White House to agencies: Embrace offbeat methods for buying tech

With no plans to return to the moon anytime soon in NASA’s future, the space agency decided to challenge private sector teams, including small startups and academia, to come up with ways to safely land commercial lunar landers on the moon’s surface and transmit data back to Earth.

None of the six teams selected by NASA to compete for the Google Lunar X PRIZE — which carries total prize winnings of $30 million and a Dec. 31, 2015, deadline — is a “traditional” government contractor.

And the method NASA used for the process — a milestone-based competition combining the best attributes of a firm, fixed-price contract with the flexibility of an indefinite-delivery deal — wasn’t exactly the typical FedBizOpps posting, either.

But the point is — it worked.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/08/white-house-agencies-embrace-offbeat-methods-buying-tech/92051

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

Lawsuit says GSA discriminates against blind contractors

A group of blind federal contractors filed a lawsuit against the General Services Administration last week over a contractor website they say shuts out the visually impaired.

The System for Award Management website, SAM.gov, contains numerous buttons, checkboxes, drop-down menus and “mouseovers” that federal contractors must navigate each year in order to keep their contractor status current.  Those bells and whistles make it difficult or impossible for screen reading software that blind people use to navigate the Internet to decode the site, the suit claims.

GSA phone-in help desk employees are also not sufficiently trained in disability issues, the suit claims, making it even more difficult for blind contractors to complete their registrations.

The suit was filed as a class action by the American Council for the Blind and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  The groups claim GSA violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which, among other things, bars discrimination against federal contractors and grantees based solely on a disability.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/lawsuit-says-gsa-discriminates-against-blind-contractors/83179/

SAM ‘inelegant and cumbersome’ says GSA CIO

The System for Award Management (SAM) is operational but it’s not what the future of acquisition systems should look like, said Sonny Hashmi, chief information officer at the General Services Administration (GSA).

Commonly called “SAM,” the consolidated acquisition system launched in August 2012 to bring together three previously separate systems.

“It is still inelegant and cumbersome. We have done just enough to make it operational,” said Hashmi during an April 11 chat on GitHub.

Shortly after the system went live, SAM ran into a variety of problems that required the back-end security architecture, business process management layer and database schema to be completely reconfigured.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/sam-inelegant-and-cumbersome-says-gsa-cio/2014-04-16

If you encounter a business having trouble getting registered in SAM, be sure to tell them that they should not pay anyone to register their company in SAM.  SAM registration is free!  For details, please visit: http://gtpac.org/sam-gov-registration-is-free-and-help-with-sam-is-free-too 

How agencies bury noncompetitive procurements

I get a daily FedBizOpps feed of widget and gadget procurements and awards, and have spent literally hours the past two days poring through year-end sole source contract awards.

These are taxpayer dollars expended in an end-of-fiscal-year “use it or lose it” frenzy, but eyeballing these sole source awards is a manual process that requires opening multiple windows to divine what agencies bought and how much they spent.

In many cases agencies don’t disclose what they spent on the sole source contracts, which raises my reporter antenna.

The justification for these non-competitive awards all contain standard boiler plate language — only Vendor X can supply the gadget, software or service and if the contract is not extended or the gizmo acquired, vital operations will cease, often with a threat to national security.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/whats-brewin/2013/09/how-agencies-bury-noncompetitive-contracts/70834

 

FBI to sole source mobile forensic contract

The FBI plans to award a sole-source, fixed price contract to New  Jersey-based Cellebrite USA, Inc. for mobile forensic casework tools.  The  contract does not yet have a price.

According to a notice posted Aug. 28 to FedBizOpps, FBI’s market research determined that the  Cellebrite UFED System is the “only hand-held, cellular exploitation device  worldwide that requires no PC or associated phone drivers.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercemobilegovernment.com/story/fbi-sole-source-mobile-forensic-contract/2013-09-11 

Defense intel agency eyes TurboTax-type software to run acquisitions

The Defense Intelligence Agency would like to find simple, TurboTax-like software to provide “cradle to grave acquisition support.”

The Virginia Contracting Activity, which runs DIA procurements, said it wanted a knowledge-based system modeled on TurboTax to help manage acquisitions, according to a notice posted Thursday to the Federal Business Opportunities contracting website.

Eventually the software should support the entire intelligence community — including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the FBI — “to consolidate our limited and dwindling resources with the added benefit of improving support to all our supported customers,” DIA said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2013/07/defense-intel-agency-eyes-turbotax-type-software-run-acquisitions/65909/ 

UPDATE – July 9, 2013 – The Defense Intelligence Agency withdrew this solicitation with the following notice posted on FBO on July 8, 2013: “This notice is cancelled in its entirety.”  See https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=32d3f22b76f482d3e19c7adf7cb70700&_cview=0 

 

 

Resource centers boost competition for secret contracts

Restricted websites similar to the Federal Business Opportunities site are boosting competition for sensitive national security procurements, showing that competition is possible in the mysterious world, according to a report.

The National Reconnaissance Office hosts the Acquisition Research Center, which was developed for intelligence community procurements. It limits potential contractors to about 1,200 registered firms that are already cleared to work in a secure environment and have a workforce with security clearances.

“An NRO senior procurement official described this system as a proprietary classified version of FedBizOpps,” the Government Accountability Office wrote in a report released Jan. 13, 2012. GAO was reviewing competition for Defense Department contracts for national security needs.

Along with NRO, the National Security Agency has a business registry database. It provides industry with a central place for acquisition information. NSA officials use it for market research as a way to distribute documents to partners and other companies. All companies that are interested in doing business with NSA must be registered in the system. As of October 2010, the database included about 9,300 companies, GAO reported.

The Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, both of which are within the Defense Department, have made arrangements to use the systems.

GAO compared their contracts awarded under an acquisition rule allowing particular agencies to exempt certain national security contracts from a full-and-open competition. Because of the acquisition centers, NSA and NRO showed higher levels of competition compared to the DOD military departments, which don’t use the databases.

Annually, for NRO and NSA, competition for contracts ranged from 27 percent to 70 percent of total spending, GAO wrote, based on the information the agencies provided.

On the other hand, GAO found much less competition after analyzing procurement data on about 11,300 DOD national security contracts from fiscal 2007 through fiscal 2010, which equaled $2 billion. Military departments received more than one bid on only 16 percent of all contracts and task orders purchased under a national security exemption rule.

Defense officials noted three obstacles for their low percentage of competition.

  • Few contractors with clearances.
  • Constraints on soliciting new vendors.
  • Few tools to do market research.

In response to the report, DOD officials said they would assess the tools that the intelligence community has to do market research and consider giving defense agencies access to the databases.

About the Author: Matthew Weigelt is a senior writer covering acquisition and procurement for Federal Computer Week. This article apperaed on Jan. 17, 2012 at http://fcw.com/articles/2012/01/17/national-security-acquisition-resource-center.aspx.