Feds’ procurement shortcomings a threat to industry

In 1994, I attended a lunch meeting in Washington, D.C., where the speaker, who worked for the federal government, discussed the anticipated shortage of qualified federal procurement people. The speaker expressed great concern that the development would adversely affect the government and industry, and stressed the need for professional development, certifications, expertise in managing large programs and a more robust career path, and highlighted the challenges of working in an increasingly politically charged environment.

Fast-forward to 2015: Do those concerns sound familiar?

In the past 20 years, there have been countless articles, blog posts, speeches, plans and conferences that decry this problem. Numerous senior government leaders have repeatedly sounded the alarm: The federal government does not have enough procurement employees now or in the career development pipeline to properly perform its mission. Our industry has heard the alarm bells for years, but it is not listening.

The problem will have an increasingly serious impact on our industry and, in turn, the government’s ability to serve its constituents. Proposal evaluations, contract awards and modifications are already being delayed. Incumbent contractors, of course, can game the system to their advantage — for example, by overwhelming government procurement personnel with new inquiries, modifications and requests.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/01/05/federal-procurement-shortcomings.aspx

How ‘FAR’ we have come: Looking ahead to what 2015 may bring in federal procurement policy

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (“OFPP”) is now under new leadership. Confirmed by the Senate in September, Anne Rung will take on the job of managing the federal government’s acquisition policy. Prior to her most recent appointment, Rung held the position of General Services Administration chief acquisition officer and associate administrator of governmentwide policy. Last month, at the National Contract Management Association, Rung provided a roadmap for her forthcoming tenure. This roadmap gives valuable insight on the foreseeable future of public procurement policy.

So what’s ahead for 2015 and beyond in the world of federal public procurement? According to Rung’s goals, you should be ready for innovation, collaboration and, most importantly, simplification.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=363200

Top Navy official asks Congress to strip out acquisition regulations

A top Navy official says the new Congress should focus acquisition reform efforts on doing away with existing regulations rather than adding to a process that is already overly complex.

“We need precious little new legislation that will trigger added bureaucracy to respond to new requirements levied against an already byzantine process,” Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said Jan. 7 in remarks at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.

The statement reflects growing agreement between Capitol Hill, the Defense Department and industry players that the acquisition process has grown intolerably complex and is undercutting the Pentagon’s technological competitiveness with adversaries.

An intra-Pentagon acquisition reform team has spent several months combing existing acquisition regulations in search of burdensome and redundant rules, Stackley told reporters after his appearance. That team, led by the office of the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, will soon submit its recommendations for reform to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who now chair the Senate and House Armed Services committees. Lawmakers would consider the reforms for the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/01/07/navy-official-regulation-revision.aspx

Federal IT acquisition workforce law signed

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act focuses heavily on the need to strengthen the federal IT acquisition workforce as a central part of improving acquisition outcomes and calls on OMB to come up with a five-year strategic plan to bolster these “cadres.”

OMB will have to annually report to Congress on its progress under the plan and GAO will track it as well. OMB further is required to submit to Congress plans for improving the management of IT programs and projects.

Cash bonuses and other incentives could become available in recognition of high performance on the part of individuals or teams in acquiring information systems and IT. (OPM will be sending guidance on developing awards programs.)

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fedweek.com/fedweek-information-technology/federal-acquisition-workforce-law-signed/

See related article on the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act at: http://www.fedweek.com/fedweek-information-technology/federal-projects-scrutinized/

Major IT reform to have ‘immediate effect’ on feds

Included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved Friday (Dec. 12, 2014) is a technology reform package designed to significantly change the way federal agencies manage IT.

The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) has many components, all aimed at centralizing authority with the top department CIOs and increasing accountability over IT procurement and projects. Whether the bill helps or hinders IT programs will depend entirely on how it is implemented.

Of all the cyber and technology legislation considered on the Hill this year, FITARA is “nearest to [federal employees] and going to have the most immediate effect,” according to Rick Holgate, CIO at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and president of the American Council for Technology.

