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

Industry group challenges GSA’s telecom services strategy

The General Services Administration’s strategy for its next-generation telecommunications services contract could exclude a huge segment of providers and duplicate some federal contract offerings, according to a procurement industry group.

GSA issued a request for information for Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) in April; comments are due by May 8.

The RFI is part of GSA’s effort to develop a comprehensive framework and acquisition strategy for Network Services 2020, which will become the federal government’s strategic sourcing center for network-based and network-enabled services. The agency plans to solicit bids for NS2020 in fiscal 2015.

According to Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, the plan sets up small and midsize suppliers to fail. The organization’s concerns relate to the scope of services envisioned under the RFI and the designation of mandatory versus optional services, he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/05/05/industry-group-gsa-telecom-strategy.aspx?admgarea=TC_Management

Acquisition reform: Where do you start?

There are today no fewer than six significant acquisition review/reform efforts underway.

They include:

  • A major effort being jointly undertaken by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
  • The Defense Department’s  reviews of high-cost/low-value compliance and reporting requirements and soon to be released Better Buying Power 3.0.
  • A “bottom-up” acquisition review directed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
  • A continuing effort to develop IT acquisition reform legislation in the Senate
  • The recently launched OMB crowdsourcing effort focused on improving acquisition.

Obviously, there will be a lot of overlap even as each (hopefully) seeks to break some new ground. After all, there shouldn’t be much debate about the need to substantially transform the acquisition landscape.

Keep reading this article at: http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2014/04/29/insights-soloway-reform.aspx

1950′s RFP for the U-2 spy plane was just 2 pages long

Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray dropped an interesting piece of government contracting arcana last week during a panel discussion on the past and future role of government chief information officers.

The conversation had turned to the acquisition process and how its complexities can sometimes prevent agencies from buying the best technology or prolong the process until that technology is sorely out of date. Bray noted that the request for proposals for the U-2 spy plane — the one that secretly flew over the Soviet Union gathering intelligence at high altitudes for half a decade during the early Cold War — was only two pages long.

That’s quite a contrast to modern RFPs, which can run dozens or hundreds of pages for comparatively simple technology.

Unfortunately the full U-2 RFP isn’t easily available online. There are several reference notes, though, attesting to its two-page length. Just as interesting, though, for anyone who’s worked under the contemporary Federal Acquisition Regulation, is this description of the U-2 contracting process compiled by Central Intelligence Agency historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach in 1998.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2014/04/rfp-u-2-spy-plane-was-just-two-pages-long/83104 

Improved Pentagon acquisition requires tolerance of risk

The federal government must get more comfortable with risk if it is to deliver the nimbler and more performance-based acquisition regulations that defense contractors pine for, a panel of industry executives said this week.

Federal contracting officials should move from the “adversarial, risk-intolerant oversight culture we have with procurement to one that incentivizes and encourages innovation and appropriate, smart risk-taking,” said Joe Jordan, FedBid’s president of public sector, during an April 23 panel discussion hosted by Bloomberg Government.

There is a widespread perception among federal contractors that the government punishes rather than rewards innovation, he added. “If you step out [on] the ledge half an inch, you’re worried about the IG report, the GAO report, your boss getting called to the Hill and then you bearing the brunt of the repercussions.”

Abandoning that risk-averse approach requires a cultural shift, he added — something bigger and less tangible than amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/04/25/dod-acquisition.aspx

DoD plots third chapter in Better Buying Power initiative

Nothing is on paper yet, but the Defense Department says it is in the very early stages of creating a “3.0″ version of its ongoing Better Buying Power initiative.

The newest edition will focus on making sure the military doesn’t fall behind in technological superiority.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the next edition of the Pentagon’s effort to improve its acquisition system will zero in on an issue that he has become increasingly worried about as sequestration-level budgets take a toll on DoD’s investments in research and development.

While he emphasized that Better Buying Power 3.0 still is in the idea stage, he said it will revolve around the notion that DoD can’t afford to put technology advances on hold just because research dollars are shrinking.

“The first iteration was about the rules. The second one was about creating tools to help people think and do a better job of setting up business deals and executing them. The third is probably going to be about innovation and how we move things more rapidly and more effectively into the hands of warfighters,” he said Tuesday (Apr. 8, 2014) at the 15th annual Science and Engineering Technology Conference sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association in College Park, Md.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/65/3599360/DoD-plots-third-chapter-in-Better-Buying-Power-initiative- 

GSA announces plan to simplify federal contracting

The General Services Administration’s contracting division is developing a new Web platform and business structure to bring more expertise to complicated acquisitions, the agency said April 9, 2014.

The new initiative, called Category Management, will involve assigning a Federal Acquisition Service manager in charge of each of several acquisition categories, such as information technology, professional services and travel.

Those managers will help develop a Common Acquisition Platform with information about contract vehicles, historical prices and other data related to specific procurements, FAS Commissioner Thomas Sharpe said in a 1,000-word blog post.

The acquisition platform will eventually include several tools related to specific categories of government purchases, according to the blog post.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/gsa-announces-plan-simplify-federal-contracting/82306/?oref=nextgov_cio_briefing 

‘Reverse Auctions’ draw scrutiny

It is like an eBay of Washington, a well-appointed and well-connected online marketplace for lucrative government contracts.

Deals for everything from pens to pesticides, from painting offices to performing autopsies — all that and more is up for grabs on FedBid, a fast-growing private company that has positioned itself at the profitable nexus of government and business.

Financed by an investment company connected to Stephen M. Case, of AOL fame, and Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the Washington Wizards, FedBid has assembled a roster of Beltway insiders to promote an unusual approach to how contracts are meted out. Its latest big hire is Joseph Jordan, who was until recently head of procurement policy for the Obama administration.

Through FedBid, government agencies use “reverse auctions” — in which the lowest bid wins, rather than the highest — to decide who is awarded contracts. In theory, the process can save money for taxpayers by encouraging businesses to offer the best possible prices. In practice, it also makes a lot of money for FedBid, which can collect fees from the winning bidders who, in turn, pass those costs to the government.

At issue is whether FedBid encourages competition, as its proponents argue, or simply prompts companies to submit unrealistically low bids to outmaneuver business rivals. Detractors contend that awarding contracts based solely on price means that the government risks ending up with inferior products or services, though this is a risk even when the government does not use reverse auctions. A recent government study, which reviewed reverse auctions at top agencies, found that roughly a third of all FedBid auctions involved a single bidder, meaning that they were closer to no-bid contracts than true auctions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/business/reverse-auctions-draw-scrutiny.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140407&_r=1 

Army’s bright acquisition spot: Howitzer upgrades

The U.S. Army is moving forward with plans to develop upgraded versions of the M109 self-propelled howitzer in one of the service’s few bright acquisition spots.

The Army is “fully committed” to the M109 Paladin Integrated Management, or PIM, program, Army Secretary John McHugh said on Thursday during a hearing of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

“We need a new self-propelled artillery howitzer to keep up with our formations and so we’re going forward,” he said in response to a question from Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., whose district includes Fort Sill, which houses the Army and Marine Corps’ field artillery schools.

McHugh acknowledged the service’s troubled acquisition history, including many failed attempts to replace its Cold War-era fleets of vehicles and helicopters. Most recently, it scrapped the Ground Combat Vehicle, designed to replace the Bradley fighting vehicle, due in part to automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

But the secretary said the M109 development program is moving forward, albeit slowly. BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP, part of the U.S. subsidiary of the London-based defense contractor, received a contract potentially worth almost $700 million for initial production of the vehicles.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/03/27/armys-bright-acquisition-spot-howitzer-upgrades/