Agencies setting off into the next data frontier — procurement

Agencies are starting to grasp the real value of procurement data. Several agencies are asking the General Services Administration, NASA and others for more details on what they buy, how they buy it and how they could make better decisions.

NASA, for example, is working closely with the Veterans Affairs Department to provide them with an assortment of data points around energy efficiency, such as how VA’s IT products are rated for Energy Star or E-Peat. NASA also plans to provide VA with information about how their purchases meet the Trade Agreements Act and about their buying habits based on product classifications.

Joanne Woytek, the program manager for NASA SEWP governmentwide acquisition contract, said the fact that VA and other agencies are asking for and receiving this type of data is a sign of maturity for both the GWAC providers and the agencies in understanding what’s available and why the data matters.

“I’ve seen this happening more with our contracts and SEWP V. A lot of what we are putting into that is to make it a more mature model. We can’t just say, ‘we can do that,’ we will actually demonstrate the things we can do,” she said at the 2014 Acquisition Excellence conference in Washington Thursday sponsored by GSA, the Homeland Security Department and ACT-IAC. “We will be able to show agencies what they are buying. We’re going to be able to provide them with more information. We always said we could do that, but we actually are going to start doing that. I think that’s going to have a bigger effect on agencies who no longer will say ‘I don’t want to use you because I’m not sure you can give me that information. I’m not sure you can control what we’re purchasing.’ We can do that for them and we’ll actually start showing that. So I see us having a better impact on people now that we’ve gotten to this point.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=533&sid=3587330&pid=0&page=1 

Trillion dollar government acquisition called ‘national scandal’

Days after the U.S. Defense Department signaled an improving relationship with Lockheed Martin Corp. over the cost of the F-35 fighter jet, Sen. John McCain called the program “one of the great national scandals.”

McCain, a Republican from Arizona and the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, was speaking during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to consider the nominations of several White House appointments, including Deborah Lee James to become the next secretary of the Air Force.

McCain criticized the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the government’s first trillion-dollar acquisition program (including sustainment costs). Its repeated cost overruns “have made it worse than a disgrace,” he said. Despite recent efforts to reduce prices on the next batch of aircraft, “it’s still one of the great, national scandals that we have ever had, as far as the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars are concerned,” he said.

McCain, who also noted that the Navy’s new USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier is more than $2 billion over budget, was responding to James’ comment that the current budget environment is “chaotic” and makes planning difficult.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2013/09/19/mccain-f-35-among-the-great-national-scandals/

Senators spar with agencies over war-zone contracting reforms

Officials of three agencies running contracting operations in war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq on Tuesday defended their progress on implementing reforms required in the last defense authorization bill.  Topics ranged from white-elephant construction projects to contractor suspensions to the politically disputed September 2012 fatalities at the U.S. outpost in Benghazi.

Representatives from the Defense and State departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development highlighted their own “proactive” initiatives to curb contractor corruption, save money and better protect U.S. personnel facing danger.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called the oversight hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to gauge progress on reforms she was instrumental in passing as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.  “It is much better than it was in 2007 in every single one of your agencies,” McCaskill said. “Everyone is making progress.”

But she lamented that the majority of the reforms implemented after a bipartisan commission recommended them “apply only to future contingencies, not Iraq or Afghanistan,” she said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/07/senators-spar-agencies-over-war-zone-contracting-reforms/66827

Procurement chief: Measure contractor performance

Joe Jordan, the top White House procurement official, recently told a gathering of government officials and contractors how he and his wife sometimes travel to New England and look for places to stay along the way. He wasn’t giving travel advice, though.

The remarks, delivered at an acquisition conference in Washington, aimed to highlight a way the government can improve how it does business.

“It really bothers me at a personal, visceral level that when I look for a bed and breakfast because my wife and I are going away for the weekend, I have vastly more descriptive information … about the quality of bed and breakfasts within a three-hour drive of D.C. than what many agencies have when they answer to a $20 million IT services contract,” Jordan said. “That’s ridiculous.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130417/IT03/304170004/Procurement-chief-Measure-contractor-performance?odyssey=nav%7Chead 

President’s budget moves spending transparency site from GSA to Treasury

President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal moves control over the spending transparency website USASpending.gov out of the General Services Administration and gives it to the Treasury Department.

The budget also requests $5.5 million in additional funding for Treasury to manage the site, a Treasury spokeswoman said. The site was previously paid for with the e-government fund, a pot of congressionally-mandated money devoted to using the Internet and other electronic communications to improve citizen services and public access to government information.

“Treasury will conduct an analysis of the operation and information in USASpending and determine what changes in the medium or long term may be warranted,” the spokeswoman said. “The collection of government wide financial management information is closely aligned with Treasury responsibilities.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2013/04/presidents-budget-moves-spending-transparency-site-gsa-treasury/62456/?oref=ng-HPriver

Top officers: F-35 essential, but procurement ‘constipated’

The top officers in the Navy and Marine Corps defended their most expensive program, Lockheed Martin’s troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, while acknowledging the way the Pentagon buys such weapons is not merely broken but “constipated.”

