Avoid single-bid procurements by engaging early with industry, GAO says

Reaching out to industry early in the procurement process can prevent situations where only one vendor bids on a contract that is supposed to be competitively awarded, the Government Accountability Office says.

As part of a report dated May 5, GAO auditors reviewed the Defense Department’s single-bid contracts, whose combined dollar value is in the billions annually.

They also spoke with vendors, who said they’re more likely to bid on a contract if they hear about it as early as possible. They often make their decisions about whether to bid before a request for proposals is published and the 30-day solicitation period ensues.

Vendors may not want to spend the resources to prepare a bid if they don’t feel confident in their prospects of winning the award, especially if there’s an incumbent contractor that appears to have performed well so far.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/avoid-single-bid-procurements-engaging-early-industry-gao-says/2014-05-06

To improve the contracting workforce, improve training

The need for additional staff resources is the most frequently cited response to improving government contracting. In recent years, considerable resources have been invested in hiring and educating our biggest asset, human capital. This additional staffing and education has so far met with mixed results. This is because people are only as effective as the experience and education they have received.

Contracting executives frequently mention the need to develop judgment, reasoning, and analytical skills, as well as to obtain real-world experience. These goals can be met through exposure to diverse acquisition and operational scenarios. Three years of varied contracting experience (simplified acquisition, major systems, source selection, and acquisition planning) is better than 10 years of doing the same, simplified, repetitive tasks over and over, yet still moving up the career ladder. When that situation occurs, specialists get up to senior levels but with limited experience and knowledge, inhibiting their ability to assume the leadership responsibilities they were intended to.

This occurs because agencies want to fill their positions, even though most applicants did not have the opportunity to obtain the necessary variety of experience, which may require moving from one position to another.

Many smaller agencies cannot offer internships or rotations to round out their experience because of the limited nature of their acquisition mission. In some cases, the agency or firm has the overall resources, but is not organized to manage professional development.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140530/BLG06/305300015/To-improve-contracting-workforce-improve-training


Federal IT reform could include bonuses for procurement staff

One plan to overhaul how the government buys and builds information technology systems would establish an awards program for excellent IT acquisition staff, including “monetary incentives.”

Language in the plan passed by the House multiple times – most recently last week — directs the Office of Personnel Management to develop a program “to recognize excellent performance by federal employees and teams in the acquisition of information systems and IT,” a summary of  the legislation said. The bill also “requires such policies to include guidance regarding the award of cash bonuses and other incentives.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/05/federal-it-reform-could-mean-bonuses-procurement-staff/85321

DOL could go it alone with acquisition platform

The Labor Department is seeking information on commercial capabilities that could help it better manage acquisition information as a subscription.

The department is interested in a dashboard that could provide access to regular acquisition news updates, and access to Government Accountability Office and other legal decisions, it writes in a May 12 request for information posted to Federal Business Opportunities.

This platform would also provide easy access to forms, templates and checklists, as well as other acquisition related tools and information.

Although the post is not a direct solicitation, even the department’s interest in such technology is notable given the concurrent efforts already underway within government to address the acquisition process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/dol-could-go-it-alone-acquisition-platform/2014-05-15

Public-private group envisions ‘acquisition of the future’

A group of industry and government procurement officials looking to build a new technological and procedural path for the acquisition community is spreading a wider net for participants.

In a FOSE panel presentation on Acquisition of the Future’s aspirations, one of the drivers of the movement, ASI Government CEO Kymm McCabe, said the effort is aimed not at finding a specific solution, but in starting a conversation. For it to gain traction, the conversation that has been taking place for the last few months among a relatively small number of CIOs and industry officials has to spread more widely among the tens of thousands of government acquisition professionals.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/05/14/aof-looks-for-new-acquisition-path.aspx 

FAR Part 1: ‘If it’s not prohibited, it’s allowed’

The May issue of Contract Management magazine, the publication of the National Contract Management Association, featured an article called “Secrets of Superstar Contracting Professionals.” The article (which unfortunately is not available online to non-NCMA members) is by Christoph Minarchik, a lawyer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and offers a quick guide to overall skills and competencies that freshly minted contracting professionals need to become outstanding in their profession.

