the situation but not authorized to comment publicly, however, confirmed to FedScoop that the offer has been withdrawn based on the VA IG report’s conclusions. “DOE is not hiring Ms. Taylor,” said one of the officials with detailed knowledge of the job offer.

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/va-official-investigated-fraud-loses-lucrative-doe-gig

Reverse auctioneer FedBid slammed by VA inspector general

Executives at a popular federal reverse auction contractor have come under fire for taking “significant measures to disrupt and deprive” the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability “to transact official business honestly and impartially, free from improper and undue influence.” The company and its executives could now face potential suspension or debarment from federal contracting.

In a damning 82-page report released Monday, the VA’s inspector general detailed an orchestrated campaign by FedBid executives to “assassinate” the character of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics Jan Frye after he suspended the use of reverse auctions throughout the agency in 2012.  Investigators also found that Susan Taylor, VA’s deputy chief procurement officer at the Veterans Health Administration, abused her position and “improperly acted as an agent of FedBid in matters before the government.”

What started as an investigation into Taylor’s alleged interference with a review of the FedBid contract soon led the IG to discover Taylor had been giving FedBid preferential treatment, going so far as to disclose proprietary information and pressure contracting staff to award a task order for reverse auction services to FedBid. Although the IG referred the matter to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution, DOJ did not press charges and recommended VA take administrative actions.

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/reverse-auctioneer-fedbid-censured-va-inspector-general-report/

DoD selects Tech as one of 12 contract award winners

he Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is one of 12 companies awarded access to the new Defense Systems Technical Area Tasks (DS TATs) contract vehicle.

Having established its reputation as a world leader in sensors, radar and electronic systems, information management and security, and robotics, GTRI leveraged its position within the Georgia Institute of Technology and its collaboration with other academic institutions to win the contract. The contract was awarded by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC), a part of the Department of Defense (DoD).

“Contract vehicles are very important for military contractors in general and GTRI in particular,” said Rod Beard, GTRI researcher and director of the DS TATs. “We could have the greatest ideas in the world for a government office, but if we don’t have a way for them to reach us through a contract vehicle, it could be too time-consuming for the complete procurement process.”

GTRI leadership made the decision to pursue DS TATs in 2011, realizing that the Sensing Information Analysis Center (SENSIAC) vehicle would expire in 2014. DTIC’s prior responsibility for SENSIAC under its mandate was to provide science and technical information to U.S. government customers. Because of GTRI’s and Georgia Tech’s specialty in sensors and radar, SENSIAC was located in and managed by GTRI. Researchers and scientists managed these basic core operations of SENSIAC.

DTIC divided the 10 existing information analysis centers — grouping subject matter based on research similarities — into three. The technical area tasks (TATs) or contract vehicles were separated among the new branches. Now, the DS-TATs scope is the same as that of the Defense Systems Information Analysis Center. The other two are the Cyber Security and Information Analysis Center (CSIAC) and the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center (HDIAC).

DTIC, which reports to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASDRE), established DS TATs in June 2014. The vehicle has a $3 billion ceiling and is established as a 5-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ), multiple-award contract for research and analysis services.

According to Beard, it should take about six or seven months to begin procuring contract awards through the vehicle. He currently is in the process of informing GTRI’s researchers of the new vehicle, and then will meet with customers who funded GTRI through SENSIAC, informing them of the new process with DS TATs.

Contractors awarded use of this vehicle will compete to perform various customer-funded task orders (TATs) for studies and complex analyses, as well as engineering and technical services that generate scientific and technical information within the Defense Systems scope areas.

Focus areas for this contract vehicle include the following:

  • survivability/vulnerability
  • reliability, maintainability, quality, supportability and interoperability
  • military sensing
  • advanced materials
  • weapon systems
  • energetics
  • autonomous systems
  • directed energy
  • non-lethal weapons and information operations

Through its relationship to Georgia Tech and collaboration with academic partners from across the nation, GTRI will be able to not only utilize its specialties—sensors, autonomous systems, sustainability of legacy aircraft and research on protecting our warfighters — but also allow the consortium of academic partners to demonstrate their strengths.

