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 

Academy offers contract administration course May 5-9

Georgia Tech is teaching a course in May that is beneficial to both contracting officials seeking to hone their skills as well as contractors looking for insights into the government contracting process.

The course — CON 090-4, Contract Administration in the Federal Acquisition Regulation — covers every aspect of post-award activity.  This includes monitoring of contract performance, quality assurance, contract modifications, enforcement of terms and conditions, processing payments, handling disputes and appeals, terminations, and the contract close-out procedure.

  • For government contracting officers, this course represents the fourth module of coursework required to maintain a contracting warrant.   A warrant is a written document providing a contracting officer with the limits of his or her authority.   Per FAR 1.601-2, Contracting Officers have the authority to “enter into, administer, or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings” to the extent of the authority delegated to them by their warrant.   Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy offers a set of courses — each equivalent to Defense Acquisition University (DAU) course standards — that help contracting officials maintain their warrants and enhance professional development.
  • For businesspeople who compete for and fulfill government contracts, Academy classes are equally pertinent.  Contractor personnel who attend Academy courses gain real-world knowledge about how government officials are trained to formulate and administer contracts.   Insights in these areas provide invaluable guidance pertinent to reaching greater success in competing for, winning, and fulfilling government contract work.

CON 090-4 is a five-day course being offered during the week of May 5, 2014 on Georgia Tech’s midtown Atlanta campus.  CON 090-4 is part of an overall four-week course that deals with every aspect of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the set of rules which govern the government’s ”acquisition process” — that is, the process through which the government purchases (or “acquires”) goods and services.

For more information on CON 090-4, including cost and registration, please visit http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-090-4-contract-administration-far.

For information about the entire CON 090 course series and other courses offered by The Academy, please visit http://www.pe.gatech.edu/Subjects/Acquisition-Government-Contracting.

 

Cheapest contract isn’t always the best, acquisition officials say

Confusion over “lowest price, technically acceptable” contracts have rendered the Pentagon’s acquisition workforce “brutalized” by critics and the press who mistake shrinking defense budgets for a lack of ambition for innovation, a top acquisition official said Thursday.

Katrina McFarland, assistant Defense secretary for acquisition and past president of the Defense Acquisition University, said “Low-cost, technically acceptable is good when appropriate, but shouldn’t be used to achieve innovation.” Her “very junior-level” acquisition workforce has a learning curve when it comes to taking the next step toward value added in contracts, McFarland told several hundred industry and government executives at a conference titled “Agility, Velocity and Service Excellence” sponsored by the General Services Administration, the Homeland Security Department and the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council.

Seeking industry input on how to prioritize Defense spending on weapons and information technology, McFarland gave a capsule history of how the acquisition workforce in the 1990s was cut by 20 percent to “reap the peace dividend,” and how, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the civilian force was then flush with money and focused more on “pushing product out the door to the warfighter. We weren’t focused on honing business skills or maintaining a good customer-provider relationship,” she said.  “We were a bad customer.”

An injection of money by Congress in 2008 allowed planners beginning in 2010 to assemble 53 experts from agencies and industry and boil down 325 proposed initiatives to 23, which eventually resulted in the Pentagon’s pair of Better Buying Power initiatives. These include rewards and incentives for the workforce, McFarland noted, including the first-ever visits to contractor sites by deputy and undersecretaries to explain “from the horse’s mouth” the distinctions between low-cost contracts, value-added innovations and affordability in the context of the long-term costs of ownership of a system. “Instead of beating the workforce about the ears, it is a guide to help you think,” she said. If the workforce doesn’t understand low-cost technically acceptable, it will fumble around a bit,” she added, telling the business representatives, “if [acquisition] people ask questions and say this is not logical, do not stop them,” for this is how risks are taken that succeed.

Keep reading thgis article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/03/cheapest-contract-isnt-always-best-acquisition-officials-say/80965

New DAU president named

The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD AT&L), Frank Kendall, officially welcomed James P. Woolsey as the new president of the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) during a ceremony at the Pentagon last Thursday (Feb. 27, 2014).

