Can states teach the feds about procurement?

[The following article was written by Michael Fischetti, executive director of the National Contract Management Association.]  

Having recently attended an event by the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), one is struck by the alignment of the issues, conversations, and knowledge areas across different sectors. There is much these days that supply chain, state, local, and federal communities could learn from each other. Yet real or perceived organizational, logistical, and cultural differences persist, limiting the identification of problems within one community or another, as well as potential solutions.

The challenge is to look beyond norms and see opportunities across sectors and even nations.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/04/09/states-teach-feds-procurement/25543017/

Agencies may evaluate proposals during GAO protests, says court

A procuring agency was entitled to evaluate proposals during the course of a pre-award GAO bid protest without violating the automatic stay provision of the Competition in Contracting Act.

According to a recent federal court decision, CICA merely prohibits the award of a contract during the course of a GAO protest, but does not prevent an agency from continuing to evaluate proposals.

GAO-GovernmentAccountabilityOffice-SealThe decision of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Caddell Construction Co., LLC v. United States, Nos. 15-135 C & 15-136 C (2015) involved a State Department solicitation to construct embassy facilities in Mozambique.  Caddell Construction Co., Inc. filed two pre-award GAO protests challenging the pre-qualification of two of its competitors.

While the GAO was in the process of evaluating the protests, Caddell learned that the agency was continuing to evaluate proposals while it awaited the GAO’s decisions.  Caddell filed an action in the Court of Federal Claims, arguing that the agency was violating the CICA automatic stay provision.

Keep reading this article at: http://smallgovcon.com/gaobidprotests/agencies-may-evaluate-proposals-during-gao-protests-says-court/

DoD stresses cybersecurity in acquisition reform update

The Defense Department is focusing part of its acquisition overhaul on cybersecurity, according to new guidance.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall on Thursday issued instructions for implementing Better Buying Power 3.0, the third version of an efficiency directive originally introduced in 2010. The directive aims to increase productivity and reduce costs in DOD technology and logistics. Specific strategies include using commercial technology and encouraging more prototyping and experimentation, among other approaches.

The update includes specific plans to strengthen cybersecurity. Though DOD is already working to improve military system cybersecurity, “from concept development to disposal,” the instructions added, “much more needs to be done.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2015/04/dod-stresses-cyber-acquisition-mandate/109885

Longtime procurement expert Dan Gordon set to retire

Come mid-summer, one of the workhorses of federal procurement is set to retire after decades of direct and advisory service to the government.

Dan Gordon, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and now an associate dean at George Washington University Law School, told FCW in an interview that he has been gradually pulling back from his many advisory roles in the last few months with an eye to retiring by July.

“The goal for July 1 is full retirement,” he said, adding that after that he plans to focus on his continuing study of Chinese languages and then, whatever comes.

Looking back, Gordon said his enthusiasm for the federal government’s procurement system is undimmed, even in the face of the increasing complexity and technological changes that have many calling for reform of the system.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/15/gordon-set-to-retire.aspx

Some DOT contracting officers not certified for high-dollar contracts

Nearly a quarter of Transportation Department contracting officers didn’t comply with certification specifications when working on certain high dollar acquisitions, says an April 9, 2015 DOT inspector general report.

In fiscal 2014, DOT obligated $2 billion on contracts.

To help ensure those contracts meet federal and departmental requirements, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) requires that contracting officers be certified at the appropriate level to correspond with the dollar value of contracts, the report says.

OFPP also directed each agency’s chief acquisition officer to establish agency-specific certification and warrant requirements.

But of the 63 contracting officers GAO reviewed, 15, or about 24 percent, did not fully comply with those requirements.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/some-dot-contracting-officers-not-certified-high-dollar-contracts/2015-04-15

Read the DOT IG’s report here: https://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/default/files/DOT%20Contracting%20Officer%20Certification%20and%20Warrant%20Requirements%20Final%20Report%5E4-9-15.pdf 

GSA’s proposed pricing data rule questioned

A rule proposed by the General Services Administration to gather pricing data from contractors is part of the agency’s effort to boost contract efficiencies and agencies’ buying power. But contractors are concerned that it could be costly and compromise their pricing information.

In March, GSA proposed a change to its acquisition regulations that would require vendors to report transactional data from orders and prices paid by ordering activities, including orders under Federal Supply Schedule contracts, non-FSS contract vehicles, governmentwide acquisition contracts, and indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts.

At a daylong public meeting on the proposed rule at GSA’s Washington headquarters on April 17, agency officials said the proposed change would help address several challenges GSA faces with multiplying contracts, price differences among contracting vehicles, general transparency and rules that in some cases were put in place before the Internet took hold.

Kevin Youel-Page, assistant commissioner of GSA’s Integrated Award Environment, said the information gathered under the proposed rule would help give federal customers a system that better fits their needs.