I was happy (and, I will confess, flattered) to see, in a section of the article called “Innovation and Risk-Taking,” a short quote from Part 1.102(d) of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, reading in its entirety as follows:

“In exercising initiative, Government members of the Acquisition Team may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interests of the Government and is not addressed in the FAR, nor prohibited by law (statute or case law), Executive order or other regulation, that the strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority.”

The author went on to state that these words have “reached a near-legendary status in the contracting community,” and that “hushed whispers of it echo through acquisition program offices, [where] grizzled contracting officers vigorously defend it as they pound the table to bolster their case.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2014/05/far-part-1.aspx?admgarea=TC_Management

OFPP, FAI launch new acquisition training and certification

The Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting has not been updated since 2008, but that’s about to change — and the revised FAC-C will include specialized training for IT procurement.

A May 7, 2014 memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) outlined the new certification, and OFPP Associate Administrator Joanie Newhart and Tony Grayson, acquisition program executive at the Federal Acquisition Institute, detailed the curriculum and the thinking behind it during a May 13 presentation at FOSE.

“Nobody’s happier than I am that this certification has been issued,” Newhart said.  The old FAC-C is general and lacks a specific course on Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) fundamentals — whereas the Defense Department’s Defense Acquisition University (DAU) has long offered such training, along with a wide range of advanced coursework.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/Articles/2014/05/14/OFPP-FAI-new-acquisition-training.aspx?p=1 

Federal contracting’s bright side

Reviewing government contracting trends over time often yields some surprising results. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t.

One result is while the acquisition environment may appear dire in the short run, the overall picture is quite optimistic. For example, while spending increased dramatically during the early 2000s, owing to two of the longest wars in American history, the “severe” drop off in government contracting that started in 2010 leaves spending still almost 40 percent higher than in 2002, adjusted for inflation. Not so bad for the government contractor community!

Of course, contract spending by the Department of Defense dwarfs that of all other agencies combined. Yet, while some agencies have seen significant drops, the overall reduction is mitigated by the huge amount of spending that continues.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140508/BLG06/305080010/Federal-contracting-s-bright-side

Kendall: DoD must act to train, retain acquisition talent

The Defense Department needs more training for its acquisition workforce, as many of the department’s seasoned program managers are set retire, the DoD’s top acquisition official said.

“Seasoned and experienced program managers are retiring in record numbers and newly-hired junior members of the workforce are not yet properly trained and qualified to take on the,” said Under Secretary Of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall.

Currently, about 21,000 members of the DoD acquisition workforce are eligible for retirement and in the coming years 25,000 more will become eligible, Kendall told the Senate Armed Services Committee at an April 30 hearing.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/kendall-dod-must-act-train-retain-acquisition-talent/2014-04-30 

Go to the hearing page (webcast and prepared testimony available) at: http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/14-04-30-reform-of-the-defense-acquisition-system


GSA’s new contracting policy tackles IG’s concerns about management interference

The General Services Administration is attempting to clarify to managers and vendors alike the proper approach to overseeing the schedules program.

A February memo and policy is part of the way GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service is trying to address a 2013 inspector general report that found examples of improper management interference on decisions by contracting officers under the schedules program.

“We’ve taken a number of actions to reinforce proper procurement while also focusing on doing more for our customers to save them time and money in acquisition,” said Tom Sharpe, commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “We’ve moved out on training. We’ve moved out on providing tools for the multiple award schedules, and we are in the process of standardizing part numbers, instilling horizontal pricing pressure. The schedules are priced vertically, the most favored customer price, so we are looking at comparison across suppliers to provide horizontal pricing pressure, and we’ve taken on initiatives to make the processes within the multiple award schedules faster.”

In June, the GSA IG found FAS managers improperly interfered with negotiations for new schedule contracts for Carahsoft, Deloitte and Oracle. GSA executives ended up suspending one senior official in light of what the IG found and have been taking steps over the last nine months to clarify and reinforce the role of managers in schedule contract negotiations.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/74/3609018/GSA-contracting-policy-tackles-IG-concerns-over-autonomy