Pentagon’s sole-source contracts continue to dwindle, says GAO

The Defense Department is doing its part to curb the number of sole-source contracts awarded without competition and is properly justifying—in most instances—their use to help develop small, disadvantaged businesses, an audit found.

The Government Accountability Office’s Sept. 9 report to the House and Senate Armed Services committees evaluated sole-source contracts worth more than $20 million under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program and found that the Pentagon in fiscal 2013 continued a “significant decrease” in such contracts. It awarded five in 2013, each worth $20 million, compared with 27 contracts valued at $2 billion in 2009.

All five of the recent contracts were justified as being “in the best interest of the government,” though three of them failed to fully meet Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements that relevant officials sign off on them in a timely manner.

Fifty-five sole-source contracts were awarded under the 8(a) program over the past four years, the report found, led by the Army with 37, the Navy with 13, the Air Force with two, and three elsewhere in the department.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2014/09/pentagons-sole-source-contracts-continue-dwindle-says-gao/93899/

‘Change in direction’ for Better Buying Power 3.0, says AT&L chief

Defense Department officials are preparing to roll out a third iteration of its Better Buying Power initiative aimed at reforming defense acquisition, and the new version will focus on products, innovation and engineering.

Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0 is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks–possibly as soon as Sept. 12—according to Frank Kendall, deputy Defense secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, who spoke Sept. 4 at an industry event in Newport, Rhode Island.

The first BBP focused on rules and business practices, and the second emphasized critical thinking and the acquisition workforce. Kendall said that the latest version is “a change in emphasis – it’s not a fundamental change in direction.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.c4isrnet.com/article/20140905/C4ISRNET14/309050004/Kendall-Change-direction-Better-Buying-Power-3-0

Pentagon considers spliting Air Force One contract to gain more competition

The U.S. Air Force will decide by December whether Boeing will have to share a multibillion-dollar project to provide the next Air Force One jetliner for the president, the service said.

The Air Force has budgeted $1.6 billion for research through 2019 and is “working toward release” of a request for proposals early next year with a schedule to purchase the first aircraft in fiscal 2016, according to spokesman Charles Gulick.

The military hasn’t ruled out buying 747-8 passenger planes from Chicago-based Boeing and then using other contractors to outfit them for the special needs of the presidential fleet. Airbus Group NV, the European aircraft company, said last year that it wouldn’t challenge Boeing to build the plane.

“The Air Force does not yet have an approved acquisition strategy,” and intends to present one “in fall 2014” for review by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board, Gulick said in an e-mailed statement.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140828/BIZ/140829035/Air-Force-may-make-Boeing-share-work-on-presidential-planes

Strengthening the workforce: DoD acquisition, requirements and results

“Defense acquisition is a human endeavor.”

These are familiar words to anyone who knows Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary for Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and what he sees as the heart of modernizing the DoD acquisition system.

Kendall and his staff have made notable improvements to the system in recent years, including the major focus on workforce professionalism, training and education initiatives undertaken by the Defense Acquisition University (DAU).

It’s no secret DoD has an abundance of rules and regulations. In a sequestration environment, which will be the greatest administrative challenge of the era for the Pentagon, the workforce and the people are the most important ingredient in the DoD acquisition recipe.

DoD’s Better Buying Power (BBP) mandate establishes “increased professional qualification requirements for all acquisition specialties.” With BBP 3.0 expected in a few months, Kendall reports the new version will work towards eliminating barriers to entry. He wants to build stronger relationships with the requirements, technology, warfighter and other communities. I participated in the recent Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) symposium, the inaugural event to highlight DoD’s BBP acquisition initiative and its application to government, industry and academia.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140829/BLG06/308290008/Strengthening-workforce-DoD-acquisition-requirements-results

DOD releases RFP for $11 billion health record project

After more than a year of preparation, the Defense Department released its request for proposals for its new electronic health record (EHR) procurement on Aug. 25. The single-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract is expected to have a total lifetime cost of $11 billion through 2030.

The Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization was created after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel scrapped a plan to combine DOD’s and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ EHR systems into a single solution in May 2013.

DHMSM seeks a single, commercial product to be adapted to the military’s unique set of needs and requirements, which include full interoperability with the VA’s VistA health records system and private-sector interoperability standards. It will reach a population of about 9.6 million service members, retirees and dependents.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/Articles/2014/08/26/DOD-DHMSM-RFP.aspx

Big win for Amazon: 1st provider authorized to handle sensitive DoD workloads in cloud

Amazon Web Services has become the first commercial cloud provider authorized to handle the Defense Department’s most sensitive unclassified data.

