Fast-paced technologies passing by military’s acquisition culture

U.S. military leadership has known the Pentagon is falling quickly behind the technological curve and opening itself to new and developing threats, but military brass still don’t know how to fix it.

Fingers are often pointed at the military’s acquisition system that has failed to adapt to the increasingly fast pace of innovation and business development. Multiple attempts by military leaders and Congress have failed to make the system more agile or efficient.

In fact, company officials in important fields such as cyber security and robotics told Military.com they have no interest in working with the Pentagon because it would limit their opportunities in the commercial market.

Google took advantage of missed Defense Department opportunities last year when the search engine giant bought promising robotics companies working with the Pentagon. Boston Dynamics is one that had developed drone prototypes designed to help troops carry equipment on patrol and see inside suspicious buildings.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2015/03/27/fast-paced-technologies-passing-by-militarys-acquisition-cultur.html

Another proposal from GSA is class deviation for commercial agreements

March has been a busy month for the General Services Administration (GSA) in its efforts to implement what it has touted as a “new vision for Federal purchasing.”

On March 5, 2014, GSA announced a proposed rule to reform pricing practices and contractor reporting requirements under multiple award schedule contracts.

In its latest move, on March 20, 2015, the GSA issued a proposal to streamline the negotiation of Commercial Supplier Agreements, which are commonly used in acquisitions of software and other information technology. Such agreements typically contain standard contract terms that GSA regards as inappropriate in the context of a sale to the government. As a result, protracted negotiations with GSA are often necessary to reach agreement on acceptable terms before software and other items can be offered for sale on the Federal Supply Schedule.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/another-proposal-gsa-class-deviation-commercial-agreements

Push is on for analysis of approval process required of 8(a) Native American sole-source contracts

Alaskan Congressman Don Young is enlisting a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives to urge Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to swiftly and diligently complete a Department of Defense (DOD) study examining the negative impacts of Section 811 of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Native community owned contractors.

“The 8(a) program has been extremely successful in creating an efficient and cost effective contracting option for the government while supporting economic opportunity for some of the most disadvantaged and underemployed populations in the nation,” said Congressman Young. “Since Senator Stevens left the Senate, Native contractors have been under constant attack. Section 811 was snuck into the 2010 NDAA negotiations by the Senate, and ever since then I have repeatedly heard about the confusion, difficulty and damage this Act has caused to our Native contractors.”

Section 811 requires that any 8(a) Native American sole-source contract, in excess of $20 million, go through an overly burdensome approval process. While the measure was sold as a “good governance” provision and did not prohibit or discourage the awarding of such contracts, this heightened scrutiny, not required for any other contractors, has had a chilling effect for contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://alaska-native-news.com/young-pushes-for-analysis-on-negative-impacts-of-section-811-on-native-owned-contractors-16415

Cyber to appear In Better Buying Power 3.0

Defense Department acquisition chief Frank Kendall said the next generation of the Pentagon’s influential acquisition document, Better Buying Power 3.0, will take aim at cybersecurity.

“We worry about the weapons systems themselves and all of the connectivity they might have,” said Kendall, speaking at a Bloomberg Government forum on March 12, 2015. “These are ways in which a cyber threat can launch an attack, you can think of it as an attack surface, if you will.”

When the Pentagon rolled out its draft of Better Buying Power 3.0, it included eight categories and a number of subcategories, and cybersecurity was not one of them. The final version of the document was expected to be released in March; a new release date has not been set.

“We have a long way to go and I’m not sure where this trail will lead ultimately,” Kendall said of the cybersecurity effort, “but we absolutely have to do a better job of protecting everything about our weapons systems, birth to death.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/policy-budget/2015/03/13/cybersecurity-to-appear-in-better-buying-power-30/70271020/

House committee unveils DoD procurement reform bill

The House Armed Services Committee released a highly anticipated bill that is meant to streamline the Defense Department’s acquisition process and better train it’s procurement officers.

The legislation would focus on four areas of the acquisition process: workforce training, chain of command, streamlining reporting requirements and overall acquisition strategy.

“More than being monetarily wasteful, dysfunction in the acquisition process is sapping America’s technological edge and robbing our military of agility in the face of multiplying threats,” says Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in a joint statement with committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Thornberry went on to say the DoD’s acquisition system is slow and cumbersome and that it delivers “vital equipment years late that underperforms and is difficult and costly to maintain.”

