Anne Rung confirmed as OFPP administrator

The Senate confirmed Anne Rung to be the next administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014.

Rung, who was nominated in July and has been working as a senior advisor in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since late May, received approval by voice vote in the Senate.

“Please join me in congratulating Anne Rung who was just confirmed by the Senate to be the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Thanks to the Legislative Affairs team and OFPP for all of their work on her confirmation!,” wrote Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, in an email to staff, which was obtained by Federal News Radio. “And thanks especially to Lesley Field who has done a wonderful job leading the team over the past several months. Anne has already been a great addition to OMB — and we look forward to working with her in this new role.”
Rung replaces Joe Jordan as the top federal procurement official. Jordan left to be president of FedBid public sector group in January. Lesley Field has been acting OFPP administrator since January.

Buying what works: Case studies in innovative contracting

Last week, the White House announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), a new team of America’s best digital experts dedicated to improving and simplifying the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.  The USDS team has already begun to make progress by releasing the TechFAR Handbook, a guide that helps explain how Federal agencies can take advantage of existing procurement authorities to execute key plays in the Digital Services Playbook.

The Federal Government has long used its buying power as one of the world’s largest customers to accelerate well-known innovations, from the first microchips to the Global Positioning System (GPS).  Today, Federal agencies continue to leverage innovative procurement practices that spur the private sector to develop advanced technologies to better serve the American people – and to pay only for successful results, not just best efforts.

Today, the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Office of Management and Budget are pleased to release the first version of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, an iterative, evolving document that describes a number of ways Federal agencies are getting more innovation per taxpayer dollar – all under existing laws and regulations. For example, NASA has used milestone-based payments to promote private sector competition for the next generation of astronaut transportation services and moon exploration robots.  The Department of Veterans Affairs issued an invitation for short concept papers that lowered barriers for non-traditional government contractors, which led to the discovery of powerful new technologies in mobile health and trauma care.  The Department of Defense has used head-to-head competitions in realistic environments to identify new robot and vehicle designs that will protect soldiers on the battlefield.

We encourage both private sector stakeholders and public servants to engage in a sustained public discussion, identifying new case studies and improving this document’s usefulness in future iterations.  At the same time, Federal government employees can join a community of practice around innovative contracting by signing up for the new “Buyers Club” email group (open to all .gov and .mil email addresses).  This “Buyers Club” group should provide a useful forum for troubleshooting and sharing best practices across the Federal government, serving everyone from contracting officers with deep expertise in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to program managers looking for new ways to achieve their agencies’ missions.

All of these innovative contracting efforts are aligned with President Obama’s management agenda to deliver a 21st century government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth, including specific cross-agency initiatives on Smarter IT deliverystrategic sourcing, and shared services.  We encourage readers to join the public discussion of Innovative Contracting Case Studies, or sign up for the Feds-only “Buyers Club” email group.  We look forward to raising awareness about the many ways that the Federal Government can use the power of the purse to deliver powerful and cost-effective technology solutions for the American people.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Lesley Field is the Deputy Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Federal agencies falling short in providing accurate, complete federal award data, GAO says

Information about grants and loans found on a federal awards website isn’t as reliable as it should be, said congressional investigators, adding that greater oversight is needed.

The Government Accountability Office said agencies provided incomplete and inaccurate information about such assistance awards — totaling about $619 billion — on USASpending.gov, a publicly accessible website designed to improve transparency and accountability on federal spending.

However, GAO noted in its report released Aug. 1 that agencies largely provided complete information about awarded government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/federal-agencies-falling-short-providing-accurate-complete-federal-award-da/2014-08-03

Contractors group would restructure White House procurement shop

Citing a “human capital crisis” in a federal workforce beset by retirements and inexperience, a major contractors group on Monday proposed acquisition reforms that would speed up the procurement process, enhance industry-agency collaboration and reorganize the White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy to improve workforce training.

The Professional Services Council’s report joins an array of acquisition reform efforts under way in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill in addressing the need to create contracting officers with a more sophisticated grasp of industry trends in services contracting, particularly in information technology.

“We need to fundamentally rethink the workforce, to create a unified vision across government,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the council, which represents 375 member companies. “It will affect everything from how we prosecute wars to how we operate our business systems. The time for incremental or tactical change has long passed.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/07/contractors-group-would-restructure-white-house-procurement-shop/89870/

Read the full report by and recommendations of the Professional Services Council at: The PSC Acquisition and Technology Policy Agenda – 07.28.2014

GAO: $10 billion worth of current federal IT contracts could fail

At least $10 billion in federal technology contracts are currently at risk of failing, according to a new review by the Government Accountability Office — and the number could be larger.

Chief information officers across federal agencies reported that 183 of 759 major IT investments were at medium to high risk of failing before completion, the congressional watchdog found. Other IT projects also may be at risk, but federal agencies appear to be underreporting potential problems or removing or reclassifying IT investments that once were part of a public scorecard.

The GAO’s IT management director, David A. Powner, outlined the findings last week at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee on efficiency and effectiveness of government programs. His report comes as the government continues to recover from the problem-plagued rollout of HealthCare.gov and other high-profile IT miscues.

“Information technology should enable government to better serve the American people. However, despite spending hundreds of billions on IT since 2000, the federal government has experienced failed IT projects and has achieved little of the productivity improvements that private industry has realized from IT,” Powner said in written testimony.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/on-it/gao-10-billion-worth-of-current-federal-it-contracts-could-fail/2014/06/13/1e6ee728-f24f-11e3-9ebc-2ee6f81ed217_story.html

Contractor suspensions and debarments doubled over the last 4 years

The number of contractor suspensions and debarments government-wide have doubled since fiscal 2009 because agencies have developed better management tools and a more active referral process, a May 21 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.

