Backseat drivers plague procurement

Top defense acquisition managers on likened the procurement process in the armed services to a dysfunctionally piloted bus with dozens of backseat drivers — and did so in front of some of those drivers.

Heidi Shyu,  Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology

Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology

“Each seat on the bus is equipped with its own steering wheel and brakes, but no accelerator,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Heidi Shyu said during an April 22 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee.

Each of the drivers, she said, was capable of steering the vehicle in their own direction at the expense of the other drivers. The only thing each couldn’t do was drive the bus forward.

The Senate and House Armed Services committee have made defense acquisition reform a priority, though congressional micromanagement has sometimes been cited as one of the problems with the process.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/22/defense-procurement.aspx

Can states teach the feds about procurement?

[The following article was written by Michael Fischetti, executive director of the National Contract Management Association.]  

Having recently attended an event by the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO), one is struck by the alignment of the issues, conversations, and knowledge areas across different sectors. There is much these days that supply chain, state, local, and federal communities could learn from each other. Yet real or perceived organizational, logistical, and cultural differences persist, limiting the identification of problems within one community or another, as well as potential solutions.

The challenge is to look beyond norms and see opportunities across sectors and even nations.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/04/09/states-teach-feds-procurement/25543017/

DoD stresses cybersecurity in acquisition reform update

The Defense Department is focusing part of its acquisition overhaul on cybersecurity, according to new guidance.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall on Thursday issued instructions for implementing Better Buying Power 3.0, the third version of an efficiency directive originally introduced in 2010. The directive aims to increase productivity and reduce costs in DOD technology and logistics. Specific strategies include using commercial technology and encouraging more prototyping and experimentation, among other approaches.

The update includes specific plans to strengthen cybersecurity. Though DOD is already working to improve military system cybersecurity, “from concept development to disposal,” the instructions added, “much more needs to be done.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2015/04/dod-stresses-cyber-acquisition-mandate/109885

Longtime procurement expert Dan Gordon set to retire

Come mid-summer, one of the workhorses of federal procurement is set to retire after decades of direct and advisory service to the government.

Dan Gordon, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) and now an associate dean at George Washington University Law School, told FCW in an interview that he has been gradually pulling back from his many advisory roles in the last few months with an eye to retiring by July.

“The goal for July 1 is full retirement,” he said, adding that after that he plans to focus on his continuing study of Chinese languages and then, whatever comes.

Looking back, Gordon said his enthusiasm for the federal government’s procurement system is undimmed, even in the face of the increasing complexity and technological changes that have many calling for reform of the system.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/04/15/gordon-set-to-retire.aspx

GSA moves forward with overhaul of Multiple Award Schedules

The General Services Administration (GSA) is moving forward with its plan to overhaul the Multiple Award Schedules, putting into action recommendations from the agency’s 2010 Multiple Award Schedules Advisory Panel, says an April 13 blog post by GSA Senior Procurement Executive Jeffrey Koses.

“The $33 billion program now demands transformation in order to maintain its status as a best acquisition solution in a fast-changing marketplace,” Koses says.

The transformation will include reducing price variability, minimizing burdensome regulations and processes and introducing additional flexibilities, the GSA’s blog post says.

The overhaul address two key recommendations from the panel’s report – providing agencies with information on prices actually paid for goods and services as well as eliminating the price reduction clause reporting requirements for contractors.

The price reduction clause forces contractors to report if they reduce prices for commercial clients and then, in turn, allow that same discount to government contracts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/gsa-moves-forward-overhaul-multiple-award-schedules/2015-04-13

Read GSA’s blog at: http://gsablogs.gsa.gov/gsablog/2015/04/13/gsa-seeks-to-transform-the-multiple-awards-schedule-program-to-deliver-better-value/

Thornberry’s acquisition bill: Solid contact, but no home run

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s much-anticipated defense acquisition reform bill makes considerable strides toward disrupting a procurement process that is widely considered broken, but the bill is far from a fix-all.

Titled “Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act,” the bill by the House Armed Services Committee chairman synthesizes more than 1,000 proposals from an eclectic mix of Hill staffers, think tankers, industry experts and Pentagon brass.

