What motivates defense contractors? Four lessons for government leaders

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.

For details, 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

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

Acquisition planning is focus of July 14 course

Want to learn about the Government’s policies and procedures for planning an acquisition?  How does the Government deal with required and preferred sources of supplies and services?  What must be done to ensure competition?

To answer these questions and many, many more, The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is presenting a one-week course beginning July 14, 2014, entitled CON 090-2: Contract Planning in the FAR.

By attending this course, students will learn all the types of contracts that may be used in acquisitions, special contracting techniques, the impact of socioeconomic programs, the use of special contract terms and conditions, the implications of contractor qualifications, and proper advertisement procedures.

The course provides vital instruction for Government contracting personnel as well as important insights for contractors.

CON 090-2 is the second of four modules from CON 090 – Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Fundamentals.  The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech offers CON 090 in four, one-week classes.  Each module stands on its own, allowing students multiple opportunities throughout the year to complete the entire CON 090 course without the challenge of being away from work or home for an entire month.

The course consists of limited lecture, and is heavily exercise-based.  Students should be prepared to dedicate about an hour each evening for reading.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is an approved equivalency training provider to the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and provides continuing education training to Acquisition and Government Contracting professionals as well as to business professionals working for government contractors or pursuing opportunities in the federal contracting arena.

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

Opening up competition in federal IT

The Public Spend Forum, a group focusing on public-sector procurement, analyzed government IT spending  and found that a  “check the box culture” and a broken requirements and procurement process inhibits competition and limits innovation.

Its recent report, Billions in the Balance: Removing Barriers to Competition & Driving Innovation in the Public-Sector IT Market makes several recommendations for IT managers:

  • Establish clear lines of authority and accountability.
  • Develop a simple needs and outcomes statement instead of voluminous RFPs.
  • Engage the market early.
  • Develop a cost/outcome (ROI)-focused IT strategy.
    • Focus on minimizing cost/outcome as the ROI of a government program
    • Implement flexible IT architectures as recommended in the ACT-IAC 7S for Success Framework.
    • Emphasize prototyping and approaches for minimum viable product rollouts.
    • Avoid monolithic acquisition approaches and instead leverage existing procurement vehicles and allow use of alternative vehicles.
  • Encourage smart risk taking.
  • Reduce burdensome requirements and speed up the procurement process.

Keep reading this article at: http://gcn.com/blogs/pulse/2014/06/competition-in-it-procurement-report.aspx

 

Feds could save $20 billion with better IT infrastructure initiatives, study finds

Perhaps data center consolidation, virtualization, cloud computing, remote access and infrastructure diversification aren’t the sexiest terms in the federal repertoire, but they do hold the keys to as much as $20 billion in annual savings, according to a study by Meritalk.

The study, underwritten by Brocade, is based on survey results from 300 federal network managers who estimate that if the government were to fully leverage all five initiatives, it could save about 24 percent of the government’s $80 billion information technology budget.

The survey’s results sound promising, but there’s a caveat: Two-thirds of the surveyed network managers reported their networks are ill-equipped to meet current mission needs, and much further away from being able to fully embrace newer tech initiatives like cloud computing. If network managers could magically flip a switch and significantly increase network speed by approximately 26 percent, the survey claims the government could cash in $11 billion in savings in one year.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cloud-computing/2014/05/feds-could-save-20-billion-better-it-infrastructure-initiatives-study-finds/84925

Pumping up the procurement playbook

The Department of Health and Human Services is experimenting with an innovative IT acquisition playbook that assembles templates that contracting officers could use to make quicker and more inventive buys.

HHS Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak said his agency asked a contracting officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put the playbook together using some of the more innovative procurement methods allowed under the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

“The FAR has room for some interesting things,” Sivak said during a panel discussion on innovation at the Management of Change conference in Cambridge, Md. Unfortunately, there is usually “no time for procurement officers to explore those processes,” he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/05/20/hhs-procurement-playbook.aspx

 

DOE paid more for contractor BYOD than if it had issued government phones

The Energy Department ended up paying more to contractors that brought their own mobile devices than it would have if it had paid to given them government devices, an April 15 DOE inspector general report says.

The DOE pays out a stipend to those contractors that use their own devices, but frequently the phones are loaded up with unlimited voice and data plans that end of costing the DOE more than if they’d paid to supply the contractors with government mobile devices, the report says.

DOE could save at least $2.3 million over the next three years if it could better manage the mobile devices used by contractors, the IG says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercemobilegovernment.com/story/doe-paid-more-contractor-byod-if-it-had-issued-government-phones/2014-04-22