Ambitious plan to reshape federal contracting emerges at OFPP

A new vision has emerged among top Obama administration officials for how they want federal contracting to look in a few years:

  • Key categories of spending — information technology, professional services, construction, etc. — will be aggregated across agencies and managed by dedicated executives who will focus on smoothing out pricing variability, analyzing spending data to optimize procurement strategies, culling duplicative contracts, and negotiating better deals based on overall governmentwide demand.
  • New digital tools will help procurement agents navigate the myriad contracts available. Those tools will provide quick access to the range of prices being paid at other agencies for comparable products and services to ensure fair pricing.
  • Databases on spending across agencies will inform smarter procurement approaches that leverage government buying power.

Known as Category Management, the approach is used widely in industry and in the United Kingdom, say proponents like Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Anne Rung.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/policy/2015/03/16/data-driven-contracting-feature/24852905/

OFPP initiates 360-degree reviews of the acquisition process

Vendors now can really tell agencies how they feel about their acquisition processes and procedures.

The guidelines for Acquisition 360, a Yelp-like approach to rating the acquisition process, arrived last Wednesday from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) Administrator Anne Rung. The nine-page memo details how agencies should seek customer feedback from contractors and internal stakeholders on how well the contracting process went for specific procurements.

“This effort is not intended to be used to rate individual contracting officers, program managers, or integrated project teams (IPTs), or to compare procuring offices generally, as the complexity of procurements varies greatly among agencies, and unexpected challenges can arise,” Rung wrote in the memo. “However, these tools are meant to help agencies identify strengths and weaknesses with industry partnerships so they can make internal improvements on the planning and making of contract awards.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3821690/OFPP-initiates-360-degree-reviews-of-the-acquisition-process

NASA launches ‘paper-less’ procurement packages

It’s not rocket science to know that digitizing paper-based processes can save money and time, but a NASA field center is setting an example for how to best tackle the task.

The Acquisition Division of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has digitized hundreds of thousands of documents as part of its plan to make the procurement process paperless. The project began as “Work Different” in October 2012, and 20 months later the Interactive Acquisition Network (IAN) was rolled out.

“We chose paper-less, not paper-free because there’s always going to be some amount of paper,” said Martin Johnson, manager of the Acquisition Strategic Planning Office.

IAN is built on three Microsoft tools that were already part of JPL: Office 2013, SharePoint 2013 and OneNote 2013. Working with the JPL Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), the division created a system that electronically manages from start to finish all procurement packages.

“Subcontract packages are built on OneNote template-driven forms, then routed though SharePoint workflow using InfoPath 2013 forms to gather reviews, comments and approvals,” Steve Simpson, the acquisition technical lead for Work Different, and Wayne Wong, an enterprise apps software engineer at JPL, wrote in an announcement.

Keep reading this article at: http://gcn.com/articles/2015/02/18/paperless-procurement-nasa.aspx

6 simple fixes for the federal procurement process

As the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, our government has a rigorous procurement process in place to protect the American taxpayer, designed to facilitate helping Uncle Sam buy what he needs to perform his myriad missions efficiently, effectively, and economically. Unfortunately, the federal government fails to spend taxpayer money wisely with such frequency that newspapers and television reports are rife with examples of overspending, failed projects and bloated contracts.

Procurement goes through reforms every few decades, but the current environment could not be worse. From the Brooks Act in 1972 to the Service Acquisition Reform Act in 2003, much has been done to address the “mechanics of procurement,” but little has been done to address the human aspect of procurement, either on the government or the contractor sides. From a $10 stapler to a $1.2 billion failed technology system, our government tries to legislate fixes, but it is hard to legislate human nature.

There are things that can be done without formal change; leaders need to lead, managers must manage, and the workforce must exhibit good judgment, be honest and realistic, achieve value, and learn to manage risk. Procurement personnel need to be well trained, their workload must be better managed, and they need to possess strong problem-solving skills. Contractors need to help the federal government with its procurement issues, provide the right solutions, and be realistic about what it can do.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/02/20/procurement-fix-legislation-rule/23754523/

Two-week contracting course, beginning Mar. 23rd, appeals to both business and government sectors

“Mission Focused Contracting” — a two-week course that is perhaps the most intensive and comprehensive of any of the courses offered by The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech — begins on Mar. 23, 2015.    It’s designed to create benefits for both business people as well as agency officials involved in the government contracting process.

  • From a business perspective, this course is a boot camp that’s designed to provide insights and details about the government’s entire acquisition process.  Business people will leave this course better prepared to submit bids for government work, creating a positive impact on business growth and the bottom line.
  • From a government standpoint, this is a course originally developed by the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) — that can be used to satisfy both FAC-C and DAWIA certification requirements — educates contracting officers on the entire acquisition process, from initial meetings with internal customers to completing the contract closeout process — and everything in-between.

All participants have the opportunity to learn and apply problem-solving and negotiation skills in a highly-interactive class setting.

Known as CON 120 – Mission Focused Contracting, this course  includes a complete review of DAU’s CON 110, 111 and 112, on-line courses that are normally prerequisites for CON 120.   Because a review of CON 110, 111 and 112 is built-in to Georgia Tech’s CON 120 offering, students are not required to complete any prerequisites to attend.

As a part of this course, business and agency personnel learn side-by-side how the government:

  • Completes a market research report.
  • Develops a bid or proposal package.
  • Evaluates proposals and award contracts.
  • Monitors contractor performance, apply remedies, and make proper contract payments.
  • Modifies contracts, conduct negotiations, exercise options, and complete the contract closeout process.