“There’s no alternative for the United States Marine Corps to the F-35B,” Commandant Gen. James Amos said at the opening session of the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference. “I want to make that crystal clear to everybody in the audience.” All the great aircraft of the past have gone through teething troubles in development, said Amos, a pilot himself.

“Speaking for the Navy,” added the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, “I need the fifth-generation fighter, and that [F-35] provides it, so we’re all in — but it has to perform. It has problems; it is making progress.”

“I do not at this point believe that it is time to look for an exit ramp, if you will, for the Navy for the F-35C,” continued Greenert, who in the past has damned the Joint Strike Fighter with similar faint praise.

Their commitment to the aircraft aside, both men acknowledged – in response to a pointed question from Reagan’s Navy Secretary, John Lehman — that the procurement process which produces systems like the F-35 is a mess. “The process is constipated,” said Gen. Amos. “It’s broke.”

Keep reading this article at: http://defense.aol.com/2013/04/08/gen-amos-adm-greenert-f-35-essential-but-procurement-consti 

OFPP tells agencies to get serious about tracking contractor performance

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is attempting, for a third time, to get  agencies to use the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) more  consistently.

So instead of asking and encouraging, OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan is setting  specific goals for agencies.

In a new memo to chief acquisition officers and  senior procurement executives, Jordan sets three-year targets for agencies to  enter vendor-performance information into the governmentwide database.

This year, the goals vary depending on how often the agency is currently entering  data into PPIRS. For instance, departments inputting data for 60 percent or more  of their contracts, must improve to 85 percent by Sept. 30. For agencies using  PPIRS 30 percent to 60 percent of the time, their goal now is 75  percent. And for those agencies using PPIRS less than 30 percent of the time,  their goal is 65 percent.

“This required contract-administration duty can significantly reduce the risk to  the government on future awards, so agencies must take bold steps to ensure that  all critical performance information is made available in the Past Performance  Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) in a timely manner, and to the maximum extent  practicable, eliminate duplicative, paper-based past performance evaluation  surveys generated outside these systems,” Jordan wrote.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3247234/OFPP-tells-agencies-to-get-serious-about-tracking-contractor-performance

Bid protests are worth their costs, former OFPP chief says

Contractors on the losing side of a competitive bidding who protest to the Government Accountability Office do not hurt or game the procurement system as some critics allege, says a forthcoming study.

The percentage of contracts that spark protests is also comparatively small, while the overall impact of the protest procedure is healthy, according to Dan Gordon, the former Obama administration head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and now associate dean for government procurement law studies at George Washington University Law School.

In an article set for publication this spring in the Public Contract Law Journal, a copy of which was provided to Government Executive, Gordon wrote that “there exist a number of misperceptions concerning bid protest statistics that deserve attention, because these misperceptions can taint judgments about the benefits and costs of protests. In particular, even people quite familiar with the federal acquisition system often believe that protests are more common than they really are, and they believe, inaccurately, that protesters use the protest process as a business tactic to obtain contracts from the government.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/03/bid-protests-are-worth-their-costs-ex-procurement-chief-says/61827/?oref=govexec_today_nl

Former chiefs: Fix procurement to save the Navy

In a remarkably non-partisan moment amidst the current strife over budget cuts and Chuck Hagel, Ronald Reagan’s Navy Secretary and George W. Bush’s Chief of Naval Operations told a Republican-helmed committee that the Navy’s real problem was not the Obama administration’s budget but decades of creeping bureaucracy that have eaten every budget’s buying power.

“I hate to say anything particularly in praise of this administration’s defense policy,” said John Lehman, Navy Secretary from 1981 to 1987 and national security advisor to Mitt Romney in 2012, at a hearing of the seapower panel of the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Randy Forbes. But, Lehman went on, a recent report by the Defense Business Board really shows “how to get at the bureaucracy and the overhead.”
The chairman of that study, retired Marine general Arnold Punaro, told AOL Defense at the time that its recommendation for the Pentagon procurement system was, in a phrase, “put a match to it.”

Keep reading this article at: http://defense.aol.com/2013/02/26/john-lehman-gary-roughead-fix-procurement-to-save-the-navy 

Senate approves wartime contracting reform bill

The Senate on Thursday added broad overseas contracting reform to its version of the Defense authorization bill, handing Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a victory in her six-year effort to crack down on procurement waste in war zones.

The Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act was introduced in February after a report issued by the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting told Congress that federal contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan had wasted an estimated $60 billion.

If accepted in a House-Senate conference, the bill would seek to reduce waste in overseas military operations and occupations by elevating oversight responsibility, improving management structures, expanding planning requirements and reforming contracting practices. It would prohibit excessive pass-through contracts and charges to the government and add new oversight responsibilities for inspectors general for contingency operations, according to McCaskill’s staff. And it would remake the contracting process to provide greater transparency, competition, professional education and accountability.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2012/11/senate-approves-wartime-contracting-reform-bill/59874/?oref=national_defense_nl.