‘If I knew then …’

This is part of a recurring series sponsored by Federal Times, where former federal leaders reflect upon the lessons learned since leaving government.

If I Knew ThenIf you knew then what you know now … How would you have partnered with industry differently?

When agency needs arise, in order to ensure fairness and equitable consideration, lengthy and detailed requirements are crafted and sent to the industry. However, this often leads to bad outcomes. In order to mitigate protest risks, requirements are increasingly specific and fixed, but they leave very little if any room for industry to offer alternate, compelling approaches to solve the stated problems. As a result, many innovative and compelling solutions don’t even make it past the first gate, and the government suffers as a result. It also reinforces a cycle of inertia, whereby since government employees don’t see those innovative solutions, they keep asking for what they know, and as a result, continue to get the same traditional approaches and solutions.

If I had to do it over again, I would find ways to re-think how government partners with the industry.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/management/agency/2015/11/16/if-knew-then-sonny-hashmi/75721794/

Securing the future by ‘Bending the Cost Curve’

Bending the Cost Curve (BTCC), one of the 13-Make-Every-Dollar-Count cost initiatives launched by the Air Force, includes a growing and evolving set of more than 20 acquisition reform activities. These activities are focused on finding ways the Air Force can be more effective at how it spends money to get better capabilities to the warfighter faster.

Air Force Seal“BTCC is coming up with ideas with industry, then going out and trying those ideas to see if we can actually drive down cost, increase capability and get it delivered faster,” said Dr. Camron Gorguinpour, the director of the Air Force Transformational Innovation Office, Air Force Office of Acquisitions. “Everything we do with BTCC is in collaboration with industry. (They are) a big part of the solution, so working closely with them helps us come up with better ideas of things that we should be doing.”

One program, Open Systems Acquisition, has reached a level of success. The concept is to move Air Force weapons systems toward a more open architecture, allowing traditional and non-traditional industry partners more flexibility for future improvements.

“Basically, OSA is a plug and play type of model. You have a system that anyone can understand and plug into if they develop a product that complies within certain requirements,” Gorguinpour said. “That way one company can create a system, but down the road, when you need a new capability, another company can create the new part and it can be changed out without a huge contracting action.

“This new open architecture environment will allow us to rapidly change out capabilities, to compete to a very broad segment of industry and be able to build on certain designs rather than having just one fixed product.”

As part of this program, the Air Force Research Laboratory created its own acquisition vehicle tailored to the new OSA model. With this new system, it will take only three weeks from the time companies demonstrate their capabilities to the time the winner is funded and doing work.

“This is getting us closer to the point of where you can acquire at the pace of global innovation,” Gorguinpour said. “There is definitely a lot more work to be done to smooth out the process for everyone to use, but we are getting it closer to being a reality.”

Thinking outside of the box and in the spirit of innovation, the Air Force launched the largest cash prizes ever conducted by one of the military services called Air Force Prize — worth $2 million to the entity that can produce a lightweight, mid-sized turbine engine.

“Turbine engines are important, especially if it can be installed into a smaller vehicle, the engine can double the fuel efficiency and improve the lifecycle cost,” Gorguinpour said. “The opportunity to win the cash prize started in May and companies will have two years to provide a product.”

Also included in BTCC is the Cost Capability Analysis program that would create better transparency by providing more awareness of Air Force requirements to industry to reduce the costs and development times for Air Force systems.

“When buying something as simple as a computer, you can see where a small increase of speed or memory is going to dramatically increase the cost,” Gorguinpour said. “So you need to find the optimal setting for your requirement. Because of BTCC, the Air Force is working with industry early in the acquisition process to refine what the requirements should be.”

The Air Force is looking to provide more tools to help navigate the complex acquisition process with AQ Prime, a beta website powered by a learning computer with the knowledge of the federal acquisition regulation. This website will serve as a resource for businesses not used to working with the military, as well as the public, an easy way to understand the complex government regulation.

“Even if we do the best job at streamlining bureaucracy, the fact is that it is going to be complicated because the work we do is incredibly complex,” Gorguinpour said. “We not only need to streamline the process, but also give people the right tools to navigate this better.”

BTCC activities will continue to improve the internal Air Force acquisition process, enhance interactions with industry throughout the acquisition lifecycle, and expand competition among traditional and non-traditional industry partners.

Source: http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/627140/securing-the-future-by-bending-the-cost-curve.aspx


Contracts aren’t the only gateway to government innovation

Agencies know they can’t skirt the Federal Acquisition Regulation and deliver innovation with the flip of a switch. But government can position itself as an incubator — or entrepreneurial gateway — for innovative startups.

Rather than pushing Silicon Valley startups and nontraditional companies to pursue formal government contracts, some industry and agency experts suggest using broad agency announcements and prizes and challenges to drive the companies who have a good idea, but don’t regularly visit FedBiz Opps and might not have the resources to compete for a government contract.

“They don’t have a CAGE code or a DUNS number, they’re not interested in a contract,” Adam Tarsi, chief of staff of the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office at the Defense Department, said at the Professional Services Council’s government innovation event in Arlington Oct. 29. “They just want to do neat things. How do I tap into that neat thing? Some way, it’s talent scouting, sometimes in product acquisition. I’m just trying illuminate something cool out there for my customers.”

Agencies can pay for a company’s individual idea —or pay for the startup to partner with another large, more traditional contractor to develop and deliver the idea.

Keep reading this article at: http://federalnewsradio.com/acquisition/2015/10/contracts-arent-gateway-government-innovation/

There’s hope for local procurement reform at ‘Code for America’

‘The promise of technology and data transparency … is very exciting and will bring about change.’ But there’s a lot of work to do.

It’s not a secret that the procurement process is problematic across all levels of government in the United States. That’s certainly true in local jurisdictions.

RFPProcurement has especially been a source of frustration in tech circles, where it might not be surprising for vendors to find a root canal more pleasant than dealing with cumbersome and antiquated municipal RFP processes usually designed for purchasing physical products than IT services.

While procurement problems persist, there’s some hope, too. Some of the leading minds in local government procurement reform recently gathered at the 2015 Code for America Summit at the Oakland Convention Center to discuss the some success stories in different parts of the county, in addition to the lingering and persistent challenges.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.routefifty.com/2015/10/code-america-procurement-reform/122470/

GSA’s 18F takes on micropurchasing experiment

The General Services Administration’s tech consultancy team is experimenting with a new way for federal agencies to buy code. 

18F at GSAThe team is building an online system that could help federal agencies make “micro-purchases” — transactions for less than $3,500 made directly with the vendor — for open source software code.

Since its inception in 2014, 18F has been uploading the code for its products on GitHub, a public, online repository, so citizens can examine the code and occasionally contribute to it.

“But we want to show that opening our source code improves our ability to contract for digital services,” 18F staffer V. David Zvenyach wrote in a blog post. “We also want to see whether this is a sustainable way to engage small businesses and non-traditional contractors in the government space.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/10/18fs-takes-micropurchasing-experiment/122800