Longtime procurement expert Dan Gordon set to retire

Come mid-summer, one of the workhorses of federal procurement is set to retire after decades of direct and advisory service to the government.

Dan Gordon, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and now an associate dean at George Washington University Law School, told FCW in an interview that he has been gradually pulling back from his many advisory roles in the last few months with an eye to retiring by July.

“The goal for July 1 is full retirement,” he said, adding that after that he plans to focus on his continuing study of Chinese languages and then, whatever comes.

Looking back, Gordon said his enthusiasm for the federal government’s procurement system is undimmed, even in the face of the increasing complexity and technological changes that have many calling for reform of the system.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/15/gordon-set-to-retire.aspx

Thornberry’s acquisition bill: Solid contact, but no home run

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s much-anticipated defense acquisition reform bill makes considerable strides toward disrupting a procurement process that is widely considered broken, but the bill is far from a fix-all.

Titled “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act,” the bill by the House Armed Services Committee chairman synthesizes more than 1,000 proposals from an eclectic mix of Hill staffers, think tankers, industry experts and Pentagon brass.

The bill begins by attempting to improve the skills of acquisition personnel. In the same spirit as Rep. Thornberry’s March 23 remarks at CSIS, it strikes widely, by permanently extending the Department’s Workforce Development Fund; and narrowly, by directing greater training resources towards building expertise in market research. It also strengthens the foundation of the “dual-track career path,” a valuable staffing strategy that allows military personnel to pursue a primary career in combat arms and a secondary career in acquisition. Guided by this language, the system should see a much-needed injection of human capital.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/04/thornberrys-acquisition-bill-solid-contact-no-home-run/109642

The real problem with acquisition training

The decades-old debate about proper training for the federal acquisition corps is threatening to erupt in a donnybrook. Lines are being drawn over whom or what to blame for the perceived lack of critical thinking, business and technical knowledge, negotiation skills and creativity among procurement professionals.

Acquisition training institutions have come under fire for failing to renovate their curricula to reflect the predominance of service contracting, the growing need to attract new vendors with innovative techniques and products, the disruptive influence of technology on acquisition and the workforce, and government adoption of commercial models such as data analytics, strategic sourcing, category management and agile procurement.

A recent ASI Government analysis shows there’s a growing gap between the perception of workforce skills held by acquisition leaders and the self-assessment of the professionals they manage. Members of the acquisition workforce have a much more positive view than their leaders.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/04/real-problem-acquisition-training/109138/

House committee unveils DoD procurement reform bill

The House Armed Services Committee released a highly anticipated bill that is meant to streamline the Defense Department’s acquisition process and better train it’s procurement officers.

The legislation would focus on four areas of the acquisition process: workforce training, chain of command, streamlining reporting requirements and overall acquisition strategy.

“More than being monetarily wasteful, dysfunction in the acquisition process is sapping America’s technological edge and robbing our military of agility in the face of multiplying threats,” says Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in a joint statement with committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Thornberry went on to say the DoD’s acquisition system is slow and cumbersome and that it delivers “vital equipment years late that underperforms and is difficult and costly to maintain.”

The legislation (H.R.1597) would require procurement officers to be trained in the commercial market to close the knowledge gap between government and industry. It would also require ethics training specifically aimed at the acquisition process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/hasc-unveils-dod-procurement-reform-bill/2015-03-30

Also see: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2015/03/house-defense-acquisition-reform-plan-seen-step-right-direction/108655/ 

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