Woolsey will be responsible for continuing and building upon DAU’s reputation as the primary Department of Defense learning institution for the 151,000 members of the Defense Acquisition Workforce while overseeing the development of new curriculum and learning opportunities that facilitate implementation of the “Better Buying Power” initiatives as outlined by the USD AT&L.

Woolsey comes to DAU from the Institute for Defense Analysis where he most recently served as a research staff member and Deputy Director for Performance Assessments supporting the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Performance Assessments and Root Cause Analyses office.  In this capacity, he directly supported the USD AT&L in assessing major Defense acquisition programs.

DAU provides certification training, mission assistance, and continuous learning courses for military and civilian acquisition personnel within the Department of Defense. The university’s headquarters is at Fort Belvoir, Va. with regional campuses located across the country. Its mission is to provide a global learning environment to develop qualified acquisition, requirements and contingency professionals who deliver and sustain effective and affordable warfighting capabilities.

DOD enacts faster, more agile technology acquisitions process

Information technology programs represent a considerable portion of all acquisition programs within the Defense Department, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition said Tuesday (Feb. 25, 2014).

In fiscal year 2010, the National Defense Authorization Act directed that DOD develop and implement new acquisitions processes for IT systems, Katrina G. McFarland said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness and management support subcommittee.

So, based on recommendations contained in the 2009 Defense Science Board Report, the department is working to speed up the route to acquiring new systems by increasing collaboration and improving processes, McFarland said.

“To do this, one must start with the defined requirement or capability,” she added.

In the past, once an IT requirement or capability was defined, organizations were able to acquire only that technology which precisely met the predefined parameters.

The introduction of the “IT box” concept is a significant change to the IT acquisition process, McFarland said. The IT box gives organizations the ability to acquire technology that improves on already-approved technology, as long as the changes don’t exceed certain parameters.

In addition to the IT box, the department has introduced interim guidance to adopt “modular, open system methodology, with heavy emphasis on design for change,” which will help DOD adapt to the changing IT environment, the assistant secretary said.

“The policy addresses the realization that IT capabilities may evolve, so desired capabilities can be traded off against cost and initial operational capability to deliver the best product to the field in a timely manner,” she said.

In accordance with the fiscal year 2011 NDAA, the department chartered the Cyber Investment Management Board, which unites IT policy and operational requirements by identifying gaps in resources and in capabilities, McFarland said. But, she said, finding personnel with the required expertise work in IT acquisitions and development is “challenging.”

“The talent pool is small,” she noted.

One way the department is working to address these challenges is through the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund, McFarland said, which is supporting training of IT acquisitions personnel through the Defense Acquisition University.

In addition, DOD is developing a cybersecurity guidebook for program managers to assist them in understanding what cybersecurity activities are necessary at each point of the acquisition life cycle, she said.

“The department will continue its efforts to operate as affordably, efficiently, and as effectively as possible,” McFarland said. “We are evolving our approach to acquisition for IT and recognize the distinct challenges that come with it.”

5 tips for hiring federal contractors

The process of hiring a government consultant/contractor isn’t easy, and most federal leaders and managers have to do it at some point in their career. Maybe they can’t get hiring authority to bring in new people. Maybe they need to jump start a new project or program with skills that aren’t available inside their office or agency. It’s a big decision, and many managers, especially those doing it for the first time, are uncertain about how to move forward.

Here are five tips to help make federal leaders more educated buyers:

1. Take some time to think about the problem and put aside the solution for a bit.

2. Talk to a few different trusted companies.

3. Understand procurement vehicles.

4. Pay attention to the evaluation criteria and personnel qualifications.

5. Keep another company in the wings.

See the details associated with each of these five tips and read the complete article at: http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2014/02/5-tips-hiring-federal-contractors/78884 

Acquisition planning is focus of March 3rd course

Want to learn about the Government’s policies and procedures for planning an acquisition?  How does the Government deal with required and preferred sources of supplies and services?  What must be done to ensure competition?

To answer these questions and many, many more, The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is presenting a one-week course beginning March 3, 2014, entitled CON 090-2: Contract Planning in the FAR.

