DFARS sets time DoD contractors have to request information release

Defense Department contractors must now submit requests to release  fundamental research from a project 10 days before doing so, an addition to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) says.

The DFARS says a DoD contractor can’t release to anyone outside its own  organization any unclassified information pertaining to the contract or the  program related to the contract unless the information was already in the public  domain or a request for approval is granted. Requests for approval should  identify the specific DoD information to be released, the medium to be used and  the purpose for the release.

The change regarding fundamental research was previously published as part of  a proposed  rule proposed in 2011 having to with safeguarding unclassified DoD  Information. Under the previously proposed rule, contractors would have had 45  days to submit the request before the information is to be released.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/rule-change-reduces-time-dod-contractors-have-request-information-release/2013-08-12

Boeing told to repay DoD after charging $2,286 for $10 part

The Pentagon’s purchasing agency says Boeing Co. (BA) must refund $13.7 million in excessive prices charged on spare parts, including a $10 device for which the defense contractor charged $2,286 apiece.

The Defense Logistics Agency “is seeking a refund from Boeing,” spokeswoman Michelle McCaskill said in an e-mailed statement. “The refund will be for the full $13.7 million identified” and will be requested by July 31, she said.

The agency overpaid about $1.3 million for 573 of the aluminum “bearing sleeves” used on an aircraft’s main landing-gear door that should have cost $10 each, the Pentagon’s inspector general said in an audit labeled “For Official Use Only.”

Wasteful spending resulted from agency personnel failing to negotiate good deals or to perform adequate oversight, and from Boeing’s failure to pass on savings it won from subcontractors, according to the complete audit report. A summary of the findings was reported by Bloomberg News on June 7.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-19/boeing-told-to-repay-after-charging-2-286-for-10-part.html

Longtime whistleblower at the Defense Contract Audit Agency keeps discontent alive

The Defense Contract Audit Agency has racked up its share of detractors over the years, being accused everything from slow processing of reports to leniency toward contractors who overbill the government.

But perhaps its most insistent critic is neither the Government Accountability Office nor a peacenik advocacy group, but one of its own auditors. George Duggan, a Northern California certified public accountant who has spent 25 years with DCAA, has been blasting his superiors since the 1990s, landing him more than once in the role of whistleblower in a Federal Claims Court and before the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Under Director Patrick Fitzgerald since 2009, DCAA has implemented a range of reforms, chief among them the importation of fresh management blood and a risk-based triage strategy for focusing on audits most likely to return money to the treasury. But Duggan insists the agency — and its overseers in the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office — could do better.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2013/05/longtime-dcaa-whistleblower-keeps-discontent-alive/63027/?oref=national_defense_nl.

Pentagon’s internal feud over contract auditing takes a new twist

The ongoing dispute over the quality of work at the Defense Contract Audit Agency took a new turn on Thursday with the release of a Defense Inspector General’s Office report criticizing the professional judgment used in DCAA assignments dating back to 2010 and earlier.

The March 7 report — which the deputy IG acknowledged was delayed for two years while the office’s staff focused more on DCAA hotlines than audits — covered quality assurance reviews on 50 DCAA reports completed in the first half of fiscal 2010.

“DCAA did not exercise professional judgment in performing 37 (74 percent) of the assignments reviewed,” the IG team concluded. “The abundance of non-compliances with standards identified in the 37 assignments evidenced the need for improvements in the area of competence at DCAA.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/03/pentagons-internal-feud-over-contract-auditing-takes-new-twist/61772/?oref=govexec_today_nl 

Defense auditors’ focus on riskiest contracts lacks plan, GAO finds

The controversial move by the Defense Contract Audit Agency to more selectively perform incurred costs audits lacks an implementation plan, a time frame and performance metrics, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Three years ago, DCAA’s newly installed Patrick Fitzgerald began refocusing resources and revamping audit procedures and training to stress quality over quantity. This type of triage meant raising by tenfold the threshold dollar amounts that trigger incurred cost audits of fixed-priced and cost-type contracts.

Though “this initiative appears promising,” GAO found, DCAA “has not fully developed the measures by which it will assess whether the initiative reduces the backlog in a manner that protects the taxpayers’ interests. Specifically, DCAA does not have a plan for how it will determine whether key features of the initiative, such as the revised risk criteria and the revised sampling percentages, should be adjusted in the future.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2012/12/defense-auditors-focus-riskiest-contracts-lacks-plan-gao-finds/60306/?oref=govexec_today_nl.

