Teaching digital buyers to transform acquisition

If you teach someone traditional government procurement, you’ll get better procurement. But if you use agile learning methods and immerse the same person in real-world digital services buys, then you might help transform government acquisition. 

ombThat’s the theory behind the Office of Management and Budget’s outside-the-box approach to creating a training program for digital services contracting that’s as innovative as the methods to be bought.

OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy launched a $360,000 challenge in May seeking proposals for the program. The Digital Services Contracting Professional Training and Development Program is intended to develop professionals who can embed with agency digital service teams as their business advisers, as well as acting as advocates for digital services procurement governmentwide.

Three challenge finalists — teams from GovLoop, Management Concepts Inc., ICF International, and my company, ASI Government — received $20,000 each to expand their initial responses, deliver oral presentations, and instruct a one-hour classroom session. The ICF-ASI team won the grand prize: an opportunity to test our proposal by training 30 certified contracting professionals, along with $250,000 to cover our costs. There’s another $50,000 in prize money available for developing an ongoing program.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2015/10/teaching-digital-buyers-transform-acquisition/122948/

Securing the future by ‘Bending the Cost Curve’

Bending the Cost Curve (BTCC), one of the 13-Make-Every-Dollar-Count cost initiatives launched by the Air Force, includes a growing and evolving set of more than 20 acquisition reform activities. These activities are focused on finding ways the Air Force can be more effective at how it spends money to get better capabilities to the warfighter faster.

Air Force Seal“BTCC is coming up with ideas with industry, then going out and trying those ideas to see if we can actually drive down cost, increase capability and get it delivered faster,” said Dr. Camron Gorguinpour, the director of the Air Force Transformational Innovation Office, Air Force Office of Acquisitions. “Everything we do with BTCC is in collaboration with industry. (They are) a big part of the solution, so working closely with them helps us come up with better ideas of things that we should be doing.”

One program, Open Systems Acquisition, has reached a level of success. The concept is to move Air Force weapons systems toward a more open architecture, allowing traditional and non-traditional industry partners more flexibility for future improvements.

“Basically, OSA is a plug and play type of model. You have a system that anyone can understand and plug into if they develop a product that complies within certain requirements,” Gorguinpour said. “That way one company can create a system, but down the road, when you need a new capability, another company can create the new part and it can be changed out without a huge contracting action.

“This new open architecture environment will allow us to rapidly change out capabilities, to compete to a very broad segment of industry and be able to build on certain designs rather than having just one fixed product.”

As part of this program, the Air Force Research Laboratory created its own acquisition vehicle tailored to the new OSA model. With this new system, it will take only three weeks from the time companies demonstrate their capabilities to the time the winner is funded and doing work.

“This is getting us closer to the point of where you can acquire at the pace of global innovation,” Gorguinpour said. “There is definitely a lot more work to be done to smooth out the process for everyone to use, but we are getting it closer to being a reality.”

Thinking outside of the box and in the spirit of innovation, the Air Force launched the largest cash prizes ever conducted by one of the military services called Air Force Prize — worth $2 million to the entity that can produce a lightweight, mid-sized turbine engine.

“Turbine engines are important, especially if it can be installed into a smaller vehicle, the engine can double the fuel efficiency and improve the lifecycle cost,” Gorguinpour said. “The opportunity to win the cash prize started in May and companies will have two years to provide a product.”

Also included in BTCC is the Cost Capability Analysis program that would create better transparency by providing more awareness of Air Force requirements to industry to reduce the costs and development times for Air Force systems.

“When buying something as simple as a computer, you can see where a small increase of speed or memory is going to dramatically increase the cost,” Gorguinpour said. “So you need to find the optimal setting for your requirement. Because of BTCC, the Air Force is working with industry early in the acquisition process to refine what the requirements should be.”

The Air Force is looking to provide more tools to help navigate the complex acquisition process with AQ Prime, a beta website powered by a learning computer with the knowledge of the federal acquisition regulation. This website will serve as a resource for businesses not used to working with the military, as well as the public, an easy way to understand the complex government regulation.

“Even if we do the best job at streamlining bureaucracy, the fact is that it is going to be complicated because the work we do is incredibly complex,” Gorguinpour said. “We not only need to streamline the process, but also give people the right tools to navigate this better.”

BTCC activities will continue to improve the internal Air Force acquisition process, enhance interactions with industry throughout the acquisition lifecycle, and expand competition among traditional and non-traditional industry partners.