The bill begins by attempting to improve the skills of acquisition personnel. In the same spirit as Rep. Thornberry’s March 23 remarks at CSIS, it strikes widely, by permanently extending the Department’s Workforce Development Fund; and narrowly, by directing greater training resources towards building expertise in market research. It also strengthens the foundation of the “dual-track career path,” a valuable staffing strategy that allows military personnel to pursue a primary career in combat arms and a secondary career in acquisition. Guided by this language, the system should see a much-needed injection of human capital.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2015/04/thornberrys-acquisition-bill-solid-contact-no-home-run/109642

Cyber to appear In Better Buying Power 3.0

Defense Department acquisition chief Frank Kendall said the next generation of the Pentagon’s influential acquisition document, Better Buying Power 3.0, will take aim at cybersecurity.

“We worry about the weapons systems themselves and all of the connectivity they might have,” said Kendall, speaking at a Bloomberg Government forum on March 12, 2015. “These are ways in which a cyber threat can launch an attack, you can think of it as an attack surface, if you will.”

When the Pentagon rolled out its draft of Better Buying Power 3.0, it included eight categories and a number of subcategories, and cybersecurity was not one of them. The final version of the document was expected to be released in March; a new release date has not been set.

“We have a long way to go and I’m not sure where this trail will lead ultimately,” Kendall said of the cybersecurity effort, “but we absolutely have to do a better job of protecting everything about our weapons systems, birth to death.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/policy-budget/2015/03/13/cybersecurity-to-appear-in-better-buying-power-30/70271020/

House committee unveils DoD procurement reform bill

The House Armed Services Committee released a highly anticipated bill that is meant to streamline the Defense Department’s acquisition process and better train it’s procurement officers.

The legislation would focus on four areas of the acquisition process: workforce training, chain of command, streamlining reporting requirements and overall acquisition strategy.

“More than being monetarily wasteful, dysfunction in the acquisition process is sapping America’s technological edge and robbing our military of agility in the face of multiplying threats,” says Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) in a joint statement with committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Thornberry went on to say the DoD’s acquisition system is slow and cumbersome and that it delivers “vital equipment years late that underperforms and is difficult and costly to maintain.”

The legislation (H.R.1597) would require procurement officers to be trained in the commercial market to close the knowledge gap between government and industry. It would also require ethics training specifically aimed at the acquisition process.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/hasc-unveils-dod-procurement-reform-bill/2015-03-30

Also see: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2015/03/house-defense-acquisition-reform-plan-seen-step-right-direction/108655/ 

NASA launches ‘paper-less’ procurement packages

It’s not rocket science to know that digitizing paper-based processes can save money and time, but a NASA field center is setting an example for how to best tackle the task.

The Acquisition Division of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has digitized hundreds of thousands of documents as part of its plan to make the procurement process paperless. The project began as “Work Different” in October 2012, and 20 months later the Interactive Acquisition Network (IAN) was rolled out.

“We chose paper-less, not paper-free because there’s always going to be some amount of paper,” said Martin Johnson, manager of the Acquisition Strategic Planning Office.

IAN is built on three Microsoft tools that were already part of JPL: Office 2013, SharePoint 2013 and OneNote 2013. Working with the JPL Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), the division created a system that electronically manages from start to finish all procurement packages.

“Subcontract packages are built on OneNote template-driven forms, then routed though SharePoint workflow using InfoPath 2013 forms to gather reviews, comments and approvals,” Steve Simpson, the acquisition technical lead for Work Different, and Wayne Wong, an enterprise apps software engineer at JPL, wrote in an announcement.

Keep reading this article at: http://gcn.com/articles/2015/02/18/paperless-procurement-nasa.aspx

Pentagon acquisition bosses ‘ho-hum’ on multiple reviews for passing milestones

Defense Department major weapons buyers could streamline the acquisition process by eliminating some reviews in the years-long phase for passing each procurement milestone, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.

“The process in some instances can include up to 56 organizations at eight levels and accounts for about half of the time needed to complete information requirements,” the watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

Interviews with 24 program managers and participating organizations on major procurements such as aircraft showed that most “did not think these reviews added significant value to the documentation,” GAO said. “The program managers considered the value added to 10 percent of the documentation to be high,” GAO said in report required by the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. “However, for the remaining 90 percent of the documents, the officials believed the reviews did not add high value.”Sixty-one percent said they provided moderate value while 29 percent said they provided less than moderate.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/02/pentagon-acquisition-bosses-ho-hum-multiple-reviews-passing-milestones/106221