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

One sure sign of whether ‘Acquisition 360′ will actually matter

FCW ran a story late last week on a March 18 memo from Anne Rung, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, to agency chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives, entitled “Acquisition 360 – Improving the Acquisition Process through Timely Feedback from External and Internal Stakeholders.” The memo also got a fair amount of attention on the Twittersphere.

By “360 feedback,” of course, Rung means that everybody rates everybody else. So the memo establishes a program, starting with major IT acquisitions, for surveys to obtain contractor feedback to the government, program office feedback to the contracting office, and contracting office feedback to the program office.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2015/03/comment-acquisition-360.aspx

Former owner of DoD contractors pleads guilty to exporting military blueprints to India

The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) has announced that the former owner of two New Jersey defense contracting businesses admitted that she conspired to send sensitive military technical data to India.

Hannah Robert of North Brunswick, New Jersey, pleaded guilty on April 1, 2015 to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act by exporting to India military technical drawings without prior approval from the U.S. Department of State.

“Hannah Robert circumvented the U.S. government and provided defense technical drawings in violation of the Arms Export Control Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “We will continue to pursue and hold accountable those who abuse their access to sensitive defense information.  I would like to thank all of the special agents, prosecutors and other personnel whose work led to the guilty plea in this case.”

“Hannah Robert conspired to send to another country thousands of technical drawings of defense hardware items and sensitive military data,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman.  “She was also charged with manufacturing substandard parts that were not up to spec, in violation of the contracts she signed with the Department of Defense.  Enforcement of the Arms Export Control Act is critical to the defense of our country.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

  • In June 2010, Robert was the founder, owner and president of One Source USA LLC, a company located at her then-residence in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, that contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to supply defense hardware items and spare parts.  In September 2012, Robert opened another defense company, Caldwell Components Inc., based at the same address.  Along with a resident of India identified only as “P.R.,” Robert owned and operated a third company located in India that manufactured defense hardware items and spare parts.
  • From June 2010 to December 2012, Robert conspired to export to India defense technical drawings without obtaining the necessary licenses from the U.S. Department of State.  The exported technical drawings include parts used in the torpedo systems for nuclear submarines, military attack helicopters and F-15 fighter aircrafts.

In addition to United States’ sales, Robert and P.R. sold defense hardware items to foreign customers.  Robert transmitted export-controlled technical data to P.R. in India so that Robert and P.R. could submit bids to foreign actors, including those in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to supply them or their foreign customers with defense hardware items and spare parts.  Neither Robert nor P.R. obtained approval from the U.S. Department of State for this conduct.

On Aug. 23, 2012, P.R. e-mailed Robert requesting the technical drawing for a particular military item.  P.R.’s e-mail forwarded Robert an e-mail from an individual purporting to be “an official contractor of the UAE Ministry of Defence,” and who listed a business address in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  The UAE e-mail requested quotations for a bid for the “blanket assembly” for the CH-47F Chinook military helicopter and listed the “End User” for the hardware item as the UAE Armed Forces.  Later that same day, Robert replied to P.R.’s e-mail, attaching, among other things, the electronic file for an export-controlled technical drawing titled “Installation and Assy Acoustic Blankets, STA 120 CH-47F,” to be used in the Chinook attack helicopter.

In October 2010, Robert transmitted the military drawings for these parts to India by posting the technical data to the password-protected website of a Camden County, New Jersey, church where she was a volunteer web administrator.  This was done without the knowledge of the church staff.  Robert e-mailed P.R. the username and password to the church website so that P.R. could download the files from India.  Through the course of the scheme, Robert uploaded thousands of technical drawings to the church website for P.R. to download in India.

On June 25, 2012, P.R. e-mailed Robert, stating: “Please send me the church web site username and password.”  The e-mail was in reference to both an invoice to and a quote for a trans-shipper known to Robert as a broker of defense hardware items for an end user in Pakistan.  This individual used a UAE address for shipping purposes.  Later that day, Robert replied to this e-mail, providing a new username and password for the church website so that P.R. could download the particular defense drawings.

On Oct. 5, 2012, Robert e-mailed P.R. with the subject line “Important.”  The e-mail referenced the Pakistan trans-shipper, a separate potential sale to individuals in Indonesia and the church website: “Please quote [the Pakistan trans-shipper] and Indonesia items today[.] [Dr]awings I cannot do now as if the size exceeds then problem, I should be watching what I upload, will do over the weekend[.]  Ask me if you need any drawing . . . . Talk to you tomorrow . . . .”

