Could big-data analytics improve federal procurement?

Big data could be an important tool for federal procurement shops, but its usefulness depends on finding quality data and understanding how to use it to track vendor performance and pricing.

Several recent studies — a Government Accountability Office report, a CIO survey by TechAmerica and the IBM Institute for Business Value’s “Chief Procurement Officer Study” — all point to the same conclusion: Analytics and acquisition need to go to more of the same parties.

The Oct. 9 GAO report states that many agencies’ incomplete methods of performing market research affect their ability to make informed decisions about procurements.

Federal agencies are required by law to conduct market research, which the Federal Acquisition Regulation defines as the process used to collect and analyze data about capabilities in the market that could satisfy an agency’s procurement needs.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/10/10/big-data-procurement.aspx

GAO: Agencies not taking advantage of market research on lower dollar contracts

Federal agencies are taking advantage of market research for big dollar procurements, but are missing those opportunities for smaller contracts, an Oct. 9, 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.

All 28 contracts GAO reviewed included some evidence of the market research conducted. The contracts GAO reviewed were pulled from the Defense Department, Homeland Security Department, Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department.

The market research conducted on the 12 higher dollar contracts GAO reviewed tended to be more robust and include more techniques that involved outreach to vendors, such as issuing requests for information to industry. That helped promote competition, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-agencies-not-taking-advantage-market-research-lower-dollar-contracts/2014-10-13

The small-business conundrum

Recent news reveals that federal agencies overstated their success last year in contracting with small businesses that face socioeconomic disadvantages. It turns out that the Small Business Administration’s inspector general identified over $400 million of contract actions awarded to ineligible firms, thus overstating SB goaling performance in FY13.

Download the IG report here.

While reasons for misreporting are one issue, the perennial issue of meeting SB goals persists. Some people joke that when an agency fails to meet their SB target, the response is to increase it. Does goal setting work? Everyone agrees with fundamental ideals of small entrepreneurs and businesses bringing fresh ideas, outlooks, and solutions to government and societal problems.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141008/BLG06/310080012/The-small-business-conundrum 

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/

Blurred lines: Commercial, Defense sectors begin to blend

As companies continue to turn their eyes toward the Middle East and Asia for new business, a trend has emerged: The lines between commercial and defense businesses are increasingly blurring.

All but one company in the top 10 of this year’s Defense News Top 100 — our annual ranking of the largest global defense firms — saw the percentage of their defense business decline or remain flat in 2013. Thales, at No. 9, was the only company in the top 10 that saw growth in the percentage of its business generated by defense.

Click here for the complete list.

Defense-heavy companies, such as U.S. giant Lockheed Martin, which is once again at the top of the list, are diversifying their businesses. Lockheed is entering the commercial marketplace in areas such as air traffic management, aviation training and simulation, energy, and advanced manufacturing.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140803/DEFREG02/308030015/Blurred-Lines-Commercial-Defense-Sectors-Begin-Blend

Denied bid protests don’t guarantee smooth sailing for GSA’s office supply contract

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently denied bid protests for the Office Supplies 3 (OS3) strategic sourcing contract, but that doesn’t mean its clearing sailing for the General Services Administration (GSA).

The GAO found the GSA met requirements to evaluate the economic impact the strategic sourcing contract has on small businesses, even though the Small Business Administration recently said GSA failed to do so.

“GSA conducted market research and considered alternatives to the procurement approach set forth in the solicitation,” the June 9 decision says.

The GSA says that means OS3 will move forward.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/denied-bid-protests-dont-guarantee-smooth-sailing-os3/2014-06-11

Avoid single-bid procurements by engaging early with industry, GAO says

Reaching out to industry early in the procurement process can prevent situations where only one vendor bids on a contract that is supposed to be competitively awarded, the Government Accountability Office says.

As part of a report dated May 5, GAO auditors reviewed the Defense Department’s single-bid contracts, whose combined dollar value is in the billions annually.

They also spoke with vendors, who said they’re more likely to bid on a contract if they hear about it as early as possible. They often make their decisions about whether to bid before a request for proposals is published and the 30-day solicitation period ensues.

Vendors may not want to spend the resources to prepare a bid if they don’t feel confident in their prospects of winning the award, especially if there’s an incumbent contractor that appears to have performed well so far.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/avoid-single-bid-procurements-engaging-early-industry-gao-says/2014-05-06

1950’s RFP for the U-2 spy plane was just 2 pages long

Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray dropped an interesting piece of government contracting arcana last week during a panel discussion on the past and future role of government chief information officers.

The conversation had turned to the acquisition process and how its complexities can sometimes prevent agencies from buying the best technology or prolong the process until that technology is sorely out of date. Bray noted that the request for proposals for the U-2 spy plane — the one that secretly flew over the Soviet Union gathering intelligence at high altitudes for half a decade during the early Cold War — was only two pages long.

That’s quite a contrast to modern RFPs, which can run dozens or hundreds of pages for comparatively simple technology.

Unfortunately the full U-2 RFP isn’t easily available online. There are several reference notes, though, attesting to its two-page length. Just as interesting, though, for anyone who’s worked under the contemporary Federal Acquisition Regulation, is this description of the U-2 contracting process compiled by Central Intelligence Agency historians Gregory Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach in 1998.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/emerging-tech-blog/2014/04/rfp-u-2-spy-plane-was-just-two-pages-long/83104 

Poor contracting practices cited at Bureau of Land Management

A government employee who stepped into a contractor’s role is among the targets of a report criticizing contracting practices at the Bureau of Land  Management.

The Interior Department office of inspector general says in a recently-released report,  dated Sept. 30, that a BLM project officer placed a request to modify a contract, “in effect, representing the contractor.”

The project officer and the contracting officer involved had to be counseled  on proper contracting practices, the report says. At the time of the report, the  BLM was finalizing guidelines to outline the responsibilities and limitations of  contracting officers and project officers.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/poor-contracting-practices-blm/2013-10-29?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

A copy of the Interior Department’s IG report is at: http://www.doi.gov/oig/reports/upload/C-EV-BLM-0007-2011Public.pdf 

Comprehensive cost and price course kicks-off Oct. 14th

The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech is offering a course focusing on the Fundamentals of Cost & Price Analysis in government contracting on October 14-25, 2013.

This comprehensive, two-week course begins with an in-depth review of the market research process, and provides instruction to help students understand and analyze contractor pricing strategies.

Attendees will learn to accomplish cost-volume-profit analysis, calculate contribution margin estimates, and develop cost estimating relationships in order to accomplish an effective price analysis pursuant to FAR Subpart 15.4.

After learning the basic elements of price and cost analysis, students will build and defend a pre-negotiation objective, including a minimum and maximum pricing objective with a weighted guidelines assessment. After successfully defending their pricing objectives, the students will practice face-to-face negotiations.

This course is targeted toward new hires to the contracting career field.   For government contractors, this course also provides valuable insights into the government contracting decision-making process.

Student performance will be assessed by graded exams on math fundamentals and applied course material as well as an exercise for student participation and completion of negotiations.

CON 170 – Fundamentals of Cost & Price Analysis is Defense Acquisition University-equivalent training that satisfies the FAC-C and DAWIA certification programs.   In addition, 7.35 CEUs are granted for successful course completion.

For more information or to register, please visit: http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/con-170-fundamentals-cost-and-price-analysis