IT buying experiments preview ‘Acquisition of the Future’

“Acquisition of the Future” is an initiative that seeks to frame a vision in which acquisition creates significant new value for the government through fresh approaches, modern technologies and a new generation’s capabilities.

Participants include a growing number of federal executives, industry leaders, notable academics and rising acquisition professionals who have been meeting since 2013 to create a framework for what federal acquisition can become, to meet the demands of the Collaboration Age — and beyond.

Acquisition of the Future supporters are continuing their quest to find and capture real-world examples that uncover emerging trends. AOF leverages these initiatives to demonstrate the new value that vibrant, forward-focused federal acquisition can provide, and that model the strategic decision-making and investments required now to transform the future.

Especially in the realm of information technology, such experiments are emerging everywhere. That’s not surprising, because technology is one of the chief disruptors driving change and creating higher expectations in government, society, industry and our economy. Because IT is evolving so rapidly, government has difficulty acquiring, modernizing and maintaining it in a way that keeps pace with innovation and commercial best practices. And current government buying processes and culture make it difficult for agencies to keep apprised and take advantage of the pace of technological innovation. Consequently, IT is a hotbed of acquisition experimentation.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/01/22/preview-acquisition-of-the-future.aspx

DoD’s proposals aim to simplify ‘mindboggling’ acquisition rules

The Defense Department has submitted seven legislative proposals to Capitol Hill to simplify its acquisition process.

But just don’t call them reforms, they are improvements, said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee on January 28, 2015 that reforms imply there is some big change, or some big initiative that can fix the acquisition system. But that is just not the case with these proposals.

“What we have to do is attack our problems on many fronts and make incremental progress on many fronts, learn from our experience and then adopt new things as we understand the impact of the things we’ve done,” Kendall said. “And that’s why we’ve emphasized a continuous process improvement approach in the Better Buying Initiatives over the last several years. I think that is the right approach. I think we will make incremental progress on a lot of fronts and in the aggregate, I think it will make a big difference.”

He said the incremental approach will let DoD, and Congress for that matter, improve upon many of the acquisition challenges the military faces.

“At the end of the day, a great deal of it is about not putting rules in place to constrain people, but getting people in a position where they can make better decisions and do the right thing, and then have the institutional support to execute the right thing and do it successfully,” Kendall said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3790060/DoDs-proposals-aim-to-simplify-mindboggling-acquisition-rules

Survey: Acquisition workforce falling behind on training

The buyers of products and services across government are not receiving the fresh training or modern skill sets needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today’s agency missions, according to a survey of federal acquisition employees released on Thursday.

“The acquisition workforce’s skills in areas such as business acumen, negotiation, risk mitigation and understanding complex information technology fall well short of what acquisition professionals say is required,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. PSC and Grant Thornton prepared the seventh edition of a biannual survey titled “A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?”

“This not a failure of the workforce,” Soloway said, “but a result of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change” in education and support.

In a session with reporters, he cited frustrations over a “growing gap” between acquisition specialists and the end users who increasingly say the technology being delivered isn’t suitable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/survey-acquisition-workforce-falling-behind-training/103512/

See more on this topic at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1719

Pentagon launches new future weapons research effort

The Pentagon is starting a massive research and development effort aimed at finding and developing next-generation technologies able to ensure the U.S. military retains its technological edge.

pentagon-sealDescribed as an effort to create a new technological offset strategy like that which the U.S. pursued in the 1950s and 1980s, the Long Range Research and Development Plan, or LRRDP, involves a solicitation to industry, academia, and small business to begin enterprising ideas on areas of focus for new weapons and technology research and development.

“The nature of future military competition suggests we cannot take our future military dominance for granted. We need to continue disruptive innovation and be sure that we have that differential advantage in the future,” Stephen Welby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering, told reporters Dec. 3.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.dodbuzz.com/2014/12/08/pentagon-launches-new-future-weapons-research-effort/

Improving acquisition is part of recommended agenda for next Secretary of Defense

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a  report last week in which its experts offer up some advice to the next defense secretary.

