OFPP’s Rung rolls out 3-pronged acquisition improvement plan

Three months into her tenure as Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator, Anne Rung is now detailing her vision for major changes to the federal acquisition process.

Rung released a memo on Dec. 4, 2014 giving agencies marching orders for how to use data to make better procurement decisions. This road map builds on existing efforts and takes on targeted new initiatives — all with the end goal of creating an improved, data-driven procurement system.

“We have a great opportunity to create a new model for federal contracting to drive greater innovation and performance, and generate savings,” Rung said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “These actions were shaped, in part, by feedback from our first national online dialogue with industry. The overwhelming feedback from industry and other key stakeholders was that the sheer complexity of the federal marketplace is hindering our ability to deliver the most innovative, high performing and cost-effective solutions.”

Rung’s plans center on three broad concepts:

  • Category management
  • Acquisition workforce talent development
  • Stronger vendor relationships

Each of these focus areas are interrelated as much as they are standalone concepts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3755979/EXCLUSIVE-OFPPs-Rung-rolls-out-3-pronged-acquisition-improvement-plan

Download and read Anne Rung’s Dec. 4, 2014 memo here: Transforming the Marketplace – OFPP – 12.04.2014

Scraping off the barnacles of the defense acquisition system

The defense acquisition system is like an 18th century wooden warship that has been out to sea for too long, accumulating such a surfeit of barnacles that it can barely float, let alone operate under full speed. It has been 20 years since the last time the acquisition system was overhauled in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) of 1994 and since then an excess of new laws, regulations, policies, practices and procedures have been added to the system. It is time to again scrape off these barnacles, and with a nod to the Royal Navy in the 1780s, attach a new copper bottom to prevent future infestation.

This is not just about efficiency and the ability to move faster — although that is important. Acquisition reform is necessary to maintain the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) current technological and military supremacy over potential rivals in the coming decades or risk falling behind more nimble innovators.

Real acquisition reform will be a multi-year effort to ultimately design a new system from the ground up, but the first step is that much of what is old should be reviewed for relevance. This should start with a zero-based assessment that determines the need for current acquisition laws, rules, regulations and practices.

One way to begin this process would be to enact a legislative sunset of procurement laws to require Congress to review the existing system in its entirety rather than just add to it. Current laws should be given a mandated periodic review — ideally of five years while any new legislation that requires an action should pass with a sunset on them. Legislation that waives or provides exemptions to the current process should however remain permanent until the underlying reason for the exemption is eliminated.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3721463/Scraping-off-the-barnacles-of-the-defense-acquisition-system

How DoD’s procurement problems are hurting national security

Frank Kendall cringes when he hears the term “acquisition reform.” The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer instead prefers the term “acquisition improvement,” which he says focuses more on the continued refinement of the entire process by which the Defense Department conceives, develops and purchases everything from ships and aircraft to trucks and ammunition.

By almost any measure, the system is broken. Consider this: The Defense Department spent at least $46 billion between 2001 and 2011 on a dozen weapons systems that never even entered production, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The two most expensive programs were run by the Army. The service spent $18 billion on the Future Combat Systems—a collection of networked vehicles and sensors—and nearly $8 billion on the Comanche stealth helicopter. That’s more money wasted in just two programs than the combined annual budgets of NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Read the entire feature cover story from the special defense edition of Government Executive magazine by clicking here.

DOD tries to allay industry fears on intellectual property

Addressing an audience of defense executives and military acquisition officials, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland sought to clarify how much intellectual property the Defense Department is interested in owning in a project it outsources to private industry. McFarland and other DOD leaders argue that maintaining a delicate balance of owning parts of a project to control its upkeep but not owning too much IP as to scare off bidders could help shore up the U.S. defense industry’s dwindling technological edge.

DOD does not want to own IP when it amounts to business secrets a firm can leverage for competitive advantage, McFarland told a conference hosted by Defense Daily in Washington, D.C. Rather, the department wants to own the interfacing part of a system that would be interoperable with another firm’s technology added later in a project, she said.

Defense Acquisition University defines open systems as those that use open, public interfaces and formats, making them interoperable and portable. To encourage competition for projects, and in turn save money in tight fiscal times, DOD has made open-systems architecture a key tenet of Better Buying Power 3.0, the latest edition of acquisition reform that the department unveiled in September. BBP 3.0 is now in draft form and won’t become DOD practice until the department hears more from industry, Congress and other stakeholders in the coming weeks.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/11/04/dod-tries-to-allay-fears.aspx

Navy leaders try to speed IT acquisition by reinterpreting the FAR

Vendors will appreciate that Navy acquisition officials are keenly aware of the rapidity with which IT can become outdated and cyberthreats can magnify. Whether that awareness translates into a quicker buying cycle and a shrewder acquisition strategy remains to be seen.

Navy logoUnder ideal circumstances, it takes about six months for the Navy to move from knowing what it wants to buy to awarding a contract, said Victor Gavin, program executive officer for enterprise information systems in the Department of the Navy. That just won’t cut it when it comes to IT and cybersecurity, he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/10/28/navy-leaders-speed-acquisition.aspx

Temporary funding benefits Army acquisition

The U.S. Army’s top weapons buyer said temporary funding keeping the government open until December is actually a good thing for the service’s weapons acquisition programs.

Congress passed the short-term measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, last month to fund government agencies, including the Defense Department, through Dec. 11, at which point lawmakers will need to take another similar step or pass a full-year budget.

