Procurement chief: Measure contractor performance

Joe Jordan, the top White House procurement official, recently told a gathering of government officials and contractors how he and his wife sometimes travel to New England and look for places to stay along the way. He wasn’t giving travel advice, though.

The remarks, delivered at an acquisition conference in Washington, aimed to highlight a way the government can improve how it does business.

“It really bothers me at a personal, visceral level that when I look for a bed and breakfast because my wife and I are going away for the weekend, I have vastly more descriptive information … about the quality of bed and breakfasts within a three-hour drive of D.C. than what many agencies have when they answer to a $20 million IT services contract,” Jordan said. “That’s ridiculous.”

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Sharing contractor performance data in eight easy steps

The Obama administration is pressing the acquisition workforce to get better at telling other agencies, through a governmentwide online performance database, how well contractors do their jobs.

Joe Jordan, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, wants to improve the quantity and quality of data agencies put into the Federal Award Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).

FAPIIS is the foundation for good data, Jordan stressed in the memo, dated March 6.

“However, ” he added, “agencies must increase their use of these tools, as underreporting performance information leaves the government vulnerable to poor acquisition outcomes in the future.”

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OFPP tells agencies to get serious about tracking contractor performance

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is attempting, for a third time, to get  agencies to use the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) more  consistently.

So instead of asking and encouraging, OFPP Administrator Joe Jordan is setting  specific goals for agencies.

In a new memo to chief acquisition officers and  senior procurement executives, Jordan sets three-year targets for agencies to  enter vendor-performance information into the governmentwide database.

This year, the goals vary depending on how often the agency is currently entering  data into PPIRS. For instance, departments inputting data for 60 percent or more  of their contracts, must improve to 85 percent by Sept. 30. For agencies using  PPIRS 30 percent to 60 percent of the time, their goal now is 75  percent. And for those agencies using PPIRS less than 30 percent of the time,  their goal is 65 percent.

“This required contract-administration duty can significantly reduce the risk to  the government on future awards, so agencies must take bold steps to ensure that  all critical performance information is made available in the Past Performance  Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) in a timely manner, and to the maximum extent  practicable, eliminate duplicative, paper-based past performance evaluation  surveys generated outside these systems,” Jordan wrote.

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DoD AT&L chief: sequestration “unconscionable”; endorses performance based logistics

“It is utterly unconscionable — utterly unconscionable — that Congress will allow sequestration to go on.”

Those are the words of Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s head of acquisition, speaking to an audience of several hundred New York financial types. Kendall is just back from a trip to Afghanistan and he had heard from soldiers there who worried they would be furloughed if sequestration goes through. They won’t be — military personnel salaries are exempted from sequestration, so only federal civilians will be affected — but worry and uncertainty can weaken any organization, and Kendall was visibly angry as he spoke.

But sequestration wasn’t the only issue on Kendall’s agenda at yesterday’s conference on the aerospace and defense sector put on by the Cowen Group.

Kendall told the audience of several hundred Wall Street financiers that he planned to push for more competitive prototyping, more Performance Based Logistics (PBL) contracts, and more of the wide array of acquisition reforms the Pentagon groups under the rubric Better Buying Power 2.

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Questions surround Special Operations’ body armor recall

U.S. Special Operations Command is recalling thousands of body armor plates after discovering a manufacturer’s defect that could put operators at risk. At the same time defense industry experts are questioning whether SOCOM may have added to the risk by searching for the lightest plates possible.

Throughout the war, elite troops have worn body armor known as the Special Operations Forces Equipment Advanced Requirements, or SPEAR, made by Ceradyne Defense. The lightweight, ceramic plates have proven to be effective at stopping enemy rifle bullets and weigh significantly less than the conventional Army’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

A little less than a year ago, government inspectors discovered a defect in Ceradyne’s new SPEAR Gen III plates. The special, metal “crack arrestor” in the back of the plate began separating or “delaminating” from the plate’s ceramic material. The arrestor was designed to reduce the spreading of cracks in the ceramic when dropped – a common characteristic of all ceramic body armor plates.

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DHS contractor allegedly fixed an airplane with paper clips

Jerry Edward Kuwata, formerly an executive at an airplane repair company with government contracts, pleaded guilty to “recklessly endangering the safety of aircraft,” the Justice Department announced.

Kuwata, a former executive with WECO Aerospace Systems Inc., concealed facts about repairs from customers and did not ensure that repairs were done according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, said U.S Attorney Benjamin Wagner of the Eastern District of California. WECO’s clients included the Homeland Security Department and the City of Los Angeles.

“This conduct recklessly endangered the safety of aircraft that used the parts repaired by WECO,” Wagner said.

