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

 

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