Today’s announcement that AWS has achieved a provisional authority to operate under DOD’s cloud security model at impact levels 3-5 is a major win for the company, as it allows DOD customers to provision commercial cloud services for the largest chunks of their data.

In technical speak, the provisional ATO granted by the Defense Information Systems Agency means DOD customers can use AWS’ GovCloud – an isolated region entirely for U.S. government customers – through a private connection routed to DOD’s network. DOD customers can now secure AWS cloud services through a variety of contract vehicles.

In layman’s terms, AWS is the first company with the ability to take any and all of DOD’s unclassified data to the cloud.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cloud-computing/2014/08/big-win-amazon-first-provider-authorized-handle-sensitive-dod-workloads/92069

Court of Federal Claims rejects attempt to shoehorn what it characterizes as a contract administration matter into a bid protest

Recently, the CFC rejected a bid protest action filed by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) with respect to one of the Army’s LOGCAP contracts. The contractor had performed the logistics and civil augmentation contract, under which the Army issued task orders for different years, on a “cost-reimbursement basis.” When the Army tried to change to a firm-fixed price arrangement for the 2013 close-out period, KBR balked and refused to submit a proposal—instead filing a bid protest action. The CFC dismissed the case, ruling that KBR did not properly invoke the court’s bid protest jurisdiction but rather was attempting to litigate a contract administration dispute.

After years of submitting cost-reimbursement proposals under the LOGCAP agreement, it seems reasonable that KBR didn’t want to switch to a firm-fixed price basis for the close-out period, as “there was ‘no way to accurately define the scope or duration of work’ and [the] ‘[l]egal, administrative compliance, audit response, vendor issues, subcontract close-out, and dispute resolution . . . are all unknowns.'”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=334576

IG: Google executive broke ethics rules while heading-up DARPA

A Google executive who previously ran a $3 billion Pentagon agency tasked with developing technology for the U.S. military violated ethics rules by pitching products from a company she had previously founded, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pentagon’s watchdog agency.

Regina E. Dugan, who ran the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from July 2009 until March 2012, was cited by the Defense Department Inspector General’s office for endorsing a specific product, service or enterprise, a breach of ethics.

The IG found that while serving as DARPA’s director she briefed numerous senior defense officials on methods for U.S. troops to find improvised explosive devices and bomb-making facilities. The meetings created potential business opportunities for the company RedXDefense, LLC, in which she was a former chief executive officer, said the IG report, released to The Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act.

“In communications with senior DoD officials, she used RedX proprietary and other materials originally developed for and used in RedX sales presentations,” states the IG report. “She advanced a theory integral to RedX product development, promoted a multi-step process the RedX product suite used to implement the theory, highlighted the results of field trials that used RedX products to demonstrate the efficacy of the theory and process, and featured a RedX sales slogan. She also endorsed the adoption of an effort to put sensors on dogs, an extension of a DARPA project on which RedX performed.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2014/08/13/watchdog-google-executive-broke-ethics-rules-while-working-for-pentagons-darpa

IG says Army paid too much upgrading Russian copters

U.S. Army contracting officers overpaid an American company upgrading Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters as contract costs increased almost 70 percent, according to an audit by the Pentagon inspector general.

The Army Contracting Command has responded that it will seek to recoup $128,990 of $151,543 in what the audit called “excess fees” paid since 2010 to Columbia, Maryland-based Science and Engineering Services Inc. The remaining $22,553 in fees was justified, according to the audit by the inspector general dated July 28.

While the amounts wouldn’t put a dent in the Pentagon’s $496 billion annual base budget, the inspector general’s report is the latest of three to question the contracting practices of an Army-run office set up in 2010 to manage the purchase and maintenance of foreign-made helicopters such as the medium-lift Mi-17 transport helicopters sold to U.S. allies Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-12/u-s-army-paid-too-much-upgrading-russian-copters-audit.html

GAO: Most agencies still not providing complete data on contractors’ past performance

Although their level of compliance has improved over the last year, most federal agencies still haven’t met established governmentwide targets for providing complete, timely and accurate information on contractors’ past performance, congressional investigators found.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said compliance among the top 10 agencies – based on the number of contracts that each agency needed to evaluate – varied greatly, ranging from 13 percent to 83 percent, as of April.

Only two departments – Defense and Treasury – had compliance rates above 65 percent, said the GAO report released Aug. 7.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy, or OFPP, which has been trying to improve agency compliance on this issue, had wanted all such departments to reach or exceed that 65-percent threshold by the end of fiscal 2013, GAO said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-most-agencies-still-not-providing-complete-data-contractors-past-perfor/2014-08-12