By attending this course, students will learn all the types of contracts that may be used in acquisitions, special contracting techniques, the impact of socioeconomic programs, the use of special contract terms and conditions, the implications of contractor qualifications, and proper advertisement procedures.

The course provides vital instruction for Government contracting personnel as well as important insights for contractors.

CON 090-2 is the second of four modules from CON 090 – Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Fundamentals.  The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech offers CON 090 in four, one-week classes.  Each module stands on its own, allowing students multiple opportunities throughout the year to complete the entire CON 090 course without the challenge of being away from work or home for an entire month.

The course consists of limited lecture, and is heavily exercise-based.  Students should be prepared to dedicate about an hour each evening for reading.

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is an approved equivalency training provider to the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) and provides continuing education training to Acquisition and Government Contracting professionals as well as to business professionals working for government contractors or pursuing opportunities in the federal contracting arena.

DoD re-emphasizes importance of contractor past-performance reporting

The Defense Department’s contracting chief, Frank Kendall, has called for renewed emphasis on the importance of agency reporting on contractor performance.

In a January 9, 2014 memorandum to the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition workforce, DoD Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics points out that while the reporting goal for FY14 is 95 percent, compliance with the goal is at only 81.5 percent department-wide.

Only first quarter FY14 data are available at this point.  Past performance reports are to be filed in Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS).

An analysis of first quarter FY14 data shows that while five units within DoD have a reporting record of 90 percent or better, there are eight DoD units with 50 percent or lower reporting compliance.  Most of these are small units with a small amount of contracting activity.

A DoD unit with a significant number of contract closeouts coupled with a high rate of reporting non-compliance is the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA).  DCMA’s reporting percentage is 68.5 percent.

The  Navy, Army and Air Force have the highest numbers of contracts and contract closeouts.  While their levels of reporting are relatively high (85, 78, and 87 percent, respectively), each has a high number of overdue reports as of the end of the first quarter.  The Army has 8,810 past due reports, while the Navy and Air Force have 3,023 and 1,737 late reports, respectively.

The memorandum and its attachment can be seen here: USA000068-14-DPAP.

DoD acquisition workforce ordered to take ethics training annually

The Department of Defense’s top contracting chief has ordered that “all DoD acquisition workforce members complete ethics training annually beginning in calendar year 2014.”

The order came in the form of a memorandum dated January 15, 2014 from Frank Kendall, DoD’s undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.  The memo can be seen here: Mandatory_Annual_Ethics_Training_for_the_Defense_Acquisition_Workforce_USD_ATL_signed_15_Jan_14.  ”I expect 100 percent of the acquisition workforce to complete the training in 2014 and each year thereafter,” stated Kendall.

In his memorandum, Kendall points out that ethics training implements recommendations of the DoD Panel on Contracting Integrity and the National Academy of Public Administration as well as the department’s Better Buying Power 2.0 objective to improve the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce.

 

 

OFPP updates rules for how agencies should analyze ways to lower costs

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is reinvigorating the concepts of share- in-savings and lowering life-cycle costs of programs by analyzing all facets of the approach.

OFPP released the first update to Circular A-131 in more than two decades in the Federal Register on Dec. 26, 2013.  The Office of Management and Budget first issued A-131 in 1988 and updated it in 1993, but since then has only offered memos encouraging its use.

A-131 promotes the use of value engineering (VE), which is an organized effort by an integrated product team to evaluate functions of systems, facilities, services and supplies with an eye toward lowering costs and maintaining performance, quality, safety and reliability.

“VE challenges agencies to continually think about their mission and functions — in the most basic terms — in order to determine if their requirements are properly defined and if they have considered the broadest possible range of alternatives to optimize value,” OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan wrote in the notice. “Most importantly, VE enables agencies to achieve greater fiscal responsibility and operate within tighter budgetary constraints. By identifying and eliminating unnecessary program and acquisition costs that do not contribute to the value, function and performance of the product or service, VE can permit programs to continue delivering the same, or an even higher, level of service for less money — a critical capability for managing in a fiscally austere environment.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3534771/OFPP-updates-rules-for-how-agencies-should-analyze-ways-to-lower-costs