Source: http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/627140/securing-the-future-by-bending-the-cost-curve.aspx


Tech contractors pay $12 million to settle claims they failed to screen staff

Two technology contractors have agreed to pay the U.S. government over $12 million in total to settle a civil court case alleging they allowed employees to work on a Defense Department contract without security clearance.

Services firms NetCracker Technology and CSC will pay $11.4 million and $1.35 million, respectively, according to a Department of Justice release .

False Claims ActIt reveals that the two were accused of contravening the False Claims Act by using staff who had not gone through required vetting procedures to work on a Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) contract.

CSC was the prime contractor on the project to provide software to manage the Defense Department telecoms network between 2008 and 2013.

However, during that time, NetCracker is alleged to have knowingly used employees without security clearance, resulting in CSC “recklessly” submitting false claims for payment to DISA, the notice claimed.

A Washington Post report went further, claiming that some of the code written for the project was developed by Russian programmers and subsequently placed onto U.S. government computer networks with no testing for backdoors or other possibly malicious elements.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/tech-contractors-pay-12m-claims/ 

Challenges buy government what contracts can’t

When the government needs to buy supplies or capital items, or it needs to develop a new bomber, it awards a contract.  But what if it needs answers that aren’t for sale in the classic sense?

Office of Science and Technology PolicyJenn Gustetic says contracts are how you access value available from companies. But over the past five years, the executive branch has found an effective and relatively inexpensive way to tap into the brain power of individuals. Namely, challenge grants.

Gustetic is the assistant director for open innovation at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. On my show this morning, she noted that as the challenge grant program crosses its fifth birthday, it’s awarded 450 prizes to some 200,000 individuals for a total of about $150 million.

Keep reading this article at: http://federalnewsradio.com/temin/2015/10/challenges-buy-government-contracts-cant/ 

GSA official jailed for accepting bribes and stealing property

Timothy Francis Cashman, a Building Manager for the General Services Administration (“GSA”), has been sentenced to 16 months in custody for accepting bribes and stealing property owned by the United States.

GSA logoAt a sentencing hearing on Oct. 23, 2015, Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel noted that Cashman was a religious man who performed many good deeds and selfless acts throughout his life. Nevertheless, he told the packed courtroom of friends, family, and supporters who requested leniency for Cashman that it was vital the general public understood that “quid pro quo is not the status quo; quid pro quo is not acceptable.”

During the sentencing, the government demonstrated how Cashman used his position with GSA (overseeing operations and maintenance at the Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, and Tecate Ports of Entry) for his personal enrichment; rather than to fulfill GSA’s core mission of delivering “the best value in real estate, acquisition, and technology services to government and the American people.”

Over a number of years, Cashman provided favorable treatment relating to the awarding of GSA contracts.  For example, he demanded $10,000 in cash and thousands of dollars’ worth of construction and renovation services on Cashman’s personal residence from government contractor Hugo Alonso Inc. (“HAI”).  These services included having HAI paint Cashman’s Lakeside home and replace his roof and windows free of charge.

The former GSA building manager also demanded that HAI pay another government contractor (Company “A”) $120,000 in exchange for HAI being awarded a GSA construction contract at the Otay Mesa POE. Subsequently, Cashman accepted six checks from Company “A” totaling $42,000, which he deposited into his personal account.  All of the income he received from HAI was concealed from the IRS when submitting his federal income tax returns.

In addition to accepting bribes from HAI, Cashman improperly obtained thousands of dollars in valuable United States Government building materials for his own benefit by causing GSA contractors and others to remove and transport such materials away from GSA facilities where he could sell or use them without the knowledge of GSA.  Among other things, Cashman instructed government contractors: 1) in March 2011, to load approximately 25 stainless steel panels located at the San Ysidro POE into his personal Ford truck; 2) in January 2012, to load 35 heavy brass letters (spelling out “United States Border Inspection Station” and weighing approximately 2,000 pounds) into his personal truck; 3) in December 2012, to collect approximately 3,000 feet of underground copper cable belonging to the United States and to deliver it to, among other places, his personal residence; and 4) in November 2013, to set aside for his personal sale a large quantity of underground copper cable and approximately 5 aluminum panels located at the Otay Mesa POE.

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy remarked that the Cashman case demonstrates that combatting public corruption in all its forms will remain one of her office’s highest priorities. She also thanked the Special Agents with the FBI, IRS-CI and GSA-OIG whose tireless work both uncovered this corruption and resulted in removing the corrupt official from the government fisc.

In addition to his custodial sentence, Cashman was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $50,057.32 in restitution. HAI, and its principal, Hugo Alonso, previously pleaded guilty and were sentenced.  In total, 11 individuals have been apprehended and pleaded guilty in related corruption investigations.