“It’s quite ironic, but in this fiscal environment we’re living in, in which annual base budgets are declining, CR turns out to be great because I can spend what I was authorized last year, right, as opposed to this year, in which inevitably my budget is going to be cut ‚” Heidi Shyu said at last week’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the Association of the United States Army, an Arlington, Virginia-based advocacy group.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/10/21/shyu-ill-take-temporary-funding-over-budget-cuts/

Could big-data analytics improve federal procurement?

Big data could be an important tool for federal procurement shops, but its usefulness depends on finding quality data and understanding how to use it to track vendor performance and pricing.

Several recent studies — a Government Accountability Office report, a CIO survey by TechAmerica and the IBM Institute for Business Value’s “Chief Procurement Officer Study” — all point to the same conclusion: Analytics and acquisition need to go to more of the same parties.

The Oct. 9 GAO report states that many agencies’ incomplete methods of performing market research affect their ability to make informed decisions about procurements.

Federal agencies are required by law to conduct market research, which the Federal Acquisition Regulation defines as the process used to collect and analyze data about capabilities in the market that could satisfy an agency’s procurement needs.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/10/10/big-data-procurement.aspx

The small-business conundrum

Recent news reveals that federal agencies overstated their success last year in contracting with small businesses that face socioeconomic disadvantages. It turns out that the Small Business Administration’s inspector general identified over $400 million of contract actions awarded to ineligible firms, thus overstating SB goaling performance in FY13.

Download the IG report here.

While reasons for misreporting are one issue, the perennial issue of meeting SB goals persists. Some people joke that when an agency fails to meet their SB target, the response is to increase it. Does goal setting work? Everyone agrees with fundamental ideals of small entrepreneurs and businesses bringing fresh ideas, outlooks, and solutions to government and societal problems.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141008/BLG06/310080012/The-small-business-conundrum 

Grand Canyon gets creative to attract bids on concessions contract

For nearly 100 years, Grand Canyon National Park has enjoyed a beneficial relationship with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the nation’s largest parks tourism contractor whose corporate ancestors have sold lodging and concessions at the Arizona wonder since the late 19th century.

But in the 21st century, the cash-strapped National Park Service finds itself pressured to get creative in complying with a 1998 federal law requiring it to regularly solicit competitive bids for services.

The problem: Xanterra over the decades has invested up to $200 million in improvements to its hotel, gift shops and restaurants around the canyon’s South Rim, money it would be entitled to collect should the government yank its concession contracts. The chances of finding a competing concessions contractor willing to assume that debt to Xanterra are considered slim.

So in August, the Park Service announced a new approach. It would solicit a major concessions contract—worth more than $1 billion in potential revenue over 15 years—for the third time since 2013, the first private bids that came in having been deemed inadequate.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/09/grand-canyon-park-gets-creative-attract-bids-concessions-contract/95009

Senate report contributes to discussion about acquisition reform and support for training

Last week, the U.S. Senate published a compendium of expert views on acquisition reform within the Department of Defense (DoD).  While the report contains no recommendations from the Senate itself, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations points out that the report documents shortcomings in the acquisition process that may serve to guide Congressional deliberations in the future.

The Oct. 2, 2014 report, entitled “Defense Acquisition Reform: Where Do We Go from Here?”, contains the views of 31 government Defense policy and procurement experts.  Significantly,

  • Nearly half of the experts feel that cultural change is required while over two-thirds believe improving incentives for the acquisition workforce is necessary for reform.
  • Two-thirds of the contributors feel that training and recruiting of the acquisition workforce must be improved.
  • Nearly half believe that DOD needs to attain realistic requirements at the start of a major acquisition program that includes budget-informed decisions.
  • More than half of the submissions noted the need for strong accountability and leadership throughout the life-cycle of a weapon system – with several experts stating the need to further integrate the Service Chiefs into the acquisition process.

Seal_of_the_United_States_SenateAbout 70 percent of the report’s contributors express the view that although Congress has taken steps to address deficiencies in DoD’s acquisition workforce, more should be taken. Several contributors state that the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF), which Congress established in 2008 to ensure that the acquisition workforce has the skills to ensure the DoD receives the best value for taxpayer dollars, should be continued and strengthened.

Former Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Dan Gordon, now Associate Dean at George Washington University Law School, states in the report that improvements in training through Defense Acquisition University (DAU) coursework will help the acquisition workforce “buy smarter” in the current budget environment.  Gordon notes that of the three phases of the contracting process — planning, award, and administration — the “weak links in our procurement system [are] poor acquisition planning, especially poor definitions of what the government is trying to buy, and lax contract management.”  These two problematic areas, notes Gordon, “are those least amenable to legislation” and instead tend to rely on the experience, judgment, and training of acquisition professionals.

Gordon calls for “better training for purchasing services, and creation of specialized acquisition cadres, at least in large entities such as the military services, to help run procurements in areas that demand education and experience in the field, such as the acquisition of IT and professional services.”

Many of the report’s contributors believe that DoD should create a clear career path for acquisition professionals similar to the military promotion system and designate acquisition billets to be on the same level as operational billets.  According to those contributors, that may grant more opportunity for promotion, thereby attracting a higher quality workforce.

The report includes input from many current and former officials, including the Pentagon’s Acquisition, Technology and Logistics chief Frank Kendall; former Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman retired Gen. James Cartwright; former acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox; former Chief of Naval Operations retired Adm. Gary Roughead; former Air Force Chief of Staff retired Gen. Norton Schwartz; former F-35 program manager retired Vice Adm. David Venlet; and former President of the Defense Acquisition University Frank Anderson.

The full report is available here: Defense Acquisition Reform – A Compendium of Views – 10.02.2014