The future of contracting

As government agencies now rely primarily on contractors to meet their mission objectives, they must embrace the oversight and management of contractors as a core competency, not as an administrative function buried deep within the management and/or administration office. Mission delivery through external, private-sector, and profit-motivated businesses requires all federal executives and staff to accept their roles in ensuring that contractors properly support the agency’s “customers” as well as its own private business objectives. Immense advances in technology in recent years and the rising prominence of new corporations in our information age replacing those of the industrial age raises the question: How can government acquisition better leverage new methods of communication and technology; and if so, how can it be more effective?

While technology continuously improves our lives in many ways, such as providing new and improved tools to make data more available, functions to perform faster, and communication to be more accurate and responsive, the professional competencies required and goals of government contracting cannot and should not change. These are concepts of fairness, competition, the role of small business, fair and reasonable pricing, ethical standards of conduct, best value, intellectual property, acquisition planning, compliance, etc. There are also business competencies of leadership, economics, accounting, marketing, etc.  The terminology of competencies may change, but the competencies themselves will remain.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140624/BLG06/306240011/The-future-contracting

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.

 

4 lessons for government leaders on what motivates contractors

Competition was the main theme of the Defense Department’s second annual report on acquisition performance, released earlier this month. Declining budgets may be pushing defense contractors to look for work outside the government, but the Pentagon’s emphasis remains on promoting competition, according to Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

The report analyzed contractors’ cost and schedule performance over more than a decade to see what motivated them to produce better results. Here are some takeaways:

  1. The carrot-and-stick approach works.
  2. Fixed-price isn’t always the best fix.
  3. More competition does mean better performance.
  4. Leadership matters, but it’s not clear how much.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/what-motivates-defense-contractors-four-lessons-for-government-leaders/2014/06/27/a623fb06-f577-11e3-a3a5-42be35962a52_story.html

Will FITARA help agencies embrace the cloud?

Even as the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act makes its way to the Senate floor, experts are split on whether the bill goes far enough and if legislation is needed at all to fix government’s IT acquisition problems.

Angela Styles, chair of Crowell & Moring’s government contracts group, said a bulky procurement process for industry often drives the private sector away from even giving the government options in what it purchases.

“These companies that come to us and ask ‘What does it mean to be a federal contractor?’ come with the expectation based on FASA (the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act) and FARA (the Federal Acquisition Reform Act) from the ’90s that the government has an idea how to contract in a commercial fashion. Maybe the changes in ’94 and ’95 were more commercial, but they are not now,” Styles said, speaking Tuesday during a panel session at Amazon Web Services’ annual symposium for federal IT reform.

Styles said the provisions set up in part 12 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contribute to an “extraordinary gulf” between how the government and private sector do business.

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/fitara-cloud/

Pentagon ranks top suppliers to spark competition among contractors

The Defense Department’s acquisition chief on Friday (June 13, 2014) released a ranking of the top 30 supplier units within the contracting industry as part of a continuing effort to improve the government’s largest procurement operations by curbing costs and professionalizing the workforce.

Frank Kendall III, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, introduced the first rankings from a Navy Department pilot project called the Superior Supplier Incentive Program. Designed to help industry “recognize its better performers” based on past performance and evaluations by program managers, such a list is planned for all the services beginning to build incentives, Kendall told reporters. “The industry people who will respond the most will be the ones at the bottom,” he said.

Sean Stackley, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition industry, said “industry best practices include recognizing the best suppliers, which gives them an incentive to sustain superior performance.” The selections were made through a process designed to be “fair and objective and understood by the public and Congress, as well as easy to manage,” Stackley said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/06/pentagon-ranks-top-suppliers-spark-competition-among-contractors/86473/

For the annual report on the performance of the Defense Acquisition System, click here.  

Opening up competition in federal IT

The Public Spend Forum, a group focusing on public-sector procurement, analyzed government IT spending  and found that a  “check the box culture” and a broken requirements and procurement process inhibits competition and limits innovation.

