Fixing acquisition: An opportunity lost?

We’ve spent more than a decade ignoring a simple warning of the 2002 Volcker Commission: We are trying to run a 21st century government on a mid-20th century, industrial age business model. A series of surveys of acquisition professionals the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton have conducted during the last 12 years have consistently flagged the implications of that omission for the federal acquisition workforce. Our 2014 survey, released Jan. 22, shows that the government remains mired in old models. This should be disturbing to anyone who recognizes the critical role acquisition plays in the execution of the government’s missions.

Consider this: In all seven surveys, respondents—who are all government personnel, many from the senior echelons of the workforce—overwhelmingly identified general business acumen, risk identification and mitigation, negotiating skills and knowledge of buying complex technology capabilities as significant gaps in the federal acquisition workforce’s skills. Other, more obvious forces were also identified as inhibiting optimal performance—including the budget insanity that has made it nearly impossible for any agency to optimize operations during the last several years—but the general conclusion has been the same for almost the entire time we have been conducting this survey. Simply put, the workforce does not have the skills needed to do the job as well as everyone wants, and demands. This not a failure of the workforce, but of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change in how we train, educate and support that workforce.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/fixing-acquisition-opportunity-lost/104070

GAO’s ‘high-risk list’ now includes IT acquisition

The Government Accountability Office’s High-Risk List, which calls Congress’ attention to problematic, risky or troubled programs, is about to receive two high-profile additions.

Multiple Capitol Hill sources with knowledge of the list confirmed to Nextgov that IT acquisition and operations and veteran health care are being included on the watchdog’s list.

The news is hardly surprising, given the steady stream of criticism and negative headlines those two areas have generated since GAO last updated its biennial High-Risk List in February 2013.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/it-acquisition-and-veteran-health-care-added-gaos-high-risk-list/104832/

‘Fat Leonard’ contracting scandal jams up dozens of US Navy flag moves

It was a festive day at the U.S. Naval Academy last July 23 as the US Navy’s top leadership gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, for a change of command and retirement ceremony. Vice Adm. Mike Miller was ending a four-year tour as academy superintendent and retiring with honors after a 40-year career.

Except that when the hoopla died down, Miller wasn’t allowed to leave the service just yet. Even though his official online biography reads “retired,” he’s still being carried on the Navy’s active-duty rolls — at a reduced two-star level. And although he has no specific job — or billet, in Navy-speak — he counts against the service’s allocated total of 219 admirals.

Defense officials said Miller is one of an estimated three dozen flag officers under federal investigation for potential wrongdoing in the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) case, also known as the “Fat Leonard” affair, after the nickname of the company’s leader, Leonard Glenn Francis.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/navy/2015/02/08/navy-gdma-glenn-defense-marine-asia-fat-leonard-scandal-investigation-justice-admirals-flags/22978631

GSA wants to boost market share of Schedules to 33 percent of federal spending

The General Services Administration (GSA) is exploring different ways to boost its contract spending market share and enhance its Multiple Awards Schedule program, according to agency officials.

Tom Sharpe, the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service at GSA, said he wants to boost the agency’s market share of federal spending from 15 percent to 33 percent in three years.

New contract vehicles such as the OASIS contract for professional services and the move to a “category management” system of expert contract advisers will help, Sharpe said.

He said at a GSA industry forum Feb. 13, hosted by the Professional Services Council, that the agency might roll out more versions of OASIS in the future for other contract areas besides professional services.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/gsa-gwac/2015/02/13/gsa-changes-schedules/23359425/

What military contractors can learn from the Pentagon’s 2016 budget

From the outside, the Pentagon’s budget looks relatively similar that the plan the Defense Department laid out one year ago. But upon closer inspection, President Barack Obama’s budget request gives a glimpse into how the military will look decades from now.

A number of new research-and-development projects could lead to major, multibillion weapon programs down the road. As such, defense firms are paying close attention to these projects.

“This budget does show some priorities,” said Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Guggenheim Securities.

DOD is looking to the latter part of this decade as a time to get back to basics and invest for the future.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/02/what-military-contractors-can-learn-pentagons-2016-budget/104505

Defense contracting agency investigating possible breach

The federal agency responsible for managing the Defense Department’s (DOD) outside contracts is investigating a possible breach, security news blog KrebsOnSecurity reported.