Acquisition workforce unprepared for challenges of sequestration

Most federal acquisition professionals are not prepared to quickly renegotiate contracts or handle other responsibilities if automatic budget cuts take effect next month, according to a survey released Monday, Dec. 17, 2012.  

Sequestration — the automatic spending cuts required if Congress and the White House fail to agree on a deficit reduction plan by Jan. 2 — would require acquisition employees to quickly renegotiate, cancel or change the scope of contracts. Of the 40 federal officials surveyed, including senior acquisition executives, contracting professionals, congressional staff and representatives from the oversight community, 60 percent said those skills were weak or nonexistent in the acquisition workforce.

Sequestration “will present a host of issues, such as contract terminations. There is the potential for millions in broken contracts, so this is a critical area,” one survey respondent said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20121217/ACQUISITION02/312170004/Acquisition-workforce-unprepared-challenges-sequestration?odyssey=nav%7Chead.

See survey at: http://www.pscouncil.org/i/p/Procurement_Policy_Survey/c/p/ProcurementPolicySurvey/Procurement_Policy_S.aspx

Hold lifted on Army acquisition chief’s nomination

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, removed the last road block to the lengthy process of confirming Heidi Shyu as the Army’s top acquisition official.

Shyu has served in the role since May 31, 2011 since Malcolm O’Neill, the former Army acquisition chief, resigned and recommended his deputy, Shyu, take over. The Obama administration waited until this past February to officially nominate Shyu.

The Army has since had to work with Cornyn and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who each placed a hold on her nomination for separate reasons.

Coburn held up the nomination because he was upset about the sluggish pace of the Army’s Improved Carbine Competition. He released his hold in August.

That left Cornyn as the sole barrier between Shyu and the confirmation of her nomination. He released his hold on Sept. 21st after the Defense Department agreed to investigate an arms dealer that supplied the U.S. Army with Mi-17 helicopters while also dealing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Read this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2012/09/21/hold-lifted-on-army-acquisition-chiefs-nomination/

DCAA reports $560B unaudited contract backlog

The Defense Contract Audit Agency released fewer audit reports last year than compared to 2008 in an effort to cut down a large backlog volume, Federal Times reports.

Incurred cost audits are contracts which government agencies have already paid for that have not yet been reviewed.

DCAA has an estimated backlog of incurred cost audits totaling around $560 billion, according to Federal Times.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.executivegov.com/2012/05/dcaa-reports-560b-unaudited-contract-backlog-elizabeth-robbins-comments/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+execgov+%28Executive+Gov%29.

Are we heeding or ignoring lessons of 1989?

In recent months there has been no shortage of comparisons between the budget reductions of the 1980s and 1990s and the likely impacts of the current draw-down. While some of the comparisons are instructive, there also are important lessons that can be drawn from the previous declines that could be tools to drive new thinking and help avoid the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, in some very key areas there is little evidence that those lessons are being widely heeded.

Specifically, during the last significant budget battle in the 1990s, the Defense Department, in the aftermath of the Cold War, reduced its total physical and personnel infrastructure by about one-third. In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office, 98 percent of all federal workforce reductions during the 1990s took place at DOD. Further, those reductions were taken on an almost linear basis—almost all functional areas were affected at a similar rate, including acquisition.

At the time, one key part of my portfolio at DOD was the acquisition workforce, which at DOD includes not just contracting but also program management, systems engineering, and a range of other high-end skills. We fought long and hard to prevent the Congress from imposing massive, arbitrary, across-the-board acquisition workforce reductions. Yet, even as we fought against immediate cataclysmic cuts, we nonetheless drove sizable reductions in that workforce on our own.

In so doing, we failed to fully account for the already evident and growing demographic imbalance in the workforce and for the fact that, despite the budget reductions, the department’s acquisition and technical needs were growing due to the technology revolution and DOD’s evolving mission requirements. As a result, more than a decade later, DOD finds itself facing greater workforce challenges than should be the case, as evidenced by the corrective action plan in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ 2009 workforce initiative. And within the civilian agencies, where attention to the acquisition (and broad technology) workforce is a more recent phenomenon, the problems are equally, if not more, acute.