Its recent report, Billions in the Balance: Removing Barriers to Competition & Driving Innovation in the Public-Sector IT Market makes several recommendations for IT managers:

  • Establish clear lines of authority and accountability.
  • Develop a simple needs and outcomes statement instead of voluminous RFPs.
  • Engage the market early.
  • Develop a cost/outcome (ROI)-focused IT strategy.
    • Focus on minimizing cost/outcome as the ROI of a government program
    • Implement flexible IT architectures as recommended in the ACT-IAC 7S for Success Framework.
    • Emphasize prototyping and approaches for minimum viable product rollouts.
    • Avoid monolithic acquisition approaches and instead leverage existing procurement vehicles and allow use of alternative vehicles.
  • Encourage smart risk taking.
  • Reduce burdensome requirements and speed up the procurement process.

Keep reading this article at: http://gcn.com/blogs/pulse/2014/06/competition-in-it-procurement-report.aspx

 

Is the third time a charm for federal IT acquisition reform?

While many support the current form of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act that passed the House May 22 for the third time in nearly 15 months, some of the bill’s earliest advocates said the changes aren’t quite the reform they initially hoped for.

Brocade Communications Systems, a tech company focusing on products for data storage and networking, was part of the initial House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on January 22, 2013, about federal IT acquisition – the foundations of what would later become FITARA. At that hearing, the company’s former CEO, Michael Klayko, testified about the costs of over-dependence on a single-source supplier in the federal acquisition process.

Now, the company’s director of federal sales, Tony Celeste, said the latest version of the bill is good, but that government IT reform isn’t quite finished yet.

“We’re excited about the bill in its current draft,” Celeste said. “We were a little disappointed to see the IT centers of excellence be pulled from the bill. The rationale behind that was we thought that having the IT acquisition centers in there would give agencies the ability to see new technology, to try new technology, that they’re now not going to have the opportunity to do.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fedscoop.com/is-the-third-time-a-charm-for-fitara/

- See more at: http://fedscoop.com/is-the-third-time-a-charm-for-fitara/#sthash.XzvtBW5k.dpuf

DOL could go it alone with acquisition platform

The Labor Department is seeking information on commercial capabilities that could help it better manage acquisition information as a subscription.

The department is interested in a dashboard that could provide access to regular acquisition news updates, and access to Government Accountability Office and other legal decisions, it writes in a May 12 request for information posted to Federal Business Opportunities.

This platform would also provide easy access to forms, templates and checklists, as well as other acquisition related tools and information.

Although the post is not a direct solicitation, even the department’s interest in such technology is notable given the concurrent efforts already underway within government to address the acquisition process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/dol-could-go-it-alone-acquisition-platform/2014-05-15

Pumping up the procurement playbook

The Department of Health and Human Services is experimenting with an innovative IT acquisition playbook that assembles templates that contracting officers could use to make quicker and more inventive buys.

HHS Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak said his agency asked a contracting officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put the playbook together using some of the more innovative procurement methods allowed under the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

“The FAR has room for some interesting things,” Sivak said during a panel discussion on innovation at the Management of Change conference in Cambridge, Md. Unfortunately, there is usually “no time for procurement officers to explore those processes,” he added.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/05/20/hhs-procurement-playbook.aspx

 

Adversaries outpace US in cyber war; acquisition still too slow

We are certainly behind right now. We are chasing our adversary, for sure,” one of the Air Force’s top cyber warriors, Col. Dean Hullings, told an audience of about 350 here at the National Space Symposium‘s one-day cyber event.

Hullings, chief of Air Force Space Command’s cyber superiority division, said the US is behind countries he declined to name when I asked him later (OK, we all know it’s China and Russia and Israel and … ) both in defense and in offense. This may be part of the reason recently retired Gen. Keith Alexander, former head of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command, poured so much money and passion into offensive cyber capabilities.

Hullings was not alone in his assessment of the state of the US government’s cyber capabilities. The US government lags far behind the private sector, Tina Harrington, head of the NRO’s Signals Intelligence Directorate, said later at the conference.

“This is an area where we are following you guys. We have been behind you guys for most of the last two decades,” Harrington said. Her comments are especially striking, given the bleeding edge technology the NRO traditionally deploys and its supposed strong commitment to ground stations and its communications networks over the last decade.

Keep reading this article at: http://breakingdefense.com/2014/05/adversaries-outpace-us-in-cyber-war-acquisition-still-too-slow/