Collaborators include the University of Southern California, California Technical Institute, New Mexico Tech, Utah State University, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, Notre Dame, Pennsylvania State University, Vanderbilt University, University of North Carolina Charlotte and Florida International University. In addition, GTRI recruited several industry and small business partners, as 9 percent of the work done in the first year must be designated to small businesses.

“In addition to providing access to a contract vehicle, the partnerships will give us an opportunity to diversify,” Beard said. “To assist with this, we have secured several academic partners, which will open the door to projects that neither GTRI nor some of our partners would have contemplated before.”

For example, GTRI conducts legacy aircraft sustainment. “We take legacy technology in military aircraft, and update the avionic systems with current generation processors and memory to enable replacement of this out-of-date equipment,” Beard said. “Purdue is prominent in the automotive industry, which is something we don’t do. We could possibly move into tank and truck sustainment through our partnerships.”

A few of these institutions already were partners through SENSIAC, Beard said. Utah State’s Space Dynamic Lab, for example, can simulate the environment of space, which aids in the testing of sensors and other items bound for the skies.

“I’m pleased that we have been awarded this opportunity,” said Robert T. McGrath, senior vice president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of GTRI. “I am confident that the comprehensive capabilities represented across the impressive team assembled will very ably serve the future needs of our Department of Defense sponsors.”

The multiple-award contracts were competitively procured by full and open competition along with a partial small business set-aside via the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, is the contracting agency.

Senior VA official pressured employees to award FedBid contracts

A Veteran’s Health Administration procurement executive pressured employees and worked the acquisition system to award FedBid contracts for reverse-auctions, a Sept. 26 Veteran’s Affairs Department inspector general report says.

The report says Susan Taylor, VHA’s deputy chief procurement officer, in 2010 pressured staff repeatedly in emails to speed up the acquisition process and pick FedBid – a Vienna, Va. based reverse auction vendor – for the reverse auction contracts.

The report says Taylor, “improperly disclosed non-public VA information to unauthorized persons, misused her position and VA resources for private gain, and engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when she recommended that a subordinate senior executive service employee be removed from SES during her probation period.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/va-ig-senior-official-pressured-employees-award-fedbid-contracts/2014-09-30

Just one more GSA Schedule workshop before year’s end

If your business is thinking about going after a GSA Schedule contract, you have one more chance to obtain expert advice and consulting before the end of the year.

 

The last GSA Schedule Proposal Preparation Workshop for 2014 — presented by Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy — will be presented on Nov. 17 and 18, 2014 on the Georgia Tech campus in midtown Atlanta.  (Click here to register.)

So far, 52 persons have attended Georgia Tech’s GSA Workshop since it was launched at the beginning of the year.  Folks came from 10 states to attend the Workshop, and 100% of the attendees rate the Workshop as having met or exceeded their expectations.  More importantly, every single businessperson who’s attended has either prepared their proposal or submitted it to GSA for award.

What Attendees Are Saying

Here are typical statements made by attendees:

  • “I received a vast amount of information on how to apply for a GSA Schedule contract.  I valued the one-on-one question-answering provided by the instructors.”
  • “I expected a canned presentation consisting of a lot of theoretical advice, but I received practical and specific help to understand the GSA application.  I really valued the instructor’s knowledge and communication skills.”
  • “This workshop provided excellent advice and training, walking through all the documents in detail.  I valued the relaxed environment, the ability to work at my own pace, and the ability to ask lots of questions.”
  • “I now have a complete understanding of the step-by-step process to complete my company’s proposal to the GSA.  The workbook, examples, templates, and the presentation – all very well put together.”
  • “I expected a great presentation from Georgia Tech, but was afraid of information overload.  The presenter and the presentation were fantastic …. I now have a much clearer idea of how to get on a GSA Schedule.”
  • “I received one-on-one assistance with filling-out various proposal forms and walking through the submission and upload process.  Fantastic!”
  • “I received significant information and background on what GSA reviewers and contracting officers are looking for, and I valued the forms for completing my GSA Schedule proposal and building my pricing.”