Therein lies a critical lesson that we can learn from, but don’t appear ready to do so. The president’s budget request includes significant increases in positions and funding for the Defense Contract Audit Agency, Defense Contract Management Agency, and the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department (which enforces the Service Contract and Davis Bacon acts, among other things).

While these increases may well be needed, it is notable that these are all post-award, oversight organizations. Beyond significant but still limited funding to continue the defense acquisition workforce development fund, the budget has little in the way of meaningful proposals to increase other, critical operational and business skills in civilian agency acquisition and the broader technology fields so essential to the government’s ability to innovate and drive higher performance.

Although we haven’t yet seen the Republican budget proposal, it is unlikely that it will place more emphasis on developing critical skills in the federal workforce and may well go in the other direction.

But, even more importantly, there are no serious proposals on the table today to address the challenges current federal personnel rules and policies create for the government when it is competing for talent. It remains incredibly difficult within government to selectively hire, train, compensate, develop and manage personnel with especially necessary skills. Such strategies are commonplace in the private sector and play a key role in the ability of firms to compete for critical talent. The importance of these strategies – as well as the mandate for new thinking – only compounds during times of constrained resources.

One might ask why an industry executive is raising this issue. The answer is simple: As is true in any other market, the ability of government contractors to do what they do best – optimize efficiency and drive innovation – is tied in large part to the nature and quality of their partners on the other side of the table. The objective is not to supplant contractors; rather it is in the best interest of both government and industry to have a well-resourced, well-supported and well- trained partner workforce. In the end, we rise and fall together.

The Office of Personnel Management reported last year that the government retirement rate rose by nearly 30 percent in 2011 over 2010. Other OPM data continues to show that the government has about four times as many employees over 50 as it does under 30, and that the percentage of federal employees who are deemed to be “technical” has not grown in more than a decade, even as those percentages in the private sector have skyrocketed.

In short, there is a huge federal workforce problem staring us in the face that demands prompt, comprehensive and sustainable action. The lessons of history clearly illustrate what will happen if we don’t learn from them.

About the Author: Stan Soloway is president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Council.   This article was published by Washington Technology on Mar. 22, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/03/12/insights-soloway.aspx.

Survey says auditors have too much sway

The relationship between government contractors and federal acquisition officials has been on the decline for several years now, according to a new Grant Thornton survey, but companies say their relationships with contracting officers have deteriorated more in the last year than in the past.

Grant Thornton surveyed more than 100 government contractors in 2011 for its 17th annual Grant Thornton Government Contractor Industry Survey, which was released Feb. 20. Of those contractors, 78 percent of them said the government is inefficient. But half of that 78 percent put the primary blame on the contracting officers, while 28 percent blame the auditors.

In an analysis of the responses, Grant Thornton said it’s a shift in blame from prior surveys in which most respondents blamed the Defense Contract Audit Agency for inefficiencies in resolving contract issues.

“It appears that respondents have come to expect delays from the DCAA, and are becoming more and more frustrated by the unwillingness of contracting officers to assert the decision-making authority granted to them in the procurement regulations,” according to the survey.

Grant Thornton said in practice, the auditors have been granted greater influence on contracting officers in recent years. They now exert more pressure on the officers regarding the resolution of a contracting issue involving contract costs or a contractor’s business systems. However, auditors are only advisors to the contracting officers.

“Predictably, the impact of this structural infighting has been to slow down the resolution of routine issues, with the government often paying a far higher cost than would have been paid had the auditor been limited to an advisory role as defined in the regulations,” Grant Thornton said.

Despite the shifts, auditors and contractors have had a not-so-good relationship, although the better relationship with contracting officers is hurting too.

The relationship with auditors was rated as “fair or poor” by 19 percent of the more than 100 surveyed companies, compared with 11 percent in the 16th annual survey.

The relationship with contracting officers was rated as “fair or poor” by 10 percent of the participants in the 17th annual survey, compared with 5 percent in the prior survey.

About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement for Federal Computer Week. This article was published on Feb. 28, 2012 at http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2012/02/28/relationships-contracting-officer-auditor-contractor.aspx?s=wtdaily_290212.