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/

FAR Part 1: ‘If it’s not prohibited, it’s allowed’

The May issue of Contract Management magazine, the publication of the National Contract Management Association, featured an article called “Secrets of Superstar Contracting Professionals.” The article (which unfortunately is not available online to non-NCMA members) is by Christoph Minarchik, a lawyer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and offers a quick guide to overall skills and competencies that freshly minted contracting professionals need to become outstanding in their profession.

I was happy (and, I will confess, flattered) to see, in a section of the article called “Innovation and Risk-Taking,” a short quote from Part 1.102(d) of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, reading in its entirety as follows:

“In exercising initiative, Government members of the Acquisition Team may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interests of the Government and is not addressed in the FAR, nor prohibited by law (statute or case law), Executive order or other regulation, that the strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority.”

The author went on to state that these words have “reached a near-legendary status in the contracting community,” and that “hushed whispers of it echo through acquisition program offices, [where] grizzled contracting officers vigorously defend it as they pound the table to bolster their case.”

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2014/05/far-part-1.aspx?admgarea=TC_Management

Federal contracting’s bright side

Reviewing government contracting trends over time often yields some surprising results. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t.

One result is while the acquisition environment may appear dire in the short run, the overall picture is quite optimistic. For example, while spending increased dramatically during the early 2000s, owing to two of the longest wars in American history, the “severe” drop off in government contracting that started in 2010 leaves spending still almost 40 percent higher than in 2002, adjusted for inflation. Not so bad for the government contractor community!

Of course, contract spending by the Department of Defense dwarfs that of all other agencies combined. Yet, while some agencies have seen significant drops, the overall reduction is mitigated by the huge amount of spending that continues.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20140508/BLG06/305080010/Federal-contracting-s-bright-side

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

Improved Pentagon acquisition requires tolerance of risk

The federal government must get more comfortable with risk if it is to deliver the nimbler and more performance-based acquisition regulations that defense contractors pine for, a panel of industry executives said this week.

Federal contracting officials should move from the “adversarial, risk-intolerant oversight culture we have with procurement to one that incentivizes and encourages innovation and appropriate, smart risk-taking,” said Joe Jordan, FedBid’s president of public sector, during an April 23 panel discussion hosted by Bloomberg Government.

There is a widespread perception among federal contractors that the government punishes rather than rewards innovation, he added. “If you step out [on] the ledge half an inch, you’re worried about the IG report, the GAO report, your boss getting called to the Hill and then you bearing the brunt of the repercussions.”

Abandoning that risk-averse approach requires a cultural shift, he added — something bigger and less tangible than amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/04/25/dod-acquisition.aspx

GSA announces plan to simplify federal contracting

The General Services Administration’s contracting division is developing a new Web platform and business structure to bring more expertise to complicated acquisitions, the agency said April 9, 2014.

The new initiative, called Category Management, will involve assigning a Federal Acquisition Service manager in charge of each of several acquisition categories, such as information technology, professional services and travel.

Those managers will help develop a Common Acquisition Platform with information about contract vehicles, historical prices and other data related to specific procurements, FAS Commissioner Thomas Sharpe said in a 1,000-word blog post.

The acquisition platform will eventually include several tools related to specific categories of government purchases, according to the blog post.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/04/gsa-announces-plan-simplify-federal-contracting/82306/?oref=nextgov_cio_briefing