The legislation (H.R.1597) would require procurement officers to be trained in the commercial market to close the knowledge gap between government and industry. It would also require ethics training specifically aimed at the acquisition process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/hasc-unveils-dod-procurement-reform-bill/2015-03-30

Also see: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2015/03/house-defense-acquisition-reform-plan-seen-step-right-direction/108655/ 

Pentagon: The cost of major weapon systems are finally coming down

More than four years since Ashton Carter took on reforming Pentagon acquisition, the cost of the largest arms projects is beginning to stabilize, defense officials say.

Costs among the Defense Department’s largest arms programs are beginning to stabilize after years of overruns, a recent trend that Pentagon officials say is the result of an improvement project launched by now-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter more than four years ago.

Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 80 major procurement projects – valued at $1.6 trillion – are performing better than anticipated, and in many cases, have reduced costs compared to one year ago, said one senior Pentagon official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“I think this is a good example compared to last year and then I think you’ll see it again,” the official said.

Costs are down because the military services have become more realistic when laying out schedules and funding for projects, according to the official. They are also doing a better job of making sure projects fit in long-term budget plans.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2015/03/pentagon-cost-major-weapons-systems-are-finally-coming-down/108000/

Even CBO is stumped on the size of the contractor workforce

How many contractor employees does the federal government rely on, at what cost per person, and how does that compare with the cost of assigning the same task to a full-time hire?

When asked by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., ranking member of the House Budget Committee, the Congressional Budget Office took a shot but left the $64,000 question unresolved.

“Regrettably, CBO is unaware of any comprehensive information about the size of the federal government’s contracted workforce,” the nonpartisan analysts wrote in response. “However, using a database of federal contracts, CBO determined that federal agencies spent over $500 billion for contracted products and services in 2012.”

Spending on contracting grew between 2000 and 2012 more quickly than inflation and as a percentage of total federal spending, the response said. The fastest-growing category in dollars was contracts for professional, administrative and management services, CBO wrote—the top-expanding category being medical services.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/03/even-cbo-stumped-size-contractor-workforce/107436/

DISA drops $16 billion contract after controversy

The Pentagon has pulled back its plans to award a$1.6 billion contract re-up to VMware after several companies protested the award in February.

The Defense Department’s cancellation of its joint enterprise licensing agreement with VMware allowed the Government Accountability Office to dismiss bid protests filed by Amazon Web Services, Citrix, Nutanix and Minburn Technology Group.

Those four companies contended the re-up was an improper sole-source request for cloud services that would have given VMware an unfair edge for DOD’s growing cloud demand.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2015/03/disa-drops-16b-contract-after-controversy/107631

Ambitious plan to reshape federal contracting emerges at OFPP

A new vision has emerged among top Obama administration officials for how they want federal contracting to look in a few years:

  • Key categories of spending — information technology, professional services, construction, etc. — will be aggregated across agencies and managed by dedicated executives who will focus on smoothing out pricing variability, analyzing spending data to optimize procurement strategies, culling duplicative contracts, and negotiating better deals based on overall governmentwide demand.
  • New digital tools will help procurement agents navigate the myriad contracts available. Those tools will provide quick access to the range of prices being paid at other agencies for comparable products and services to ensure fair pricing.
  • Databases on spending across agencies will inform smarter procurement approaches that leverage government buying power.

Known as Category Management, the approach is used widely in industry and in the United Kingdom, say proponents like Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Anne Rung.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/policy/2015/03/16/data-driven-contracting-feature/24852905/

OFPP initiates 360-degree reviews of the acquisition process

Vendors now can really tell agencies how they feel about their acquisition processes and procedures.

The guidelines for Acquisition 360, a Yelp-like approach to rating the acquisition process, arrived last Wednesday from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Anne Rung. The nine-page memo details how agencies should seek customer feedback from contractors and internal stakeholders on how well the contracting process went for specific procurements.

“This effort is not intended to be used to rate individual contracting officers, program managers, or integrated project teams (IPTs), or to compare procuring offices generally, as the complexity of procurements varies greatly among agencies, and unexpected challenges can arise,” Rung wrote in the memo. “However, these tools are meant to help agencies identify strengths and weaknesses with industry partnerships so they can make internal improvements on the planning and making of contract awards.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3821690/OFPP-initiates-360-degree-reviews-of-the-acquisition-process