As of Wednesday morning, the website for the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) was down. A message posted to the homepage says, “Corrective Action in Progress.”

DCMA told KrebsOnSecurity that the page had been pulled after the agency discovered suspicious activity on its server Jan. 28.

In a statement, the agency said it so far had no information that any personal data had been breached from the DCMA or DOD servers.

Keep reading this article at: http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/232421-defense-contracting-agency-investigating-breach

Former supervisory contracting officer arrested in Navy bribery scandal

A former senior federal contracting officer was arrested last week for conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with his alleged role in a scheme to steer contracts and benefits to Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a defense contracting firm headquartered in Singapore.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California, Director Andrew L. Traver of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and Deputy Inspector General of Investigations James B. Burch of the Department of Defense (DCIS) made the announcement.

“Today’s arrest in this ongoing investigation demonstrates our continued resolve to root out all of the corrupt officials involved in this bribery scheme,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslia R. Caldwell.  “As alleged, Paul Simpkins misused his position as a contracting officer at the U.S. Navy to obtain bribes of cash, air travel, hotel rooms, and prostitutes, and his actions tarnish the reputation earned by the vast majority of U.S. Navy officers and enlisted and civilian personnel.”

“With the arrest of Paul Simpkins, who was recently among the Defense Department’s high ranking civilians we have uncovered yet another tentacle of this pervasive bribery scheme,” said U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy.  “The more we learn about the extent of the greed and corruption, the more determined we are to eviscerate it.”

“As we’ve mentioned previously, the GDMA investigation is far from over,” said Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Director Andrew I. Traver.  “NCIS will follow the evidence wherever it leads, to bring to justice those who were involved in perpetrating this massive fraud on the Department of the Navy and the American taxpayer.  Active leads remain and NCIS will stay on the case until our work is done.”

“As the filing of today’s Criminal Complaint and subsequent arrest of Paul Simpkins shows, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and its law enforcement partners will continue to identify and investigate those individuals who seek to defraud the U.S. taxpayer,” said DoD’s Deputy Inspector General of Investigations James B. Burch.  “Any individual, regardless of position, who allowed Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. to prosper at the expense of the American taxpayer, will be brought to justice.”

Paul Simpkins, 60, of Haymarket, Virginia, is the latest individual to be arrested in connection with a corruption probe involving the U.S. Navy, GDMA, and its owner, Leonard Glenn Francis.  To date, seven individuals, including Francis, and GDMA have entered guilty pleas as part of the investigation.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed today, Simpkins held several manager-level contracting positions throughout the federal government, including Supervisory Contract Special at the U.S. Navy Regional Contracting Center in Singapore from April 2005 through June 2007, and manager in the Department of Defense’s Office of Small Business Programs from December 2007 to August 2012.  The complaint alleges that between May 2006 and September 2012, Simpkins accepted several hundred thousand dollars in cash and wire transfers, travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms and the services of prostitutes.  In return, Simpkins allegedly helped steer lucrative U.S. Navy contracts to Francis and GDMA, advocated for and advanced the interests of GDMA in contract disputes, and assisted in preventing GDMA’s competitors from receiving U.S. Navy business.

The complaint specifically alleges that, beginning in early 2006, Simpkins and Francis held a series of meetings at a hotel in Singapore in which Francis agreed to provide Simpkins with things of value in return for help in steering lucrative ship husbanding contracts to GDMA.  Specifically, the complaint alleges that Francis paid Simpkins by hand-delivering over $150,000 in cash and by making several wire transfers to a bank account held in the name of Simpkins’s wife at the time.  To conceal the true nature of the wire transfers, Simpkins allegedly used an email account belonging to his mistress to advise Francis of the routing and account information of the bank account belonging to his wife.

In return for the things of value, Simpkins allegedly used his influence within the U.S. Navy to benefit GDMA, including by helping GDMA to secure lucrative ship husbanding contracts to service U.S. Navy vessels in Thailand and the Philippines.  In addition, Simpkins allegedly interceded on GDMA’s behalf in contract disputes with the U.S. Navy.  The complaint specifically alleges that in 2006, Simpkins’s subordinate recommended that GDMA’s husbanding contract in Thailand not be extended due to “many exceedingly high cost” items.  Simpkins allegedly overruled his subordinate and extended GDMA’s contract.