At the top of the recommended agenda?  Improving Defense Acquisition.

Below is an excerpt from the CSIS report:

“For the Secretary of Defense, no news is good news when it comes to defense acquisition.  Much like the offensive line on a football team, when things are going smoothly, it goes unnoticed. When the Secretary of Defense gets asked about the acquisition system, it usually means something has gone wrong. For this reason, and because acquisition is a highly technical discipline, it can be tempting for the Secretary of Defense to focus attention elsewhere, particularly in his or her early days. Just as the offensive line’s performance is critical to the success of a football team, however, solid performance from the acquisition system is a linchpin to a Secretary’s hopes for a successful tenure.

“Defense acquisition is a massive undertaking involving the expenditure of roughly $150 billion annually for research and development and procurement of technology and total contract spending of more than $300 billion annually. Even a small improvement in performance of the acquisition system can make a difference of billions in the cost of equipping the military.  Despite widespread pessimism on the prospects for improving defense acquisition, the opportunity to make progress is real. The latest issue of the Department of Defense’s annual report on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System shows modest improvement in trends relating to cost growth. While this recent progress is encouraging, the squeeze of sequestration and the budget uncertainties generated by continuing resolutions and potential government shutdowns threaten to reverse this trend. The result would be a snowballing path of destruction through already tight defense budgets.

“The recent announcement of the Defense Innovation Initiative also demonstrates the strategic importance of acquisition to the Department of Defense. As the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review make clear, innovation is key to the military’s future. Ultimately, the acquisition system bears the largest share of responsibility for delivering innovation. Last but not least, acquisition will be critical in the Secretary’s relationship with Congress. Senator John McCain will take over as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress, and his interest in, and concern about, the defense acquisition system is well known. On the other side of the Capitol, the House Armed Services Committee has already been examining improvements to defense acquisition for over a year under the leadership of Representative Mac Thornberry, the designated next House Committee Chairman, and his ranking member, Representative Adam Smith.

“There are clear steps for the next Secretary to take. First, meet early with industry and set the right tone. The Department depends heavily on industry’s ability to supply advanced technology. There is nothing to lose and much to gain in keeping the lines of communication open. Second, engage with Congress on improving defense acquisition. The Department spent the last year developing a legislative proposal for improving defense acquisition which can provide a solid basis for bipartisan cooperation. Third, embrace the Defense Innovation Initiative and Better Buying Power 3.0 as major priorities. These initiatives are essential to maintaining the U.S. military’s qualitative edge.”

The full set of CSIS recommendations can be seen at: https://csis.org/publication/recommended-agenda-next-secretary-defense

 

White House releases Georgia Tech-influenced national manufacturing roadmap

Leaders from Georgia Tech participated in the release of the President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP 2.0) final report, a one-year endeavor to outline a roadmap to secure U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson served on the 19-person AMP 2.0 Steering Committee and numerous faculty and staff put in many hours serving on various workstreams that focused on different aspects of manufacturing competitiveness.  This effort builds on the original AMP which kicked off in 2011 and ended in 2012 and also included Georgia Tech as one of a select few universities invited by the White House to participate.

Presidential SealBoth President Obama and Commerce Secretary Pritzker attended the out-brief from the AMP Steering Committee on Oct. 27, 2014 in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, and Georgia Tech Provost Rafael Bras represented Georgia Tech.

“The Georgia Tech community should be proud of the role that our team played in influencing this important report,” said Georgia Tech President Peterson. “Manufacturing has been central to Georgia Tech’s mission since its founding and we’re honored to add our collective experience and expertise to help grow the manufacturing economy in our country.”

