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

Cost and price course scheduled in October

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

Acquiring services: How the feds can get it right

For the fifth consecutive year, the federal government has spent more on the purchase of services than any other type of contract spending. And yet, the Department of Defense has made little progress in improving how they buy services, and civilian agencies have yet to even spell out a strategy.

It was appropriate that the department’s April 2013 release of its Better Buying Power (BBP) 2.0 memo included a major component titled “Improving Tradecraft in Acquisition of Services,” with six specific actions required to be taken. But while BBP 2.0 carried forward several of the initiatives for services that were included in the original BBP memo issued in September 2010, there has been little progress made by the department in reaching those original objectives.

Still, at least DOD has a plan. While the Office of Management and Budget has issued some government-wide directives requiring reductions in spending on services, the civilian agencies, which annually commit a greater percentage of their contract spending on services than does DOD, have not spelled out any comprehensive acquisition strategy focused on services.

The first step on the path to improving the tradecraft in services is to recognize that there are wide variations in the types of services government buys, and that each type requires some specialized market research and skills to acquire them. For example, there is a considerable difference between how the Department Homeland Security acquires information technology services from how the Department of Energy acquires environmental remediation and management services. Thus, at the Professional Services Council, we have been strong advocates for reexamining the taxonomy of services and focusing on the key differences in these acquisitions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/fedbiz_daily/2013/06/acquiring-services-how-feds-can-get.html?page=all

Federal IT funds circle the drain due to poor procurement policies

It may seem like a simple thing to fix — if the U.S. government wants more vendors to compete for contracts, just ask more companies to take part. However, those looking to reform the procurement process are running into snags that favor the status quo, and a new survey shows just how much money is wasted. A greater emphasis on open standards and boosting the role of CIOs are two possible solutions now being studied.

Federal agencies routinely pass up opportunities to improve information technology performance, and save money at the same time, by failing to seek vendor competition in the procurement process, according to a recent survey.

Federal IT professionals revealed that their agencies could save as much as $15.8 billion per year — about 20 percent of annual IT spending — by being more aggressive in utilizing multiple vendors in a more competitive environment for infrastructure projects.

The survey of 208 federal specialists was conducted in January by MeriTalk, an online community of public and private sector IT professionals.

Reporting on the survey in early March, MeriTalk said that 95 percent of respondents believe there are benefits to using more than one vendor in an area of their infrastructure, and 44 percent believe that adding a vendor drives down acquisition costs. However, five percent of agencies reported that their entire IT infrastructure uses just one vendor, and another 23 percent use just two or three.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/77636.html.