“The federal government is the biggest buyer on planet Earth,” he told the audience of contractors and federal employees gathered to discuss the proposal. “We need to act like it.”

Anne Rung, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, reminded the audience that the federal procurement process “is plagued by complexity and duplication.” The proposed rule would bolster OFPP’s “new vision” for federal buying, including the expansion of data-driven procurement practices and category management programs across the entire federal government, she added.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/17/transactional-data.aspx

GSA moves forward with overhaul of Multiple Award Schedules

The General Services Administration (GSA) is moving forward with its plan to overhaul the Multiple Award Schedules, putting into action recommendations from the agency’s 2010 Multiple Award Schedules Advisory Panel, says an April 13 blog post by GSA Senior Procurement Executive Jeffrey Koses.

“The $33 billion program now demands transformation in order to maintain its status as a best acquisition solution in a fast-changing marketplace,” Koses says.

The transformation will include reducing price variability, minimizing burdensome regulations and processes and introducing additional flexibilities, the GSA’s blog post says.

The overhaul address two key recommendations from the panel’s report – providing agencies with information on prices actually paid for goods and services as well as eliminating the price reduction clause reporting requirements for contractors.

The price reduction clause forces contractors to report if they reduce prices for commercial clients and then, in turn, allow that same discount to government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gsa-moves-forward-overhaul-multiple-award-schedules/2015-04-13

Read GSA’s blog at: http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2015/04/13/gsa-seeks-to-transform-the-multiple-awards-schedule-program-to-deliver-better-value/

Thornberry’s acquisition bill: Solid contact, but no home run

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s much-anticipated defense acquisition reform bill makes considerable strides toward disrupting a procurement process that is widely considered broken, but the bill is far from a fix-all.

Titled “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act,” the bill by the House Armed Services Committee chairman synthesizes more than 1,000 proposals from an eclectic mix of Hill staffers, think tankers, industry experts and Pentagon brass.

The bill begins by attempting to improve the skills of acquisition personnel. In the same spirit as Rep. Thornberry’s March 23 remarks at CSIS, it strikes widely, by permanently extending the Department’s Workforce Development Fund; and narrowly, by directing greater training resources towards building expertise in market research. It also strengthens the foundation of the “dual-track career path,” a valuable staffing strategy that allows military personnel to pursue a primary career in combat arms and a secondary career in acquisition. Guided by this language, the system should see a much-needed injection of human capital.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/04/thornberrys-acquisition-bill-solid-contact-no-home-run/109642

Clearing up confusion about data on nonfederal systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is looking for input on a government guide on how to handle sensitive federal information that resides in nonfederal systems and organizations.

Last fall, NIST issued recommendations for securing sensitive data on IT systems at companies that work for the government. The draft standards, released Nov. 18, are aimed at contractors and other nonfederal organizations that store controlled but unclassified information (CUI) in the course of their work.

At the time, NIST officials told FCW that nonfederal organizations must try to meet a wide range of contract clauses. “Conflicting guidance” from multiple agencies can lead to “confusion and inefficiencies” about how to handle sensitive federal information in nonfederal information systems that include contractors, state and local governments, and colleges and universities.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/07/nist-data-guidance.aspx

Navy launches ‘Innovation Cell’ to speed IT acquisition

It’s almost accepted as a truism in the modern era that the federal acquisition system simply isn’t up to the challenge of buying information technology. But IT leaders in the Navy suspect the problem isn’t so much the regulatory scheme itself, but the way it’s historically been applied to technology purchases.

To test that premise, on Thursday, the Navy’s program executive office for enterprise information systems will formally launch what it terms its Innovation Cell, a nascent effort to begin rapidly inserting relevant commercial technologies into Navy networks without a single change to the Federal Acquisition Regulation. PEO- EIS will begin by presenting industry with three “enterprise challenge statements” at an industry day in Tysons Corner, Virginia, one focused on big data analytics, another on enhanced virtual desktops and one seeking an end-user productivity suite.

“There are too many products that you can go down to Best Buy and purchase today, but we don’t have in our enterprise,” Capt. Paul Ghyzel, the deputy program executive officer, said in an interview with Federal News Radio previewing the innovation cell. “It’s for various reasons. Some of them, like security, are valid, but in other cases, it’s just that the model we use to acquire them today doesn’t lend itself to taking advantage to what’s already in the marketplace. When we build the next generation of aircraft carrier, we have to make the investment. In IT, the commercial companies are already making the investment, and we need to leverage that.”

The “cell” is more a framework than a physical place, and will serve several functions in the Navy’s acquisition ecosystem, officials said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/885/3824927/On-DoD-Navy-launches-Innovation-Cell-to-speed-IT-acquisition