As a result:

  • Businesses discover new growth opportunities and learn how to develop more competitive bid proposals.
  • Government contracting officials gain a better understanding of their role as important members of their agency’s acquisition team.

This 10-day course is very reasonably priced at $2,050 and is next offered March 213 through April 3, 2015 in world-class facilities on the Georgia Tech campus in midtown Atlanta. For more information or to register, please visit https://pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-120-mission-focused-contracting.

Fixing acquisition: An opportunity lost?

We’ve spent more than a decade ignoring a simple warning of the 2002 Volcker Commission: We are trying to run a 21st century government on a mid-20th century, industrial age business model. A series of surveys of acquisition professionals the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton have conducted during the last 12 years have consistently flagged the implications of that omission for the federal acquisition workforce. Our 2014 survey, released Jan. 22, shows that the government remains mired in old models. This should be disturbing to anyone who recognizes the critical role acquisition plays in the execution of the government’s missions.

Consider this: In all seven surveys, respondents—who are all government personnel, many from the senior echelons of the workforce—overwhelmingly identified general business acumen, risk identification and mitigation, negotiating skills and knowledge of buying complex technology capabilities as significant gaps in the federal acquisition workforce’s skills. Other, more obvious forces were also identified as inhibiting optimal performance—including the budget insanity that has made it nearly impossible for any agency to optimize operations during the last several years—but the general conclusion has been the same for almost the entire time we have been conducting this survey. Simply put, the workforce does not have the skills needed to do the job as well as everyone wants, and demands. This not a failure of the workforce, but of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change in how we train, educate and support that workforce.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/fixing-acquisition-opportunity-lost/104070

What if the problem isn’t the rules, but the people?

One school of thought holds that the rules and regulations governing the federal acquisition process are so byzantine that the government simply can’t get access to the latest technology in a timely fashion.

But what if the problem isn’t the rules, but the people who must work within them?

At an event in Washington on Tuesday, the National Academy of Public Administration and ICF International unveiled the results of their Federal Leaders Digital Insight Study. Among the subjects covered in the survey of senior federal leaders was the technology acquisition system.

The study found that while there certainly are problems in buying and implementing the latest technology in government, “many federal leaders believe that these problems are the result of execution of the procurement process rather than regulatory requirements.” While nearly 40 percent of the more than 500 survey respondents had some influence in the procurement process, only one of them cited problems with the Federal Acquisition Regulation in written comments.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/federal-news/fedblog/2015/01/what-if-problem-isnt-rules-people/102792/

Civilian Army official charged in bribery case

An Army contracting official was charged on Jan. 28, 2015 with trying to extort a half-million dollars in bribes from two executives of a Fairfax, Va., company after a months-long sting operation in which one of the executives wore a wire.

James Glenn Warner, 44, of Manassas, Va., appeared briefly in federal district court in Alexandria, telling a judge that he could not afford a lawyer after prosecutors informed him he was being charged with bribery. He was ordered detained until another hearing Friday.

Detailed in a 34-page criminal complaint by FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Pollack, Warner’s alleged misdeeds and efforts to avoid detection range from cunning to comical. He initially communicated his demand on a note tucked inside a restaurant menu and at one point patted down one of the executives for a recording device, according to the affidavit. But he missed it and was caught on video discussing bribe money, according to the affidavit.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/civilian-army-official-charged-in-bribery-case/2015/01/28/803e6b34-a723-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html

Survey: Acquisition workforce falling behind on training

The buyers of products and services across government are not receiving the fresh training or modern skill sets needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today’s agency missions, according to a survey of federal acquisition employees released on Thursday.

“The acquisition workforce’s skills in areas such as business acumen, negotiation, risk mitigation and understanding complex information technology fall well short of what acquisition professionals say is required,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. PSC and Grant Thornton prepared the seventh edition of a biannual survey titled “A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?”

“This not a failure of the workforce,” Soloway said, “but a result of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change” in education and support.

In a session with reporters, he cited frustrations over a “growing gap” between acquisition specialists and the end users who increasingly say the technology being delivered isn’t suitable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/survey-acquisition-workforce-falling-behind-training/103512/

See more on this topic at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1719

Contract formation is featured in March course offering

What is the Government’s simplified acquisition process?    What is meant by the term sealed bid?  Did you know that the Government can enter into contracts on the basis of both competitive and noncompetitive negotiated arrangements?  How does the Government deal with required and preferred sources of supplies and services?  What must be done to ensure competition?  What are the policies for policies and procedures for pricing negotiated contracts and contract modifications?  What are the policies and procedures for filing bid protests?

To answer these questions — and explain the entire process that federal agencies follow to formulate a contract — Georgia Tech’s Contracting Education Academy is presenting a one-week course, beginning March 2, 2015, entitled CON 090-3: Contract Formation in the FAR.

The course is designed for contracting professionals, but is open to anyone who is interested in gaining insights into the federal acquisition process.  Typically, both federal contracting officers and contractors take this course.  This course provides vital instruction for Government contracting personnel as well as important insights for contractors.

By attending CON 090-3, students learn how to locate, interpret, and apply the acquisition regulations applicable to federal agencies.  CON 090-3 is the third 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.

For more information on this course and to register, please visit: http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-090-3-contract-formation-far.

Georgia Tech offers the entire CON 090 course series in world-class facilities on its campus in midtown Atlanta.  For groups of 10 or more, Georgia Tech also brings any of its government contracting courses to your workplace.

For details on any of our courses, please visit http://www.pe.gatech.edu/Subjects/Acquisition-Government-Contracting.   To make arrangements for any of the courses to be taught at your place of work, email us at: info@ContractingAcademy.gatech.edu or give us a call at 404-894-6109.