IT buying experiments preview ‘Acquisition of the Future’

“Acquisition of the Future” is an initiative that seeks to frame a vision in which acquisition creates significant new value for the government through fresh approaches, modern technologies and a new generation’s capabilities.

Participants include a growing number of federal executives, industry leaders, notable academics and rising acquisition professionals who have been meeting since 2013 to create a framework for what federal acquisition can become, to meet the demands of the Collaboration Age — and beyond.

Acquisition of the Future supporters are continuing their quest to find and capture real-world examples that uncover emerging trends. AOF leverages these initiatives to demonstrate the new value that vibrant, forward-focused federal acquisition can provide, and that model the strategic decision-making and investments required now to transform the future.

Especially in the realm of information technology, such experiments are emerging everywhere. That’s not surprising, because technology is one of the chief disruptors driving change and creating higher expectations in government, society, industry and our economy. Because IT is evolving so rapidly, government has difficulty acquiring, modernizing and maintaining it in a way that keeps pace with innovation and commercial best practices. And current government buying processes and culture make it difficult for agencies to keep apprised and take advantage of the pace of technological innovation. Consequently, IT is a hotbed of acquisition experimentation.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/01/22/preview-acquisition-of-the-future.aspx

High risk list: Government IT acquisitions fail ‘too frequently’

The new federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, has his work cut out for him. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today is adding information technology acquisition to its high-profile list of “high-risk” federal programs.

Despite a raft of reforms over the course of the Obama administration, “federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes,” the 2015 update to GAO’s High-Risk List states.

The government has wasted billions on botched IT projects that fail to deliver promised – or any – functionality and have been mothballed. Even more programs are still on the books, but remain at risk of falling behind. And hundreds of watchdog recommendations for improving the state of federal IT acquisitions have gone unaddressed.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/high-risk-list-government-it-projects-fail-too-frequently/105063

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/

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/

 

Audit: HHS failure to screen Obamacare contract recipients cost taxpayers $400M

Not even good enough for government work.

An internal investigation into how the federal government awarded contracts for developing and building the Affordable Care Act’s most important public element — the online exchanges that were to be used by millions of Americans to purchase health insurance — has found the process was fraught with obvious and expensive errors.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed to conduct background checks on prior work by companies awarded many of the Obamacare contracts and failed to require those same companies to be accountable for cost overruns, leaving taxpayers on the hook instead.

The report published Jan. 22, 2015 by the Office of the Inspector General for HHS concludes those mistakes soaked taxpayers for more than $400 million in unexpected costs — essentially doubling the expected cost of building the exchanges in the first place.

Keep reading this article at: http://watchdog.org/194839/obamacare-contracts-cost-taxpayers/

Acquisition 101: When a bargain isn’t a bargain

When my wife and I purchased our first vacuum cleaner, we selected a cheap model. It met all the specs of what we needed, did a minimally acceptable job and lasted little more than a year before it died. Not learning the lesson that buying the first vacuum should have taught us, we immediately bought another cheap vacuum to replace the first one, and it died an early death about 18 months later. We finally did learn our lesson with the third vacuum and paid slightly more for a better vacuum that has lasted six years (and counting).

Much like our predicament with the rotating vacuums, federal contracting professionals are facing increasing pressure to purchase goods and services as cheaply as possible using a method commonly referred to as “lowest price/technically acceptable” (LPTA)—even if it means minimal acceptability.  This push is laudable in theory, but the reality is often higher prices and a smaller pool of quality contractors, while robbing contracting officers of any discretion to choose a solution or product that is more cost-effective in the long term.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/acquisition-101-when-bargain-isnt-bargain/102672/

About the authors: Eric Crusius, a partner with Fed Nexus Law, focuses on government contracts, cybersecurity, employment law and complex litigation. Mitchell Bashur, an associate at Fed Nexus Law, also contributed to this column.

Air Force to reshape ‘cost curve’ via targeted acquisition reforms

The Air Force is kicking off a series of targeted acquisition initiatives that its leaders hope will bring in more competition, cut out internal bureaucracy and ultimately lead to faster, cheaper procurements.

Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, announced the plans under an overall banner she dubbed “Bending the Cost Curve.” She described the initiative as a series of actions that are complementary to DoD’s Better Buying Power initiative — but more specific and tailored than the DoD-wide project.

James said the changes, which the service developed after a months-long series of roundtables with industry groups, will help the Air Force do a better job of communicating with its existing vendor base, welcoming new firms into the fold and removing bureaucratic processes that seem to serve little purpose other than to slow things down.

“We are simply too slow in all that we do,” she told the Atlantic Council Wednesday evening. “Here’s one horrifying factoid: We currently average 17 months to award a contract in situations where we already know there’s only one supplier who can do the work.”