“In our department we’re already anticipating how we need to adjust our governance structure,” to respond to the new authority of the lead CIO, he said. “[Office of Management and Budget] is going to provide us an interpretation of the statute that we should all follow,” but until that time “we’re all trying to anticipate what adjustments we’ll need to make to adapt to the law.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20141212/FEDIT03/312120006/Major-reform-pending-NDAA-vote 

Acquisition reform? Who says?

There is a lot of talk about the next generation of reforms and changes to the regimes of government acquisition policies, practices and culture.

But two stark examples emerged almost simultaneously in recent weeks that highlight just how far we have to go to create a federal acquisition system that is effective, efficient, responsive to the needs of customers, and enables access to the full array of capabilities the private sector can offer.

One example speaks directly to continued cultural challenges and the other to the mindset that drives far too much current policy and practice.

Let’s start with the culture. In a Nov. 7 article in Government Executive magazine, Kimberly McCabe, the CEO of ASI Government and Dan Chenok, the head of the IBM Center for the Business of Government, made a strong, thoughtful, and articulate case for thinking about acquisition in a holistic manner with an eye toward the realities of today and a very different future.

Moreover, their article outlined a new framework designed to describe and help measure organizational acquisition capabilities and maturity. And, perhaps most significantly, recognizing that the pressure for real, sustainable change has to come from within, the framework they outlined was largely the work of a group of federal acquisition and technology practitioners—from rising professionals to senior executives—they had convened.

Keep reading this article at: http://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2014/12/05/insights-soloway-acquisition-reform.aspx

A bold approach to transforming IT acquisition

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Like Alice, IT procurement reformers are searching for directions without a clear sense of where they want to go.

Rather than continuing to spend billions trying to fix the current IT acquisition system, we must create a view of what acquisition can become, what value it should deliver and what strategic choices we can make now based on that vision.

Since 2013, government executives, industry thought leaders and rising acquisition professionals have been meeting to create the Acquisition of the Future (AOF) movement to give life to that vision and suggest those choices. And we’re almost finished constructing a guide that government can use to take advantage of this new environment and its possibilities.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/11/17/a-bold-approach-to-transforming-it-acquisition.aspx

The Acquisition of the Future movement is built on understanding Collaboration Age dynamics and trends affecting government and industry, such as those identified by Flextronics Chief Procurement Officer Tom Linton in this graphic by Bruce Van Patter. Want to be a part of it? Go to AcquisitionoftheFuture.org to join the movement.

The Acquisition of the Future movement is built on understanding Collaboration Age dynamics and trends affecting government and industry, such as those identified by Flextronics Chief Procurement Officer Tom Linton in this graphic by Bruce Van Patter. Want to be a part of it? Go to AcquisitionoftheFuture.org to join the movement.

Improving acquisition is part of recommended agenda for next Secretary of Defense

The Center for Strategic and International Studies released a  report last week in which its experts offer up some advice to the next defense secretary.

At the top of the recommended agenda?  Improving Defense Acquisition.

Below is an excerpt from the CSIS report:

“For the Secretary of Defense, no news is good news when it comes to defense acquisition.  Much like the offensive line on a football team, when things are going smoothly, it goes unnoticed. When the Secretary of Defense gets asked about the acquisition system, it usually means something has gone wrong. For this reason, and because acquisition is a highly technical discipline, it can be tempting for the Secretary of Defense to focus attention elsewhere, particularly in his or her early days. Just as the offensive line’s performance is critical to the success of a football team, however, solid performance from the acquisition system is a linchpin to a Secretary’s hopes for a successful tenure.

“Defense acquisition is a massive undertaking involving the expenditure of roughly $150 billion annually for research and development and procurement of technology and total contract spending of more than $300 billion annually. Even a small improvement in performance of the acquisition system can make a difference of billions in the cost of equipping the military.  Despite widespread pessimism on the prospects for improving defense acquisition, the opportunity to make progress is real. The latest issue of the Department of Defense’s annual report on the Performance of the Defense Acquisition System shows modest improvement in trends relating to cost growth. While this recent progress is encouraging, the squeeze of sequestration and the budget uncertainties generated by continuing resolutions and potential government shutdowns threaten to reverse this trend. The result would be a snowballing path of destruction through already tight defense budgets.