There were also quality issues with the parts that Robert provided to the DoD.  After the DoD in October 2012 disclosed that certain parts used in the wings of the F-15 fighter aircraft, supplied by one of One Source USA’s U.S. customers failed, Robert and P.R. provided the principal of their customer with false and misleading material certifications and inspection reports for the parts.  These documents, to be transmitted to the DoD, listed only One Source USA’s New Jersey address and not the address of the actual manufacturer in India, One Source India.  As a result of the failed wing pins, the DoD grounded approximately 47 F-15 fighter aircraft for inspection and repair, at a cost estimated to exceed $150,000.

Until November 2012, Robert was an employee of a separate defense contractor in Burlington County, New Jersey, where she worked as a system analyst and had access to thousands of drawings marked with export-control warnings and information on this defense contractor’s bids on DoD contracts.  Robert misrepresented to her employer the nature and extent of her involvement with One Source USA in order to conceal her criminal conduct.

Count six of the superseding indictment – conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act – is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.  As part of her plea agreement, Robert must pay $181,015 to the DoD, which includes the cost of repair for the grounded F-15s.  Robert also consented to a forfeiture money judgment of $77,792, which represents the dollar value of Robert’s fraudulent contracts with DoD.

The Arms Export Control Act prohibits the export of defense articles and defense services without first obtaining a license from the U.S. Department of State and is one of the principal export control laws in the United States.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-owner-defense-contracting-businesses-pleads-guilty-illegally-exporting-military

The real problem with acquisition training

The decades-old debate about proper training for the federal acquisition corps is threatening to erupt in a donnybrook. Lines are being drawn over whom or what to blame for the perceived lack of critical thinking, business and technical knowledge, negotiation skills and creativity among procurement professionals.

Acquisition training institutions have come under fire for failing to renovate their curricula to reflect the predominance of service contracting, the growing need to attract new vendors with innovative techniques and products, the disruptive influence of technology on acquisition and the workforce, and government adoption of commercial models such as data analytics, strategic sourcing, category management and agile procurement.

A recent ASI Government analysis shows there’s a growing gap between the perception of workforce skills held by acquisition leaders and the self-assessment of the professionals they manage. Members of the acquisition workforce have a much more positive view than their leaders.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/04/real-problem-acquisition-training/109138/

DoD issues earned value management guide

The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a new Earned Value Management Systems Interpretation Guide, which aims to pull together and streamline DoD rules for evaluating contractors’ earned value management systems (EVMS) compliance.

According to DoD, the Guide seeks to:

  • Reduce compliance burdens by promoting consistent application of EVMS compliance assessments across DoD,
  • Emphasize the need for clear and measurable technical objectives for planning, performance measurement, and managing the baseline, and
  • Show how program-unique management practices can be consistent and compliant with broader EVMS guidelines.

 

The Guide provides DoD interpretation of the 32 guidelines contained in EIA-748 and is to be used as the basis for DoD’s assessments of EVMS compliance with the 32 Guidelines in accordance with DFARS Subpart 234.2 and 234.201.

Download a copy of the Guide here: DOD Earned Value Management Systems Interpretation Guide.

DoD’s central repository of information on EVMS is located at: http://dcarc.cape.osd.mil/EVM/EVMOverview.aspx.

Congress wants contractors to pay their taxes — here’s how

A new bill introduced last week is the latest attempt to prevent tax delinquents from winning federal contracts — or competing for government work at all.

This is the second bill attempting to force contractors to pay their taxes — a nearly identical bill was introduced in the last Congress. It comes despite existing acquisition provisions that require contractors to disclose any tax debts before they bid for work.

“Legislation that codifies, clarifies, and offers minimally invasive improvements to the Federal Acquisition Regulation could be beneficial,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and general counsel at the Professional Services Council, in testimony submitted for a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s government operations panel. “However, such legislation must be tailored carefully to avoid creating new challenges or points of confusion.”

In a nutshell, the latest bill states that any executive agency issuing a solicitation for a contract in an amount greater than the simplified acquisition threshold — currently $150,000 — must require all offerors to certify they have no so-called seriously delinquent tax debt. They also must authorize the Treasury Department to disclose information about that seriously delinquent tax debt.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2015/03/the-hill-wants-to-get-governmentcontractors-to-pay.html?page=all