Push is on for analysis of approval process required of 8(a) Native American sole-source contracts

Alaskan Congressman Don Young is enlisting a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives to urge Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to swiftly and diligently complete a Department of Defense (DOD) study examining the negative impacts of Section 811 of the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Native community owned contractors.

“The 8(a) program has been extremely successful in creating an efficient and cost effective contracting option for the government while supporting economic opportunity for some of the most disadvantaged and underemployed populations in the nation,” said Congressman Young. “Since Senator Stevens left the Senate, Native contractors have been under constant attack. Section 811 was snuck into the 2010 NDAA negotiations by the Senate, and ever since then I have repeatedly heard about the confusion, difficulty and damage this Act has caused to our Native contractors.”

Section 811 requires that any 8(a) Native American sole-source contract, in excess of $20 million, go through an overly burdensome approval process. While the measure was sold as a “good governance” provision and did not prohibit or discourage the awarding of such contracts, this heightened scrutiny, not required for any other contractors, has had a chilling effect for contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://alaska-native-news.com/young-pushes-for-analysis-on-negative-impacts-of-section-811-on-native-owned-contractors-16415

Pentagon: The cost of major weapon systems are finally coming down

More than four years since Ashton Carter took on reforming Pentagon acquisition, the cost of the largest arms projects is beginning to stabilize, defense officials say.

Costs among the Defense Department’s largest arms programs are beginning to stabilize after years of overruns, a recent trend that Pentagon officials say is the result of an improvement project launched by now-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter more than four years ago.

Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 80 major procurement projects – valued at $1.6 trillion – are performing better than anticipated, and in many cases, have reduced costs compared to one year ago, said one senior Pentagon official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

“I think this is a good example compared to last year and then I think you’ll see it again,” the official said.

Costs are down because the military services have become more realistic when laying out schedules and funding for projects, according to the official. They are also doing a better job of making sure projects fit in long-term budget plans.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/management/2015/03/pentagon-cost-major-weapons-systems-are-finally-coming-down/108000/

Pentagon acquisition bosses ‘ho-hum’ on multiple reviews for passing milestones

Defense Department major weapons buyers could streamline the acquisition process by eliminating some reviews in the years-long phase for passing each procurement milestone, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.

“The process in some instances can include up to 56 organizations at eight levels and accounts for about half of the time needed to complete information requirements,” the watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

Interviews with 24 program managers and participating organizations on major procurements such as aircraft showed that most “did not think these reviews added significant value to the documentation,” GAO said. “The program managers considered the value added to 10 percent of the documentation to be high,” GAO said in report required by the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. “However, for the remaining 90 percent of the documents, the officials believed the reviews did not add high value.”Sixty-one percent said they provided moderate value while 29 percent said they provided less than moderate.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/02/pentagon-acquisition-bosses-ho-hum-multiple-reviews-passing-milestones/106221

DoD doesn’t know cost or performance of non-major acquisition programs, GAO says

The Defense Department doesn’t have the information to determine the cost or performance of its non-major acquisition programs, says a March 2 Government Accountability Office report.

These non-major programs, called category II and III programs, range from a multibillion dollar aircraft radar modernization program to soldier clothing and protective equipment programs in the tens of millions of dollars, the report says.

GAO found that the accuracy, completeness and consistency of DOD’s data on these programs were undermined by widespread data entry issues, missing data and inconsistent identification of current category II and III programs.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/dod-doesnt-know-cost-or-performance-non-major-acquisition-programs-gao-says/2015-03-03

GAO Report 15-188 can be downloaded here: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/668783.pdf

Multiple companies protest $1.6 billion Pentagon contract

Several companies have filed bid protests over the Defense Information Systems Agency’s recent $1.6 billion Defense Departmentwide licensing agreement with VMware.

Since Feb. 19, Amazon Web Services, Citrix, Nutanix and Minburn Technology Group, a Microsoft reseller, have filed formal bid protests with the Government Accountability Office on the DISA joint enterprise license agreement with VMware, citing an overly broad agreement that stifles competition.

Based on the contracting language, the bid protesters also contend the contract re-up is an improper sole-source request for cloud services that would give VMware an unfair advantage competing for DOD’s growing cloud demand.