“The recent announcement of the Defense Innovation Initiative also demonstrates the strategic importance of acquisition to the Department of Defense. As the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review make clear, innovation is key to the military’s future. Ultimately, the acquisition system bears the largest share of responsibility for delivering innovation. Last but not least, acquisition will be critical in the Secretary’s relationship with Congress. Senator John McCain will take over as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the new Congress, and his interest in, and concern about, the defense acquisition system is well known. On the other side of the Capitol, the House Armed Services Committee has already been examining improvements to defense acquisition for over a year under the leadership of Representative Mac Thornberry, the designated next House Committee Chairman, and his ranking member, Representative Adam Smith.

“There are clear steps for the next Secretary to take. First, meet early with industry and set the right tone. The Department depends heavily on industry’s ability to supply advanced technology. There is nothing to lose and much to gain in keeping the lines of communication open. Second, engage with Congress on improving defense acquisition. The Department spent the last year developing a legislative proposal for improving defense acquisition which can provide a solid basis for bipartisan cooperation. Third, embrace the Defense Innovation Initiative and Better Buying Power 3.0 as major priorities. These initiatives are essential to maintaining the U.S. military’s qualitative edge.”

The full set of CSIS recommendations can be seen at: https://csis.org/publication/recommended-agenda-next-secretary-defense

 

OFPP’s Rung rolls out 3-pronged acquisition improvement plan

Three months into her tenure as Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator, Anne Rung is now detailing her vision for major changes to the federal acquisition process.

Rung released a memo on Dec. 4, 2014 giving agencies marching orders for how to use data to make better procurement decisions. This road map builds on existing efforts and takes on targeted new initiatives — all with the end goal of creating an improved, data-driven procurement system.

“We have a great opportunity to create a new model for federal contracting to drive greater innovation and performance, and generate savings,” Rung said in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio. “These actions were shaped, in part, by feedback from our first national online dialogue with industry. The overwhelming feedback from industry and other key stakeholders was that the sheer complexity of the federal marketplace is hindering our ability to deliver the most innovative, high performing and cost-effective solutions.”

Rung’s plans center on three broad concepts:

  • Category management
  • Acquisition workforce talent development
  • Stronger vendor relationships

Each of these focus areas are interrelated as much as they are standalone concepts.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/517/3755979/EXCLUSIVE-OFPPs-Rung-rolls-out-3-pronged-acquisition-improvement-plan

Download and read Anne Rung’s Dec. 4, 2014 memo here: Transforming the Marketplace – OFPP – 12.04.2014

Scraping off the barnacles of the defense acquisition system

The defense acquisition system is like an 18th century wooden warship that has been out to sea for too long, accumulating such a surfeit of barnacles that it can barely float, let alone operate under full speed. It has been 20 years since the last time the acquisition system was overhauled in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) of 1994 and since then an excess of new laws, regulations, policies, practices and procedures have been added to the system. It is time to again scrape off these barnacles, and with a nod to the Royal Navy in the 1780s, attach a new copper bottom to prevent future infestation.

This is not just about efficiency and the ability to move faster — although that is important. Acquisition reform is necessary to maintain the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) current technological and military supremacy over potential rivals in the coming decades or risk falling behind more nimble innovators.

Real acquisition reform will be a multi-year effort to ultimately design a new system from the ground up, but the first step is that much of what is old should be reviewed for relevance. This should start with a zero-based assessment that determines the need for current acquisition laws, rules, regulations and practices.

One way to begin this process would be to enact a legislative sunset of procurement laws to require Congress to review the existing system in its entirety rather than just add to it. Current laws should be given a mandated periodic review — ideally of five years while any new legislation that requires an action should pass with a sunset on them. Legislation that waives or provides exemptions to the current process should however remain permanent until the underlying reason for the exemption is eliminated.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3721463/Scraping-off-the-barnacles-of-the-defense-acquisition-system