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Pentagon withholds $47 million from Lockheed on F-35

The Pentagon is withholding $46.5 million from Lockheed Martin Corp, its biggest contractor, because of continued flaws with a business system used to track costs and schedules for the F-35 fighter.

The money held back was assessed against two F-35 production contracts and a smaller development agreement with the Israeli Air Force that’s managed by the U.S. The funds equal 5 percent of periodic billings against the contracts for reimbursement of money spent by the company performing the work.

The F-35 has been criticized by Pentagon officials and lawmakers for test-performance failings, delays and its ballooning cost. At an estimated $395.7 billion for eventual production of 2,443 planes, the cost is up 70 percent, adjusted for inflation, from the $233 billion projected when Lockheed Martin won the program from Boeing Co. in late 2001.

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GSA appoints a new duo to run SAM

After a false start on the System for Award Management in August, General Services Administration officials have shifted the management of SAM to two of the agency’s top executives, a spokeswoman said Oct. 22.

Mary Davie, acting Federal Acquisition Service commissioner, and Casey Coleman, GSA’s CIO, are now responsible to getting SAM working, said Jackeline Stewart, deputy press secretary at GSA.

“GSA will ensure that the short-term fixes and the long-term vision of creating a common acquisition platform across government rest squarely with the leadership of our acquisitions and technical experts,” Stewart said.

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FAR Council proposes standardizing past performance evaluations

A proposed rule change to the Federal Acquisition Regulation would standardize past performance evaluation factors and rating categories above the simplified acquisition threshold.

Genesis of the proposed rule, printed Sept. 6 in the Federal Register, stems from language in the fiscal 2012 national defense authorization bill which requires the FAR Council to craft standards for the timeliness and completeness of past performance database submissions.

Among the proposed changes is addition of two tables to past performance requirements in FAR 42.15 (Part 42 generally addresses contract administration and audits).

One table would be for performance in general, the other for small business subcontracting; in both cases, contracting officers would select an exception, very good, satisfactory, marginal or unsatisfactory rating for the contractor.

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DoD temporarily alters vendor registration rule due to SAM’s launch shortcomings

In order to avoid delays in “the timely processing of awards,” the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has ordered the temporary suspension of rules requiring vendor registration in the System for Award Management (SAM).

SAM replaced Central Contractor Registration (CCR), the government’s long-standing vendor database.  SAM was launched during the last weekend in July 2012 when CCR vendor data was migrated to the new system.

SAM’s late July implementation included not only CCR but Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), the Online Representation and Certification Application (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) as well.  “Performance issues” involving the new SAM database prompted DoD’s action to suspend for “a brief period” the requirement that vendors be registered in SAM before being eligible for a contract award.

Since SAM’s launch there have been widespread reports and complaints from vendors and contracting officers alike that they cannot access vendor records or are experiencing slow performance within the on-line system.  The General Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for SAM.  GSA contracted with IBM to manage the design and implementation of SAM.

In the August 21, 2012 order to temporarily suspend SAM registration requirements, DoD noted that the action would provide “a brief period of time for achieving resolution of the remaining [performance] issues.”

DoD notes that “GSA has been taking aggressive action to resolve these issues promptly.”   Earlier news reports indicated that GSA issued IBM a “letter of concern” on Aug. 7.  In the official notice, GSA told IBM to develop a plan of action and milestones for how they will make SAM work more smoothly.  GSA hired IBM under an eight-year, $74.4 million contract in 2010.

DoD’s order was issued in the form of a “class deviation” which allows the department to suspend Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Defense FAR Supplement (DFARS) requirements pertaining to vendor registration  and annual representations and certifications.

In its order DoD notes that contractors are still required to be registered in SAM prior to submitting invoices.

Before the DoD order, all contractors were required to be registered in SAM, and all contracting officers were required to check SAM before making a contract award.

Until SAM is functional, DoD’s contracting officials are directed to obtain paper or electronic copies of vendors’ representations and certifications in lieu of accessing this documentation via that portion of SAM that used to be the stand-alone ORCA system.

The EPLS migration to SAM has been reversed, thus restoring that website as a site operating on its own.  Because of this action, contracting officers once again have the ability to conduct pre-award checks in EPLS to ensure prospective contractors are not on the list of entities excluded from federal contracts.

DoD’s class deviation remains in effect for an indefinite period of time until rescinded.

The SAM User Guide can be downloaded at:

© 2012 The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech.  All Rights Reserved.  Permission to reprint this article is hereby granted with the stipulations that the article is attributed to The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech and that the following URL is given:

August 24, 2012 – 5:33 am EST