So many vendors responded to the Feb. 9 solicitation that the government requested additional time to respond to questions received Feb. 19, suggesting the feedback received was highly contentious.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cloud-computing/2015/02/multiple-companies-protest-16-billion-pentagon-cloud-contract/105813

DoD doesn’t know if it can sustain contracting database, says GAO

The Defense Department doesn’t know what resources it needs to sustain it’s contracting database, says a Feb. 18 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

The DoD has not assessed all resources that it will need to sustain the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker-Enterprise Suite – a repository of information on contracts and contractor personnel in contingency operations.

DoD has not updated its life-cycle cost estimate or fully defined and assessed its plans to determine the resources needed to sustain SPOT-ES, GAO says.

Specifically, the agency hasn’t updated its life-cycle cost estimate since 2010, despite changes to costs due to schedule delays, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/dod-doesnt-know-if-it-can-sustain-contracting-database-says-gao/2015-02-19

High risk list: Government IT acquisitions fail ‘too frequently’

The new federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, has his work cut out for him. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today is adding information technology acquisition to its high-profile list of “high-risk” federal programs.

Despite a raft of reforms over the course of the Obama administration, “federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes,” the 2015 update to GAO’s High-Risk List states.

The government has wasted billions on botched IT projects that fail to deliver promised – or any – functionality and have been mothballed. Even more programs are still on the books, but remain at risk of falling behind. And hundreds of watchdog recommendations for improving the state of federal IT acquisitions have gone unaddressed.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/high-risk-list-government-it-projects-fail-too-frequently/105063

GAO’s ‘high-risk list’ now includes IT acquisition

The Government Accountability Office’s High-Risk List, which calls Congress’ attention to problematic, risky or troubled programs, is about to receive two high-profile additions.

Multiple Capitol Hill sources with knowledge of the list confirmed to Nextgov that IT acquisition and operations and veteran health care are being included on the watchdog’s list.

The news is hardly surprising, given the steady stream of criticism and negative headlines those two areas have generated since GAO last updated its biennial High-Risk List in February 2013.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/it-acquisition-and-veteran-health-care-added-gaos-high-risk-list/104832/

Pass-through contracts for war zones need monitoring, GAO finds

Three agencies working overseas that together spent $322 billion on contracting in fiscal 2013 need to improve guidance given contracting officers to reduce risk of overpayments, a watchdog found. Two-thirds of that money is funneled through prime contractors to smaller contractors who perform most of the work.

Use of pass-through contracts—under which at least 70 percent of funding is routed to subcontractors—requires new analysis and guidance before they are awarded, the Government Accountability Office noted in a Dec. 22, 2014 report.

“Concerns remain that the government could overpay contractors that provide no, or little, added value for work performed by lower-tier subcontractors,” GAO wrote.

The watchdog cited requirements imposed on the Defense and State Departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development under the 2007, 2009 and 2013 versions of the National Defense Authorization Act to reduce waste in purchasing goods and services primarily in Afghanistan.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2014/12/pass-through-contracts-war-zones-need-monitoring-gao-finds/102024/

Acquisition 101: When a bargain isn’t a bargain

When my wife and I purchased our first vacuum cleaner, we selected a cheap model. It met all the specs of what we needed, did a minimally acceptable job and lasted little more than a year before it died. Not learning the lesson that buying the first vacuum should have taught us, we immediately bought another cheap vacuum to replace the first one, and it died an early death about 18 months later. We finally did learn our lesson with the third vacuum and paid slightly more for a better vacuum that has lasted six years (and counting).

Much like our predicament with the rotating vacuums, federal contracting professionals are facing increasing pressure to purchase goods and services as cheaply as possible using a method commonly referred to as “lowest price/technically acceptable” (LPTA)—even if it means minimal acceptability.  This push is laudable in theory, but the reality is often higher prices and a smaller pool of quality contractors, while robbing contracting officers of any discretion to choose a solution or product that is more cost-effective in the long term.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/acquisition-101-when-bargain-isnt-bargain/102672/

About the authors: Eric Crusius, a partner with Fed Nexus Law, focuses on government contracts, cybersecurity, employment law and complex litigation. Mitchell Bashur, an associate at Fed Nexus Law, also contributed to this column.