Contractors group would restructure White House procurement shop

Citing a “human capital crisis” in a federal workforce beset by retirements and inexperience, a major contractors group on Monday proposed acquisition reforms that would speed up the procurement process, enhance industry-agency collaboration and reorganize the White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy to improve workforce training.

The Professional Services Council’s report joins an array of acquisition reform efforts under way in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill in addressing the need to create contracting officers with a more sophisticated grasp of industry trends in services contracting, particularly in information technology.

“We need to fundamentally rethink the workforce, to create a unified vision across government,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the council, which represents 375 member companies. “It will affect everything from how we prosecute wars to how we operate our business systems. The time for incremental or tactical change has long passed.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/07/contractors-group-would-restructure-white-house-procurement-shop/89870/

Read the full report by and recommendations of the Professional Services Council at: The PSC Acquisition and Technology Policy Agenda – 07.28.2014

OFPP nominee lays out agenda

Anne Rung, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), told lawmakers that she wants to “break down the barriers” that stall innovation in federal acquisition.

At a brisk, sparsely attended confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on July 24, the former chief acquisition officer at the General Services Administration also cited as priorities better category management and giving the acquisition workforce the tools it needs to succeed.

Rung said she is particularly interested in creating topic specialization for acquisition officials. Often people who are buying pens and pencils for their agency are also tasked with major IT purchases.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/07/24/ofpp-nominee-agenda.aspx

Explaining the federal budget paralysis

Budget uncertainty is the new norm in the federal sector. With the sequester and government shutdown in recent memory, it has reached the point where the possibility of the next fiscal year starting with a Continuing Resolution of a few months is a relief. Two key questions: Why is this happening in Congress and will the uncertainty ever end?

The most common explanation is to blame a political party or person. This is incomplete. Federal sector managers, executives, and contractors can benefit from looking deeper into Congress and its processes. A better understanding of the dynamics can even improve planning by setting realistic expectations for Congress.

The reality is the federal discretionary budget, which funds the federal government, has become the central battleground for the hyper-partisan warfare in Congress today.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140724/BLG05/307240016/Explaining-budget-paralysis

Lawmakers knock DHS for contract with company accused of fraud

The Department of Homeland Security has come under fire from lawmakers for awarding a $190 million contract to a company accused of defrauding the government.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter July 17 asking why USIS received a contract from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against USIS in January, accusing the company of delivering at least 665,000 background investigations from March 2008 through September 2012 that failed to undergo contractually required initial quality reviews.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140718/DHS03/307180008/Lawmakers-knock-DHS-contract-company-accused-fraud

Management of HealthCare.gov website now open for bid proposals

The White House has begun its search for the next stewards of HealthCare.gov.

contract solicitation posted online Wednesday enumerates the qualifications and requirements of the next Obamacare website contractor, charged with keeping the online federal health insurance exchange portal up and running.

The 60-page job posting says the next caretaker of the Obamacare site will need to be able to work “under aggressive time constraints” to work with the Federally Facilitated Marketplace in testing and upgrading a variety of hardware, software, and security features. It also states that the contractor will need to be able to perform tests that can demonstrate that the site can function when a large number of users are online.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/07/obama-administration-looking-next-obamacare-website-contractor/88927

Government’s biggest failures: 2001-2014

With scandals at agencies ranging from the IRS to the Veterans Affairs Department fresh in the public’s mind, a longtime scholar of federal management has published a new assessment of government’s failures since 2001.

In the paper, called A Cascade of Failures: Why Government Fails, and How to Stop It, Paul C. Light, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at New York University, examines 41 stories that resonated with the public in a major way, using the Pew Research Center’s News Interest Index as a yardstick. The nonpartisan index, which has been published since 1986, attempts to measure how closely Americans are following stories covered by news organizations.

“Federal failures have become so common that they are less of a shock to the public than an expectation,” Light writes. At the same time, he adds, “I did not write this paper as yet another cudgel against ‘big government.’ As I have long argued, the federal government creates miracles every day, often in spite of tighter budgets, persistent criticism and complex missions.”

