Buying a new Air Force One is complicated

Think it’s tough to buy a new car? Try buying a plane that has all the bells and whistles fit for a president, including some that might not have been invented yet.

The aircraft is the easy part. In this case, it’s a massive, four engine, two-floor Boeing 747-8 from a company that has been churning out aircraft from its Washington State assembly lines for nearly a century. But the must-have equipment needed on the plane that acts as a mobile White House is where things get more complicated.

First, the plane must be able to refuel inflight so, if need be, it could remain airborne indefinitely. A nuclear war is likely the only time this would happen, but Air Force One must be prepared for everything.

But that’s not the hard part. The must-haves include the latest, cutting edge military communications equipment that allow the president to work as if he’s sitting in the Oval Office in Washington. The president must be able to conduct secure video conferences and phone calls, access classified government computer networks and order a nuclear strike.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/02/buying-new-air-force-one-complicated/104220/

 

Audit: HHS failure to screen Obamacare contract recipients cost taxpayers $400M

Not even good enough for government work.

An internal investigation into how the federal government awarded contracts for developing and building the Affordable Care Act’s most important public element — the online exchanges that were to be used by millions of Americans to purchase health insurance — has found the process was fraught with obvious and expensive errors.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed to conduct background checks on prior work by companies awarded many of the Obamacare contracts and failed to require those same companies to be accountable for cost overruns, leaving taxpayers on the hook instead.

The report published Jan. 22, 2015 by the Office of the Inspector General for HHS concludes those mistakes soaked taxpayers for more than $400 million in unexpected costs — essentially doubling the expected cost of building the exchanges in the first place.

Keep reading this article at: http://watchdog.org/194839/obamacare-contracts-cost-taxpayers/

Acquisition 101: When a bargain isn’t a bargain

When my wife and I purchased our first vacuum cleaner, we selected a cheap model. It met all the specs of what we needed, did a minimally acceptable job and lasted little more than a year before it died. Not learning the lesson that buying the first vacuum should have taught us, we immediately bought another cheap vacuum to replace the first one, and it died an early death about 18 months later. We finally did learn our lesson with the third vacuum and paid slightly more for a better vacuum that has lasted six years (and counting).

Much like our predicament with the rotating vacuums, federal contracting professionals are facing increasing pressure to purchase goods and services as cheaply as possible using a method commonly referred to as “lowest price/technically acceptable” (LPTA)—even if it means minimal acceptability.  This push is laudable in theory, but the reality is often higher prices and a smaller pool of quality contractors, while robbing contracting officers of any discretion to choose a solution or product that is more cost-effective in the long term.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/acquisition-101-when-bargain-isnt-bargain/102672/

About the authors: Eric Crusius, a partner with Fed Nexus Law, focuses on government contracts, cybersecurity, employment law and complex litigation. Mitchell Bashur, an associate at Fed Nexus Law, also contributed to this column.

Air Force to reshape ‘cost curve’ via targeted acquisition reforms

The Air Force is kicking off a series of targeted acquisition initiatives that its leaders hope will bring in more competition, cut out internal bureaucracy and ultimately lead to faster, cheaper procurements.

Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force, announced the plans under an overall banner she dubbed “Bending the Cost Curve.” She described the initiative as a series of actions that are complementary to DoD’s Better Buying Power initiative — but more specific and tailored than the DoD-wide project.

James said the changes, which the service developed after a months-long series of roundtables with industry groups, will help the Air Force do a better job of communicating with its existing vendor base, welcoming new firms into the fold and removing bureaucratic processes that seem to serve little purpose other than to slow things down.

“We are simply too slow in all that we do,” she told the Atlantic Council Wednesday evening. “Here’s one horrifying factoid: We currently average 17 months to award a contract in situations where we already know there’s only one supplier who can do the work.”

To tackle costs on its major systems, the Air Force will institutionalize a new program that will attempt to make price more of an independent variable in the service’s decisions about precisely what it wants its weapons systems to do.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/395/3781054/Air-Force-to-reshape-cost-curve-via-targeted-acquisition-reforms

GSA aims to shorten software acquisition cycle with Agile Delivery Services BPA

The General Services Administration is seeking feedback from industry and government stakeholders on a proposed blanket purchase agreement that would feature vendors who specialize in Agile Delivery Services, or the development of software through a faster, more interactive acquisition process.

“The goal of the proposed BPA is to decrease software acquisition cycles to less than four weeks (from solicitation to contract) and expedite the delivery of a minimum viable product (MVP) within three months or less,” writes Angela Bumbrey, program analyst for advertising and marketing at GSA, in a recent post on the agency’s blog.

GSA’s 18F, the agency’s digital innovation lab, and GSA’s Office of Integrated Technology Services are collaborating on the establishment of the BPA.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/gsa-aims-shorten-software-acquisition-cycle-agile-delivery-services-bpa/2015-01-08

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.