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

High risk list: Government IT acquisitions fail ‘too frequently’

The new federal chief information officer, Tony Scott, has his work cut out for him. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today is adding information technology acquisition to its high-profile list of “high-risk” federal programs.

Despite a raft of reforms over the course of the Obama administration, “federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes,” the 2015 update to GAO’s High-Risk List states.

The government has wasted billions on botched IT projects that fail to deliver promised – or any – functionality and have been mothballed. Even more programs are still on the books, but remain at risk of falling behind. And hundreds of watchdog recommendations for improving the state of federal IT acquisitions have gone unaddressed.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2015/02/high-risk-list-government-it-projects-fail-too-frequently/105063

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

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/

Enterprise Innovation Institute’s VP talks about ATDC … and rockets

Georgia Tech vice president Stephen Fleming was interviewed Jan. 24, 2015 by 11Alive “Atlanta Tech Edge” host Angel Maldonado.  They talked about  about ATDC, Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, and rocketships (XCOR Aerospace).

You can see and hear the interview here: http://www.atlantatechedge.com/ATLANTATECHEDGE/article/325878/554/Stephen-Fleming-Ohand-rockets.

Survey: Acquisition workforce falling behind on training

The buyers of products and services across government are not receiving the fresh training or modern skill sets needed to innovate and acquire the complex technology called for in today’s agency missions, according to a survey of federal acquisition employees released on Thursday.

“The acquisition workforce’s skills in areas such as business acumen, negotiation, risk mitigation and understanding complex information technology fall well short of what acquisition professionals say is required,” said Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. PSC and Grant Thornton prepared the seventh edition of a biannual survey titled “A Closing Window: Are We Missing the Opportunity for Change?”

“This not a failure of the workforce,” Soloway said, “but a result of our collective slowness to recognize the need for major change” in education and support.

In a session with reporters, he cited frustrations over a “growing gap” between acquisition specialists and the end users who increasingly say the technology being delivered isn’t suitable.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/01/survey-acquisition-workforce-falling-behind-training/103512/

See more on this topic at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1719

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

DOD tries to allay industry fears on intellectual property

Addressing an audience of defense executives and military acquisition officials, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland sought to clarify how much intellectual property the Defense Department is interested in owning in a project it outsources to private industry. McFarland and other DOD leaders argue that maintaining a delicate balance of owning parts of a project to control its upkeep but not owning too much IP as to scare off bidders could help shore up the U.S. defense industry’s dwindling technological edge.

DOD does not want to own IP when it amounts to business secrets a firm can leverage for competitive advantage, McFarland told a conference hosted by Defense Daily in Washington, D.C. Rather, the department wants to own the interfacing part of a system that would be interoperable with another firm’s technology added later in a project, she said.

Defense Acquisition University defines open systems as those that use open, public interfaces and formats, making them interoperable and portable. To encourage competition for projects, and in turn save money in tight fiscal times, DOD has made open-systems architecture a key tenet of Better Buying Power 3.0, the latest edition of acquisition reform that the department unveiled in September. BBP 3.0 is now in draft form and won’t become DOD practice until the department hears more from industry, Congress and other stakeholders in the coming weeks.

Keep reading this article at: http://fcw.com/articles/2014/11/04/dod-tries-to-allay-fears.aspx

Top administration official says FAR can be made to work

A senior Obama administration official acknowledged that federal purchasing rules are difficult to navigate, especially for information technology projects and services, but they’re getting the job done – for now.

“We may want to think, at some point, about changing authorities. But we have authorities now that can be made to work,” said Beth Cobert, Office of Management and Budget deputy director, referring to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, or FAR.

Cobert delivered the keynote address Oct. 27, 2014 at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., an annual conference sponsored by the industry group ACT-IAC.

A common complaint among federal technology officials is that the FAR is better suited for buying filing cabinets rather than complex IT systems and services. In response to the need for more IT acquisition guidance, OMB created something it calls the “Tech FAR.”

In May, then-federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel said in testimony before a Senate committee that the Tech FAR was being developed to help agencies solicit services in new, more agile ways “such as using challenges and crowdsourcing approaches to involve citizens, writing requirements that allow for more flexible execution, or a pay-for-service model.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/top-obama-administration-official-says-federal-purchasing-rules-can-be-made/2014-10-29

NASA awards flurry of contracts under SEWP

NASA has a host of new vendors to buy IT services from, after awarding 56 contracts to more than 40 companies under the latest version of its Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement, known as SEWP.

Announced Oct. 1, SEWP V is the fifth generation of the multiaward governmentwide acquisition contract. This particular iteration has a total value of up to $10 billion over the next decade.

NASA staggered its SEWP V vendor and contract announcements. The Oct. 1 announcement covered two subcategories: Group A, for computer-based systems, and Group B, for networking, security, video and conference tools.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/10/nasa-awards-flurry-contracts-under-sewp-v/95705/