To tackle costs on its major systems, the Air Force will institutionalize a new program that will attempt to make price more of an independent variable in the service’s decisions about precisely what it wants its weapons systems to do.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/395/3781054/Air-Force-to-reshape-cost-curve-via-targeted-acquisition-reforms

GSA aims to shorten software acquisition cycle with Agile Delivery Services BPA

The General Services Administration is seeking feedback from industry and government stakeholders on a proposed blanket purchase agreement that would feature vendors who specialize in Agile Delivery Services, or the development of software through a faster, more interactive acquisition process.

“The goal of the proposed BPA is to decrease software acquisition cycles to less than four weeks (from solicitation to contract) and expedite the delivery of a minimum viable product (MVP) within three months or less,” writes Angela Bumbrey, program analyst for advertising and marketing at GSA, in a recent post on the agency’s blog.

GSA’s 18F, the agency’s digital innovation lab, and GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services are collaborating on the establishment of the BPA.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/gsa-aims-shorten-software-acquisition-cycle-agile-delivery-services-bpa/2015-01-08

A bold approach to transforming IT acquisition

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Like Alice, IT procurement reformers are searching for directions without a clear sense of where they want to go.

Rather than continuing to spend billions trying to fix the current IT acquisition system, we must create a view of what acquisition can become, what value it should deliver and what strategic choices we can make now based on that vision.

Since 2013, government executives, industry thought leaders and rising acquisition professionals have been meeting to create the Acquisition of the Future (AOF) movement to give life to that vision and suggest those choices. And we’re almost finished constructing a guide that government can use to take advantage of this new environment and its possibilities.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/11/17/a-bold-approach-to-transforming-it-acquisition.aspx

The Acquisition of the Future movement is built on understanding Collaboration Age dynamics and trends affecting government and industry, such as those identified by Flextronics Chief Procurement Officer Tom Linton in this graphic by Bruce Van Patter. Want to be a part of it? Go to AcquisitionoftheFuture.org to join the movement.

The Acquisition of the Future movement is built on understanding Collaboration Age dynamics and trends affecting government and industry, such as those identified by Flextronics Chief Procurement Officer Tom Linton in this graphic by Bruce Van Patter. Want to be a part of it? Go to AcquisitionoftheFuture.org to join the movement.

Improving acquisition is part of recommended agenda for next Secretary of Defense

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a  report last week in which its experts offer up some advice to the next defense secretary.

At the top of the recommended agenda?  Improving Defense Acquisition.

Below is an excerpt from the CSIS report:

“For the Secretary of Defense, no news is good news when it comes to defense acquisition.  Much like the offensive line on a football team, when things are going smoothly, it goes unnoticed. When the Secretary of Defense gets asked about the acquisition system, it usually means something has gone wrong. For this reason, and because acquisition is a highly technical discipline, it can be tempting for the Secretary of Defense to focus attention elsewhere, particularly in his or her early days. Just as the offensive line’s performance is critical to the success of a football team, however, solid performance from the acquisition system is a linchpin to a Secretary’s hopes for a successful tenure.

“Defense acquisition is a massive undertaking involving the expenditure of roughly $150 billion annually for research and development and procurement of technology and total contract spending of more than $300 billion annually. Even a small improvement in performance of the acquisition system can make a difference of billions in the cost of equipping the military.  Despite widespread pessimism on the prospects for improving defense acquisition, the opportunity to make progress is real. The latest issue of the Department of Defense’s annual report on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System shows modest improvement in trends relating to cost growth. While this recent progress is encouraging, the squeeze of sequestration and the budget uncertainties generated by continuing resolutions and potential government shutdowns threaten to reverse this trend. The result would be a snowballing path of destruction through already tight defense budgets.

“The recent announcement of the Defense Innovation Initiative also demonstrates the strategic importance of acquisition to the Department of Defense. As the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review make clear, innovation is key to the military’s future. Ultimately, the acquisition system bears the largest share of responsibility for delivering innovation. Last but not least, acquisition will be critical in the Secretary’s relationship with Congress. Senator John McCain will take over as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress, and his interest in, and concern about, the defense acquisition system is well known. On the other side of the Capitol, the House Armed Services Committee has already been examining improvements to defense acquisition for over a year under the leadership of Representative Mac Thornberry, the designated next House Committee Chairman, and his ranking member, Representative Adam Smith.

“There are clear steps for the next Secretary to take. First, meet early with industry and set the right tone. The Department depends heavily on industry’s ability to supply advanced technology. There is nothing to lose and much to gain in keeping the lines of communication open. Second, engage with Congress on improving defense acquisition. The Department spent the last year developing a legislative proposal for improving defense acquisition which can provide a solid basis for bipartisan cooperation. Third, embrace the Defense Innovation Initiative and Better Buying Power 3.0 as major priorities. These initiatives are essential to maintaining the U.S. military’s qualitative edge.”

The full set of CSIS recommendations can be seen at: https://csis.org/publication/recommended-agenda-next-secretary-defense