Light concludes in the study that government failures have been increasing over time, from an average of 1.6 per year from 1986 to 2001 to 3 per year after that.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/07/governments-biggest-failures-2001-2014/88678/

For the full list of 41 failures Light assessed, click here.

Teaching feds not to fear the FAR

From the General Services Administration’s 18F technology incubator and Health and Human Services’ emerging Buyers Club program to the Office of Management and Budget’s TechFAR guide, federal procurement officials have been busy rolling out plans aimed at reshaping the way government thinks about buying and developing IT.

Those officials are hoping the programs will spur the conservative, risk-averse federal procurement culture to more keenly navigate existing regulations and take more chances in IT acquisition.

The dense Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) issued by the Department of Defense, GSA, and NASA, is a primary target of the programs. More than a few federal officials and technology vendors have grown disillusioned with the FAR – or rather with how it has been used — arguing that it is wielded far too conservatively and is offers far more room for innovative than it’s given credit for.

Frustration with stagnant, staid FAR thinking spurred Health and Human Services to develop its Buyers Club program this spring. HHS officials talked publicly about development of the program in May, rolled out a Buyer’s Club web site June 24 and plan to accelerate the effort in the coming months, Bryan Sivak, HHS chief technology officer, told FCW.

Sivak said the program’s goal is to blaze new trails through the FAR that HHS contracting officers can follow to more efficient, innovative and successful IT procurement. Citing a Standish Group study that estimated roughly 90 percent of federal IT procurements valued at over $10 million fail, Sivak said it was obvious old thinking was not cutting it.  “Even if that estimate is a little on the high side, the numbers are still too way too high,” he said. “With those numbers, what’s the risk of trying to do something new?”

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/07/14/far-fearing-feds.aspx 

What motivates defense contractors? Four lessons for government leaders

Competition was the main theme of the Defense Department’s second annual report on acquisition performance, released earlier this month. Declining budgets may be pushing defense contractors to look for work outside the government, but the Pentagon’s emphasis remains on promoting competition, according to Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The report analyzed contractors’ cost and schedule performance over more than a decade to see what motivated them to produce better results. Here are some takeaways:

1. The carrot-and-stick approach works.

2. Fixed-price isn’t always the best fix.

3. More competition does mean better performance.

4. Leadership matters, but it’s not clear how much.

For details, keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/what-motivates-defense-contractors-four-lessons-for-government-leaders/2014/06/27/a623fb06-f577-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html

Officials: Budget cuts, pay freezes hurt DoD acquisition workforce

Myriad challenges face Defense Department acquisition and many of them have exacerbated budget cuts and pay freezes, DoD officials told a House panel July 10, 2014.

“The fiscal challenges, shifting operational requirements, the current budget instability deriving from sequestration, years of pay freezes, furloughs, military end-strength reductions and the requirement for commensurate reductions in our civilian workforce, more than a decade of conflict–inevitably all of these things have affected the acquisition workforce,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephanie Barna at the hearing.

DoD Under Secretary Frank Kendall echoed Barna’s concerns that budget cuts, pay freezes and furloughs have slowed progress on acquisition reform.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/official-budget-cuts-pay-freezes-hurt-dod-acquisition-workforce/2014-07-15

Disgraced Congressman Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham is a free man again

A federal judge says it is time to forgive Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the most corrupt member of Congress ever if measured by the amount of bribes he admitted accepting.

U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns has granted Cunningham’s request to have his post-prison supervision ended early, writing a final legal chapter on the sordid tale of the flamboyant ace fighter pilot who went to Congress as a hero in 1991 and left in 2005 as a disgraced felon.

The California Republican spent more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty in November 2005 to charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Cunningham, who was 64 when he was sentenced in March 2006, had used his positions on the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees to steer lucrative contracts to those who would help him finance an extravagant lifestyle featuring 19th-century French antiques, yachts, Persian rugs, hunting trips, a Rolls Royce, and a $2.55 million home in an exclusive community in San Diego County.

It all unraveled in 2005 when The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote about the corruption, triggering a federal probe that found, among many other things, that Cunningham had drawn up a “bribe menu” on congressional notepaper, outlining what bribes he would need to deliver a contract or earmark.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2014/07/disgraced-congressman-randy-duke-cunningham-free-man-again/88513/