Changes announced to GSA Schedules in professional services categories

The General Services Administration has announced a series of changes to its professional services Schedule offerings in order to reduce the number of contracts vendors manage and consolidate contract vehicles.

GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service removed the special item number of non-professional service from the current consolidated schedule, expect for information technology and human resources, the agency said last week.

Tiffany Hixson, professional services category executive for FAS, described the agency’s approach to contract consolidation last week ahead of this announcement (click here to read previous coverage).

GSA said it made the move to “eliminate the need to submit separate offers for professional services; firms would have the ability to submit a modification request instead – this equates to a substantial decrease in time required to add new services.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.executivegov.com/2014/09/gsa-details-professional-services-schedule-changes/

Strengthening the workforce: DoD acquisition, requirements and results

“Defense acquisition is a human endeavor.”

These are familiar words to anyone who knows Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary for Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and what he sees as the heart of modernizing the DoD acquisition system.

Kendall and his staff have made notable improvements to the system in recent years, including the major focus on workforce professionalism, training and education initiatives undertaken by the Defense Acquisition University (DAU).

It’s no secret DoD has an abundance of rules and regulations. In a sequestration environment, which will be the greatest administrative challenge of the era for the Pentagon, the workforce and the people are the most important ingredient in the DoD acquisition recipe.

DoD’s Better Buying Power (BBP) mandate establishes “increased professional qualification requirements for all acquisition specialties.” With BBP 3.0 expected in a few months, Kendall reports the new version will work towards eliminating barriers to entry. He wants to build stronger relationships with the requirements, technology, warfighter and other communities. I participated in the recent Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) symposium, the inaugural event to highlight DoD’s BBP acquisition initiative and its application to government, industry and academia.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140829/BLG06/308290008/Strengthening-workforce-DoD-acquisition-requirements-results

Taming the wild west of cloud acquisition

For acquisition professionals, buying cloud computing is a bit like stepping from a 21st-century city into the Wild West. Federal buyers must move from the known, predictable, more or less standard procurement world into one that is unknown, unfamiliar and as yet untamed.

It’s no wonder that in ASI Government’s polls of acquisition professionals at 110 federal organizations, 64 percent of respondents believe they lack the necessary technical expertise in cloud computing and thus are challenged in structuring contracts for it.

“There’s no exact fit for commercial cloud in the [Federal Acquisition Regulation],” Mark Day, deputy assistant commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Office of Integrated Technology Services, told attendees at a March conference on cloud acquisition.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/08/26/acquisition-matters-cloud.aspx

Buying what works: Case studies in innovative contracting

Last week, the White House announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), a new team of America’s best digital experts dedicated to improving and simplifying the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.  The USDS team has already begun to make progress by releasing the TechFAR Handbook, a guide that helps explain how Federal agencies can take advantage of existing procurement authorities to execute key plays in the Digital Services Playbook.

The Federal Government has long used its buying power as one of the world’s largest customers to accelerate well-known innovations, from the first microchips to the Global Positioning System (GPS).  Today, Federal agencies continue to leverage innovative procurement practices that spur the private sector to develop advanced technologies to better serve the American people – and to pay only for successful results, not just best efforts.

Today, the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget are pleased to release the first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, an iterative, evolving document that describes a number of ways Federal agencies are getting more innovation per taxpayer dollar – all under existing laws and regulations. For example, NASA has used milestone-based payments to promote private sector competition for the next generation of astronaut transportation services and moon exploration robots.  The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an invitation for short concept papers that lowered barriers for non-traditional government contractors, which led to the discovery of powerful new technologies in mobile health and trauma care.  The Department of Defense has used head-to-head competitions in realistic environments to identify new robot and vehicle designs that will protect soldiers on the battlefield.

We encourage both private sector stakeholders and public servants to engage in a sustained public discussion, identifying new case studies and improving this document’s usefulness in future iterations.  At the same time, Federal government employees can join a community of practice around innovative contracting by signing up for the new “Buyers Club” email group (open to all .gov and .mil email addresses).  This “Buyers Club” group should provide a useful forum for troubleshooting and sharing best practices across the Federal government, serving everyone from contracting officers with deep expertise in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to program managers looking for new ways to achieve their agencies’ missions.

All of these innovative contracting efforts are aligned with President Obama’s management agenda to deliver a 21st century government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth, including specific cross-agency initiatives on Smarter IT deliverystrategic sourcing, and shared services.  We encourage readers to join the public discussion of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, or sign up for the Feds-only “Buyers Club” email group.  We look forward to raising awareness about the many ways that the Federal Government can use the power of the purse to deliver powerful and cost-effective technology solutions for the American people.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Lesley Field is the Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

‘We’ve got to stop throwing Hail Marys’

The future of federal IT contracting could look a lot like the environment at Google and other high-tech companies, where cutting costs and boosting efficiencies are as routine as breathing. But, say former and current procurement officials, winning the future will still involve knowing the nitty-gritty of what an agency is trying to accomplish with its IT contracts.

Being able to act quickly and effectively in the face of technology that has outpaced government’s ability to buy it effectively is a constant challenge, according to panel discussions at the National Contract Managers Association’s 2014 conference in Washington on July 28. In the face of similar challenges, private industry has adopted shorter development cycles coupled with more agile techniques.

If we want real innovation, we need to stop looking for ways to circumvent the federal acquisition system and work together to improve it, writes Stan Soloway.

Federal agencies are just beginning to do the same.

“We’ve got to stop throwing ‘Hail Marys” at large federal IT projects, Joe Jordan, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and now president of public sector at FedBid, said during a panel on technology’s impact on acquisition. “It’s got to be broken up into five- to 10-yard passes.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/Articles/2014/07/28/No-more-Hail-Marys.aspx?Page=1&p=1

OFPP nominee lays out agenda

Anne Rung, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), told lawmakers that she wants to “break down the barriers” that stall innovation in federal acquisition.

At a brisk, sparsely attended confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on July 24, the former chief acquisition officer at the General Services Administration also cited as priorities better category management and giving the acquisition workforce the tools it needs to succeed.

Rung said she is particularly interested in creating topic specialization for acquisition officials. Often people who are buying pens and pencils for their agency are also tasked with major IT purchases.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/07/24/ofpp-nominee-agenda.aspx

Lawmakers knock DHS for contract with company accused of fraud

The Department of Homeland Security has come under fire from lawmakers for awarding a $190 million contract to a company accused of defrauding the government.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter July 17 asking why USIS received a contract from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against USIS in January, accusing the company of delivering at least 665,000 background investigations from March 2008 through September 2012 that failed to undergo contractually required initial quality reviews.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140718/DHS03/307180008/Lawmakers-knock-DHS-contract-company-accused-fraud

Management of HealthCare.gov website now open for bid proposals

The White House has begun its search for the next stewards of HealthCare.gov.

contract solicitation posted online Wednesday enumerates the qualifications and requirements of the next Obamacare website contractor, charged with keeping the online federal health insurance exchange portal up and running.

The 60-page job posting says the next caretaker of the Obamacare site will need to be able to work “under aggressive time constraints” to work with the Federally Facilitated Marketplace in testing and upgrading a variety of hardware, software, and security features. It also states that the contractor will need to be able to perform tests that can demonstrate that the site can function when a large number of users are online.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/07/obama-administration-looking-next-obamacare-website-contractor/88927

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