Agencies can use suspension and debarment to exclude individuals, contractors and grantees from receiving future contracts, grants and other federal assistance due to various types of misconduct.

A previous GAO report found agencies issuing the most procurement related suspensions and debarments shared common characteristics: dedicated staff, detailed policies and procedures, and an active referral process.

Many agencies that previously faltered in rooting out contractor misconduct have taken the lead from those stronger agencies, the latest report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gao-contractor-suspensions-and-debarments-have-doubled-over-last-4-years/2014-05-22

Acquisition reform: Where do you start?

There are today no fewer than six significant acquisition review/reform efforts underway.

They include:

  • A major effort being jointly undertaken by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.
  • The Defense Department’s  reviews of high-cost/low-value compliance and reporting requirements and soon to be released Better Buying Power 3.0.
  • A “bottom-up” acquisition review directed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
  • A continuing effort to develop IT acquisition reform legislation in the Senate
  • The recently launched OMB crowdsourcing effort focused on improving acquisition.

Obviously, there will be a lot of overlap even as each (hopefully) seeks to break some new ground. After all, there shouldn’t be much debate about the need to substantially transform the acquisition landscape.

Keep reading this article at: http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2014/04/29/insights-soloway-reform.aspx

‘Reverse Auctions’ draw scrutiny

It is like an eBay of Washington, a well-appointed and well-connected online marketplace for lucrative government contracts.

Deals for everything from pens to pesticides, from painting offices to performing autopsies — all that and more is up for grabs on FedBid, a fast-growing private company that has positioned itself at the profitable nexus of government and business.

Financed by an investment company connected to Stephen M. Case, of AOL fame, and Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the Washington Wizards, FedBid has assembled a roster of Beltway insiders to promote an unusual approach to how contracts are meted out. Its latest big hire is Joseph Jordan, who was until recently head of procurement policy for the Obama administration.

Through FedBid, government agencies use “reverse auctions” — in which the lowest bid wins, rather than the highest — to decide who is awarded contracts. In theory, the process can save money for taxpayers by encouraging businesses to offer the best possible prices. In practice, it also makes a lot of money for FedBid, which can collect fees from the winning bidders who, in turn, pass those costs to the government.

At issue is whether FedBid encourages competition, as its proponents argue, or simply prompts companies to submit unrealistically low bids to outmaneuver business rivals. Detractors contend that awarding contracts based solely on price means that the government risks ending up with inferior products or services, though this is a risk even when the government does not use reverse auctions. A recent government study, which reviewed reverse auctions at top agencies, found that roughly a third of all FedBid auctions involved a single bidder, meaning that they were closer to no-bid contracts than true auctions.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/business/reverse-auctions-draw-scrutiny.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140407&_r=1 

Cheapest contract isn’t always the best, acquisition officials say

Confusion over “lowest price, technically acceptable” contracts have rendered the Pentagon’s acquisition workforce “brutalized” by critics and the press who mistake shrinking defense budgets for a lack of ambition for innovation, a top acquisition official said Thursday.

Katrina McFarland, assistant Defense secretary for acquisition and past president of the Defense Acquisition University, said “Low-cost, technically acceptable is good when appropriate, but shouldn’t be used to achieve innovation.” Her “very junior-level” acquisition workforce has a learning curve when it comes to taking the next step toward value added in contracts, McFarland told several hundred industry and government executives at a conference titled “Agility, Velocity and Service Excellence” sponsored by the General Services Administration, the Homeland Security Department and the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council.

Seeking industry input on how to prioritize Defense spending on weapons and information technology, McFarland gave a capsule history of how the acquisition workforce in the 1990s was cut by 20 percent to “reap the peace dividend,” and how, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the civilian force was then flush with money and focused more on “pushing product out the door to the warfighter. We weren’t focused on honing business skills or maintaining a good customer-provider relationship,” she said.  “We were a bad customer.”

An injection of money by Congress in 2008 allowed planners beginning in 2010 to assemble 53 experts from agencies and industry and boil down 325 proposed initiatives to 23, which eventually resulted in the Pentagon’s pair of Better Buying Power initiatives. These include rewards and incentives for the workforce, McFarland noted, including the first-ever visits to contractor sites by deputy and undersecretaries to explain “from the horse’s mouth” the distinctions between low-cost contracts, value-added innovations and affordability in the context of the long-term costs of ownership of a system. “Instead of beating the workforce about the ears, it is a guide to help you think,” she said. If the workforce doesn’t understand low-cost technically acceptable, it will fumble around a bit,” she added, telling the business representatives, “if [acquisition] people ask questions and say this is not logical, do not stop them,” for this is how risks are taken that succeed.

Keep reading thgis article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2014/03/cheapest-contract-isnt-always-best-acquisition-officials-say/80965

OMB and GSA try for agility in IT development, oversight

The Office of Management and Budget plans to revamp its TechStat agency information technology oversight methodology, said Beth Corbet, deputy director for management at OMB.

Cobert said a new TechStat approach will allow federal chief information officers to take an incremental, agile approach rather than focusing on static compliance. She testified during a March 12 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“As we think about a process like TechStat, you don’t want to be measuring compliance with requirements. You want to be looking early about how we’re looking at needs,” Cobert told the committee.

The idea of more quickly, efficiently and openly delivering federal IT may be catching on at the General Services Administration as well.

GSA unveiled March 12 a new office called 18F, presumably named after the address of GSA headquarters at 1800 F St. NW. The office’s inaugural blog post explains that it is a startup within GSA, which encompasses the Presidential Innovation fellows program, and in-house designers, developers and project managers from within government.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/omb-and-gsa-try-agility-it-development-oversight/2014-03-13