In another example, Simpkins allegedly instructed U.S. Navy officials in Hong Kong to discontinue the use of meters that monitored the volume of liquid waste that GDMA removed from U.S. Navy ships under its husbanding contracts.  The use of these meters would have ensured proper accounting of the actual amount of waste removed to ensure that no overbilling occurred.  Simpkins also allegedly instructed a U.S. Navy official not to review invoices that GDMA submitted in connection to a recent port call in Hong Kong after Francis complained that U.S. Navy personnel were asking questions.

The charges contained in a complaint are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Anyone with information relating to fraud, corruption or waste in government contracting should contact the NCIS anonymous tip line at www.ncis.navy.mil or the DOD Hotline at www.dodig.mil/hotline, or call (800) 424-9098.

Source: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-supervisory-contracting-officer-arrested-navy-bribery-scandal

Buying a new Air Force One is complicated

Think it’s tough to buy a new car? Try buying a plane that has all the bells and whistles fit for a president, including some that might not have been invented yet.

The aircraft is the easy part. In this case, it’s a massive, four engine, two-floor Boeing 747-8 from a company that has been churning out aircraft from its Washington State assembly lines for nearly a century. But the must-have equipment needed on the plane that acts as a mobile White House is where things get more complicated.

First, the plane must be able to refuel inflight so, if need be, it could remain airborne indefinitely. A nuclear war is likely the only time this would happen, but Air Force One must be prepared for everything.

But that’s not the hard part. The must-haves include the latest, cutting edge military communications equipment that allow the president to work as if he’s sitting in the Oval Office in Washington. The president must be able to conduct secure video conferences and phone calls, access classified government computer networks and order a nuclear strike.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/02/buying-new-air-force-one-complicated/104220/

 

DoD’s proposals aim to simplify ‘mindboggling’ acquisition rules

The Defense Department has submitted seven legislative proposals to Capitol Hill to simplify its acquisition process.

But just don’t call them reforms, they are improvements, said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee on January 28, 2015 that reforms imply there is some big change, or some big initiative that can fix the acquisition system. But that is just not the case with these proposals.

“What we have to do is attack our problems on many fronts and make incremental progress on many fronts, learn from our experience and then adopt new things as we understand the impact of the things we’ve done,” Kendall said. “And that’s why we’ve emphasized a continuous process improvement approach in the Better Buying Initiatives over the last several years. I think that is the right approach. I think we will make incremental progress on a lot of fronts and in the aggregate, I think it will make a big difference.”

He said the incremental approach will let DoD, and Congress for that matter, improve upon many of the acquisition challenges the military faces.

“At the end of the day, a great deal of it is about not putting rules in place to constrain people, but getting people in a position where they can make better decisions and do the right thing, and then have the institutional support to execute the right thing and do it successfully,” Kendall said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3790060/DoDs-proposals-aim-to-simplify-mindboggling-acquisition-rules

Pentagon’s acquisition chief announces development of next-gen fighters in FY16 budget

The United States will begin serious development of prototypes for so-called sixth generation fighters — successors to the F-35 and F-22 — for the Navy and the Air Force in the 2016 budget, says the head of Pentagon acquisition, Frank Kendall.

The Aviation Innovation Initiative is a new effort, not an agglomeration of existing DARPA programs, Kendall told me during a vote break at today’s hearing. He declined to say how much money the new initiative is getting, only calling it “significant.” I would assume that means between $150 million and $500 million or so for the first few years, given the fact they are developing airframe and engine prototypes. Developing several bleeding edge prototypes — which is what a DARPA effort like this would presumably target — could not be done for peanuts.

The main goals of this effort — aside from developing and proving technologies — is to preserve the defense industry design teams that are crucial to building aircraft (and who don’t have much work right now) reduce lead times and reduce program risk, Kendall told us.

Keep reading this article at: http://breakingdefense.com/2015/01/kendall-unveils-sixth-gen-fighter-project-for-2016/