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

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.