The Facts about GSA Schedules

Is your company considering going after a GSA Schedule contract?  Maybe you should consider these facts:

  • The federal General Services Administration (GSA) awards about $50 billion in blanket contracts known as “Schedules” to hundreds of companies each year.
  • Eighty percent (80%) of Schedule contractors are small businesses who are successful at 36% of those sales.

The process to win a GSA Schedule contract begins with a proposal, an arduous task that often takes several months to prepare. But, now, thanks to Georgia Tech’s Workshop, a GSA proposal can be actually completed during the Workshop.   If a business is not prepared to submit all the documentation at the time of the Workshop, the GSA proposal preparation process easily can be shortened to within 30 days following the Workshop.

Workshop Benefits

By attending Georgia Tech’s GSA Schedule Proposal Preparation Workshop, you will:

  • Save time and money with instructor-guided, do-it-yourself approach.
  • Avoid mistakes that can delay or stop a GSA Schedule proposal from being considered.
  • Receive expert guidance, hands-on help, and answers to all of your questions.
  • Be given access to exclusive templates and sample narratives based on successful GSA Schedule offers.
  • Receive up to 4 hours of consulting after the Workshop to review your package and receive further advice.
  • Earn 15 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

Registration Details

Remember, Nov. 17 and 18 is your next chance to attend.  Don’t miss out!  To register, simply click here. If you have questions or need further information, please email info@ContractingAcademy.gatech.edu.

GSA Schedule Contract

DoD will empower military branches to directly procure cloud services

The Defense Department is changing its approach to procuring cloud services, moving away from a two-year-old policy designating the Defense Information Systems Agency as the department’s de facto cloud broker.

In a new memo expected to be released by the end of October, the department’s new policies will grant cloud-buying power to the military services, according to officials. The new guidelines direct military officials to provide the DoD CIO office with detailed business case analyses for cloud decisions, while also complying with acquisition requirements and evolving cybersecurity mandates.

The forthcoming memo will replace the 2012 cloud strategy released by then-DoD CIO Teri Takai.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140924/FEDIT01/309240020/DoD-will-empower-military-branches-directly-procure-cloud-services

Hagel’s right-hand man on acquisition reform

Hagel needed to accompany President Barack Obama to Tampa, Florida, for a briefing at U.S. Central Command about the now-underway airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria. Hagel needed a trusted confidant to fill in for him at the Air Force Association conference in Maryland, so he turned to Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for acquisition.

Hagel’s choice in Kendall to deliver the remarks he had already penned is the latest in a series of actions that demonstrates the close relationship two have developed over the past year, defense officials close to both men say.

Moreover, the relationship has helped elevate Kendall’s acquisition reform – or as he prefers to say, “acquisition improvement” – initiatives, the latest of which was unveiled last week.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2014/09/hagels-right-hand-man-acquisition-reform/95048/

Former GSA official Jeff Neely indicted for fraudulent claims

A former high-ranking official General Services Administration official has been indicted for making fraudulent reimbursement claims.

Jeff Neely, the former region nine administrator at GSA, organized a lavish 2010 Las Vegas conference that cost almost $823,000 and prompted an investigation that forced the resignation of top officials at the agency and the firing of several others. He told conference organizers he wanted the conference to be “over the top.”

Neely was indicted by a federal grand jury for making fraudulent reimbursement claims for personal travel and expenses on trips to Las Vegas, California, Guam and Saipan. Neely told employees those expenses were for official business.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140926/MGMT/309260014/Former-GSA-official-indicted-fraudulent-claims