Building upon the report, Obama announced a series of executive actions to strengthen U.S. advanced manufacturing, including a $300 million investment in the emerging technologies of advanced materials including composites and bio-based materials, advanced sensors for manufacturing and digital manufacturing.  Read about the multi-agency and private sector effort > 

Following the White House meeting, Georgia Tech researchers were invited panelists at a briefing hosted by the Innovation Policy Forum of The National Academies to discuss the report’s recommendations for enabling innovation, securing the talent pipeline and improving the business climate for manufacturing. Georgia Tech’s Tom Kurfess, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, addressed the report’s findings for enabling innovation, specifically on developing technologies to build a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Jennifer Clark, Director of the Center for Urban Innovation at Georgia Tech, spoke on Improving the Business Climate and recommendations related to Scale-up Policy. The U.S. has been the leading producer of manufactured goods for more than 100 years, but strengths in manufacturing innovation and technologies that have sustained American leadership in manufacturing are under threat from new and growing competition abroad.

The AMP 2.0 report identifies the role of the Executive Office of the President in coordinating the federal government’s advanced manufacturing activities and defines responsibilities for Federal agencies and other Federal bodies in implementation.

Grand Canyon gets creative to attract bids on concessions contract

For nearly 100 years, Grand Canyon National Park has enjoyed a beneficial relationship with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the nation’s largest parks tourism contractor whose corporate ancestors have sold lodging and concessions at the Arizona wonder since the late 19th century.

But in the 21st century, the cash-strapped National Park Service finds itself pressured to get creative in complying with a 1998 federal law requiring it to regularly solicit competitive bids for services.

The problem: Xanterra over the decades has invested up to $200 million in improvements to its hotel, gift shops and restaurants around the canyon’s South Rim, money it would be entitled to collect should the government yank its concession contracts. The chances of finding a competing concessions contractor willing to assume that debt to Xanterra are considered slim.

So in August, the Park Service announced a new approach. It would solicit a major concessions contract—worth more than $1 billion in potential revenue over 15 years—for the third time since 2013, the first private bids that came in having been deemed inadequate.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/09/grand-canyon-park-gets-creative-attract-bids-concessions-contract/95009

‘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

Can the federal acquisition process support innovation?

There is widespread agreement that the federal government’s process for acquiring goods and services needs to change to enable agencies to keep with the rapid pace of technology development. But with more than 1,800 pages of rules and regulations governing that process—known as the Federal Acquisition Regulation—there is growing concern that the government cannot truly support innovation without a dramatic simplification of the rules.

“I think we can get there. To do that, I think we need additional changes in the FAR,” said Wolfe Tombe, chief technology officer at U.S Customs and Border Protection, in an exclusive interview with FedScoop. “I think the FAR needs to evolve to actually support innovation.”

According to Tombe, the federal acquisition process needs to be streamlined to remove existing obstacles to the private sector’s ability to interact with federal requirements managers. “Now we go out with a request for proposals and we’ll say what we think we need, and I think a lot of times there are vendors who could come back if the FAR allowed it, and [recommend better, more cost-effective solutions],” Tombe said. “The FAR needs to be redone so it enables that kind of interaction. It’s hard [for a vendor] to come back and say they have a better idea.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/really-needs-done-acquisition-reform/

Procurement troubles still dog Defense Department

Congress has held hearings over the past 30 years seeking ways to fix the Defense Department’s poor procurement system.

A June 24th hearing offered interesting ideas.

No headlines afterward about stopping F-35 costs from skyrocketing, keeping new production of nuclear aircraft carriers on schedule or halting the failure of billion-dollar computer programs — in fact, there was hardly any press coverage at all.

Two worthwhile ideas that came from the four experienced procurement specialists who appeared before the House Armed Services Committee provided no silver bullets, but they made sense.

  1. Give the main contracting officer for major weapons projects absolute cradle-to-grave authority and responsibility and accountability.
  2. Interservice rivalry and even intraservice competition have far from ended, and they harm the procurement system.