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

6 simple fixes for the federal procurement process

As the largest buyer of goods and services in the world, our government has a rigorous procurement process in place to protect the American taxpayer, designed to facilitate helping Uncle Sam buy what he needs to perform his myriad missions efficiently, effectively, and economically. Unfortunately, the federal government fails to spend taxpayer money wisely with such frequency that newspapers and television reports are rife with examples of overspending, failed projects and bloated contracts.

Procurement goes through reforms every few decades, but the current environment could not be worse. From the Brooks Act in 1972 to the Service Acquisition Reform Act in 2003, much has been done to address the “mechanics of procurement,” but little has been done to address the human aspect of procurement, either on the government or the contractor sides. From a $10 stapler to a $1.2 billion failed technology system, our government tries to legislate fixes, but it is hard to legislate human nature.

There are things that can be done without formal change; leaders need to lead, managers must manage, and the workforce must exhibit good judgment, be honest and realistic, achieve value, and learn to manage risk. Procurement personnel need to be well trained, their workload must be better managed, and they need to possess strong problem-solving skills. Contractors need to help the federal government with its procurement issues, provide the right solutions, and be realistic about what it can do.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/acquisition/blog/2015/02/20/procurement-fix-legislation-rule/23754523/

IT buying experiments preview ‘Acquisition of the Future’

“Acquisition of the Future” is an initiative that seeks to frame a vision in which acquisition creates significant new value for the government through fresh approaches, modern technologies and a new generation’s capabilities.

Participants include a growing number of federal executives, industry leaders, notable academics and rising acquisition professionals who have been meeting since 2013 to create a framework for what federal acquisition can become, to meet the demands of the Collaboration Age — and beyond.

Acquisition of the Future supporters are continuing their quest to find and capture real-world examples that uncover emerging trends. AOF leverages these initiatives to demonstrate the new value that vibrant, forward-focused federal acquisition can provide, and that model the strategic decision-making and investments required now to transform the future.

Especially in the realm of information technology, such experiments are emerging everywhere. That’s not surprising, because technology is one of the chief disruptors driving change and creating higher expectations in government, society, industry and our economy. Because IT is evolving so rapidly, government has difficulty acquiring, modernizing and maintaining it in a way that keeps pace with innovation and commercial best practices. And current government buying processes and culture make it difficult for agencies to keep apprised and take advantage of the pace of technological innovation. Consequently, IT is a hotbed of acquisition experimentation.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2015/01/22/preview-acquisition-of-the-future.aspx

Fixing acquisition: An opportunity lost?

We’ve spent more than a decade ignoring a simple warning of the 2002 Volcker Commission: We are trying to run a 21st century government on a mid-20th century, industrial age business model. A series of surveys of acquisition professionals the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton have conducted during the last 12 years have consistently flagged the implications of that omission for the federal acquisition workforce. Our 2014 survey, released Jan. 22, shows that the government remains mired in old models. This should be disturbing to anyone who recognizes the critical role acquisition plays in the execution of the government’s missions.

Consider this: In all seven surveys, respondents—who are all government personnel, many from the senior echelons of the workforce—overwhelmingly identified general business acumen, risk identification and mitigation, negotiating skills and knowledge of buying complex technology capabilities as significant gaps in the federal acquisition workforce’s skills. Other, more obvious forces were also identified as inhibiting optimal performance—including the budget insanity that has made it nearly impossible for any agency to optimize operations during the last several years—but the general conclusion has been the same for almost the entire time we have been conducting this survey. Simply put, the workforce does not have the skills needed to do the job as well as everyone wants, and demands. This not a failure of the workforce, but of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change in how we train, educate and support that workforce.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/fixing-acquisition-opportunity-lost/104070

DoD’s proposals aim to simplify ‘mindboggling’ acquisition rules

The Defense Department has submitted seven legislative proposals to Capitol Hill to simplify its acquisition process.

But just don’t call them reforms, they are improvements, said Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee on January 28, 2015 that reforms imply there is some big change, or some big initiative that can fix the acquisition system. But that is just not the case with these proposals.

“What we have to do is attack our problems on many fronts and make incremental progress on many fronts, learn from our experience and then adopt new things as we understand the impact of the things we’ve done,” Kendall said. “And that’s why we’ve emphasized a continuous process improvement approach in the Better Buying Initiatives over the last several years. I think that is the right approach. I think we will make incremental progress on a lot of fronts and in the aggregate, I think it will make a big difference.”

He said the incremental approach will let DoD, and Congress for that matter, improve upon many of the acquisition challenges the military faces.

“At the end of the day, a great deal of it is about not putting rules in place to constrain people, but getting people in a position where they can make better decisions and do the right thing, and then have the institutional support to execute the right thing and do it successfully,” Kendall said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/394/3790060/DoDs-proposals-aim-to-simplify-mindboggling-acquisition-rules

What if the problem isn’t the rules, but the people?

One school of thought holds that the rules and regulations governing the federal acquisition process are so byzantine that the government simply can’t get access to the latest technology in a timely fashion.

But what if the problem isn’t the rules, but the people who must work within them?

At an event in Washington on Tuesday, the National Academy of Public Administration and ICF International unveiled the results of their Federal Leaders Digital Insight Study. Among the subjects covered in the survey of senior federal leaders was the technology acquisition system.

The study found that while there certainly are problems in buying and implementing the latest technology in government, “many federal leaders believe that these problems are the result of execution of the procurement process rather than regulatory requirements.” While nearly 40 percent of the more than 500 survey respondents had some influence in the procurement process, only one of them cited problems with the Federal Acquisition Regulation in written comments.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/federal-news/fedblog/2015/01/what-if-problem-isnt-rules-people/102792/

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