IG says USPS needs to better monitor spending on its employee travel cards

U.S. Postal Service travel card coordinators need to more efficiently monitor cash advances that they give to traveling employees because many of those advances potentially didn’t comply with travel policy, says a June 25 report by the inspector general.

The Postal Service provides individual government travel cards to some employees for use while on official travel.

As of Jan. 15, USPS had 44,104 government travel cardholders who made 247,419 purchases, totaling $44.9 million. They also took 8,793 cash advances, totaling $1.6 million, from April 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/ig-usps-needs-better-monitor-spending-its-employee-travel-cards/2014-07-02

The future of contracting

As government agencies now rely primarily on contractors to meet their mission objectives, they must embrace the oversight and management of contractors as a core competency, not as an administrative function buried deep within the management and/or administration office. Mission delivery through external, private-sector, and profit-motivated businesses requires all federal executives and staff to accept their roles in ensuring that contractors properly support the agency’s “customers” as well as its own private business objectives. Immense advances in technology in recent years and the rising prominence of new corporations in our information age replacing those of the industrial age raises the question: How can government acquisition better leverage new methods of communication and technology; and if so, how can it be more effective?

While technology continuously improves our lives in many ways, such as providing new and improved tools to make data more available, functions to perform faster, and communication to be more accurate and responsive, the professional competencies required and goals of government contracting cannot and should not change. These are concepts of fairness, competition, the role of small business, fair and reasonable pricing, ethical standards of conduct, best value, intellectual property, acquisition planning, compliance, etc. There are also business competencies of leadership, economics, accounting, marketing, etc.  The terminology of competencies may change, but the competencies themselves will remain.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140624/BLG06/306240011/The-future-contracting

VA forming cadre of specially-trained acquisition workers

The Veterans Affairs Department is recognizing and rewarding the success of its acquisition workers.

VA is professionalizing the acquisition workforce in a way comparable only to the Defense Department.

“We are establishing a professional acquisition corps in order to provide the benefits to VA by having a very specified cadre of highly-trained contracting officers and program managers who have a demonstrated history of high performance, and are qualified to lead VA’s most critical and high visibility programs and procurements,” said Ford Heard, VA’s associate deputy assistant secretary for Procurement Policy, Systems and Oversight and deputy senior procurement executive, during an interview on Federal News Radio’s In- Depth with Francis Rose.

“From a VA perspective, we are basically a soup to nuts organization as far as what is being procured in VA.  Not only is it IT.  Not only is it high professional quality healthcare services, but all the facility management requirements that anyone of our healthcare facilities would utilize. So, what we are actually doing is building this acquisition corps to really benefit veterans in the service we offer, and the opportunities for our employees to advance and receive training that they would not normally get under past circumstances.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/538/3654616/VA-forming-cadre-of-specially-trained-acquisition-workers 

Procurement troubles still dog Defense Department

Congress has held hearings over the past 30 years seeking ways to fix the Defense Department’s poor procurement system.

A June 24th hearing offered interesting ideas.

No headlines afterward about stopping F-35 costs from skyrocketing, keeping new production of nuclear aircraft carriers on schedule or halting the failure of billion-dollar computer programs — in fact, there was hardly any press coverage at all.

Two worthwhile ideas that came from the four experienced procurement specialists who appeared before the House Armed Services Committee provided no silver bullets, but they made sense.

  1. Give the main contracting officer for major weapons projects absolute cradle-to-grave authority and responsibility and accountability.
  2. Interservice rivalry and even intraservice competition have far from ended, and they harm the procurement system.

 

Will an obscure Pentagon small business program live on?

Deep in the bowels of the Pentagon is a 25-year-old research project designed to test a new way of encouraging large contractors to pass along some of their work to small businesses.

Known as the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program, it was set up in 1990 to “determine if comprehensive subcontracting plans on a corporate, division or plant-wide basis [instead of for individual contracts] would lead to increased opportunities for small businesses,” according to its website.

Participants in this elongated research project include a dozen major contractors, from Lockheed Martin Corp. to Northrop Grumman Corp.

Yet the program — created when George H. W. Bush was president and housed within the Office of Small Business that reports to the undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics — has yet to release a single report or data set. And an array of small business groups have long viewed the project as a wasteful distraction that is actually costing them opportunities by allowing the major firms leeway to get around the governmentwide goal of awarding 23 percent of contract dollars to small business.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/07/will-obscure-pentagon-small-business-program-live/87769 

Oracle files pre-award protest to DISA cloud storage contract

Oracle Corp. has filed a protest to a $427 million cloud storage contract for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) even before it’s been awarded.

The company has filed a pre-award protest involving the Enterprise Storage Services II contract to provide a state-of-the-art storage capacity to replace the DISA’s existing technology.

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Oracle filed the protest on June 25.  The agency will make a decision by October 3.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/oracle-files-pre-award-protest-disa-cloud-storage-contract/2014-07-01

See solicitation documents at: https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=b69e716000296e561f0bd63a52795024&_cview=0

4 lessons for government leaders on what motivates contractors

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.

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

Will FITARA help agencies embrace the cloud?

Even as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act makes its way to the Senate floor, experts are split on whether the bill goes far enough and if legislation is needed at all to fix government’s IT acquisition problems.

Angela Styles, chair of Crowell & Moring’s government contracts group, said a bulky procurement process for industry often drives the private sector away from even giving the government options in what it purchases.

“These companies that come to us and ask ‘What does it mean to be a federal contractor?’ come with the expectation based on FASA (the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act) and FARA (the Federal Acquisition Reform Act) from the ’90s that the government has an idea how to contract in a commercial fashion. Maybe the changes in ’94 and ’95 were more commercial, but they are not now,” Styles said, speaking Tuesday during a panel session at Amazon Web Services’ annual symposium for federal IT reform.

Styles said the provisions set up in part 12 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contribute to an “extraordinary gulf” between how the government and private sector do business.

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/fitara-cloud/

DIA opens new gateway to vendors, hoping for disruptive technologies

The Defense Intelligence Agency will formally roll out its new Open Innovation Gateway, a major pillar in the agency’s push to move away from big, monolithic technology acquisitions and bring new innovations on board in small bites and in very short cycles.

Officials have not discussed many of the inner workings of the gateway prior to Wednesday’s official announcement, during which DIA will declare it has reached initial operating capability.

The agency has made clear for the past year that the intent is to give technology developers much more insight into the technical requirements that a new capability must meet before the agency will buy it.

That insight, DIA says, extends beyond publishing black and white technical standards. Via the gateway, the agency will give developers access to the actual computing environment DIA uses today — and eventually, the shared set of systems under the entire intelligence community technology infrastructure — so that they will know from the outset whether their technologies will integrate with DIA’s existing systems, and if not, what changes they will need to make.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/239/3650653/DIA-opens-new-gateway-to-vendors-hoping-for-disruptive-technologies

GAO: DoD didn’t take steps to ensure contactor pay was correct

The Defense Department didn’t fully implement the steps required to make sure contractor pay was correct, a June 23 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.

The Defense Finance and Accounting Service is responsible for processing and disbursing nearly $200 billion annually in contract payments for the DoD, the report says.

“Although DFAS has asserted audit readiness, until it corrects the deficiencies and fully implements its Financial Improvement Plan, its ability to process, record, and maintain accurate and reliable contract pay transaction data is questionable,” GAO says.

In one instance, DFAS didn’t assess the dollar activity and risk factors of its processes. Because of that DFAS couldn’t reconcile its contractor pay data with the ledgers of its DoD components, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-dod-didnt-take-steps-ensure-contactor-pay-was-correct/2014-06-24