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5 Steps to Fixing Gov Contracting – Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Philadelphia has hired its first ever Director of Civic Technology. San Francisco, Boston and New York already have them. But what exactly do they do? And what about cities that can’t afford to have their own Civic Innovation Officers or Innovation hubs? Click here for the full recap.

But up front: Innovation in government procurement.

Too often people think it is an oxymoron — that the words can’t even be used in the same paragraph let alone sentence.

There have been some notable exceptions: The Better Buy Project a few years ago… and more recently, Project RFP-EZ.

But last week, I got to moderate a few sessions at the Multiple Award Government & Industry Conference (MAGIC) 2013— including one on the subject of innovation in government procurement. During that session, Byron Johns, vice president at government contractor American Systems, poignantly expressed his concern… even dismay… at the state of government contracting. He suggested there were problems with increasing number of protests and a system that is simply not able to keep up with the ever increasing speed of technology innovation.

During his question, I asked him if he was one of the people in charge, what would he do? I stressed that suggestions like throwing out the FAR probably aren’t realistic, and I pushed him to work in the realm of the possible. His first comments were frustration that the FAR couldn’t be changed in some effective way.

To his credit, he came back. Johns came up to me on the second day of the conference and told me that I was in his dreams — I was touched, of course. Johns said that he was dissatisfied with his initial comments and came up with five idea to improve and innovate government procurement. He even wrote them out.

I submit them for comment:

Innovation: Rethinking acquisition

  1. Record every protest and outcome in the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS)
  2. Two frivolous or three lost protests in three years – the vendor is subject to a one-year disbarment
  3. Establish a commission of industry, legal, and acquisition experts to draft recommendations for streamlining FAR policy and organization authorities and responsibilities. Everything cannot be dumped on legal for approval without limits.
  4. Industry associations should lobby Congress for acquisition reform
  5. Develop and publish acquisition metrics on areas such as volume, workflow and cycle time.

2013 07 15 Byron Johns Rethinking Acquisition

Other big stories:

  • The Short List of Candidates to Replace Janet Napolitano at DHS. With Napolitano exiting unexpectedly, Obama must find someone else capable of riding herd over the massive, unruly agency.
  • Nations buying as hackers sell flaws in computer code. The NYT writes of the burgeoning business of locating and selling zero-day exploits used to commit intellectual theft or even cyber sabotage. Ten years ago, hackers would hand knowledge of such flaws to Microsoft and Google free, in exchange for a T-shirt or perhaps for an honorable mention on a company’s Web site,” write the NYT’s Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger. But now the market has turned into a “gold rush” with many hacker-founded businesses selling such information to the highest bidder, which are often government agencies. http://nyti.ms/17cnQuK
  • And the leader of the huge hacker conference DefCon, has announced that he is banning feds from attending this years event following the Snowden-NSA spying revelations,Mashable reports. At last year’s DefCon, the world’s largest hacker conference, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander showed up in blue jeans and a tucked-in T-shirt to give the keynote speech, asking hackers to join forces with the NSA. “We can protect the networks and have civil liberties and privacy, and you can help us get there,” he said. The hacker conference and the NSA were on such good terms last year that the spy agency even had a recruitment booth — next to that of the digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Wired’s security reporter Kim Zetter went as far as describing the conference as “a lackey for the NSA.”This year, however, after revelations of top secret, far reaching NSA surveillance programs, DefCon’s founder Jeff Moss asked the feds to stay away.
  • Threat Post says that the move has polarized the hacker community.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life:

  1. Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, announced that she was stepping down last Friday. According to the New York Times, the former Arizona governor played a key role in shaping the Obama administration’s response to hurricanes, terrorist attacks, illegal immigration, and a catastrophic oil spill. She is leaving her role to become the president of the University of California system.
  2. On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about the killing of Trayvon Martin and acquittal of George Zimmerman, calling the incident a “tragic, unnecessary shooting.” The Associate Press notes that the Justice Department said, “it is reviewing evidence in the case to determine whether criminal civil rights charges are warranted.” Last year, the Department opened an investigation into the shooting, but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.
  3. The Thunderbird demonstration team will begin flying again. The Associated Press reports that the team, along with about one-third of the Air Force’s active-duty combat aircraft, has been grounded since April due to budget cuts. The restored flying hours represent about $208 million of a $7.5 billion allocation to the Department of Defense authorized by Congress.
  4. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has cancelled the second planned round of employee furloughs. EEOC employees have already taken five unpaid days due to budget cuts required by sequestration. According to The Washington Post, the second round was cancelled after an aggressive campaign by the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the EEOC and urged the agency to cancel the furloughs.
  5. The House Veterans Affairs and Armed Services Committees accepted a VA and DoD plan to continue pursuing two separate electronic health record solutions with the ability to interoperate in the future. Stephen Warren, VA Acting Chief Information Officer, states, “A key priority for both departments is to standardize electronic health record data and to make it immediately available for clinicians so they have the information they need to make informed clinical decisions for the patients.” FierceGovernmentIT reports that the current software lacks open standards and more development is necessary.
  6. Major General Margaret H. Woodward has been appointed to run a significantly expanded Air Force office in charge of sexual assault prevention and response policies. According to The New York Times, Woodward’s main goals will be to encourage more airmen and women to not only report secual assault, but also to pursue prosecution. She will also increase standards of providing care for victims and improve the way cases are handled.
  7. On Friday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. released new guidelines that significantly narrow the circumstances under which journalists’ records can be obtained. The New York Times reports that the revisions make it harder, though not impossible, for prosecutors to obtain a journalist’s records from telephone companies without advance notice. The new guidelines also support the effort to find ways other than criminal investigations to deal with leaks of classified information, such as withdrawal of security clearances.

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • And we have to give kudos to @NWSKansasCity which used the #Sharknado Twitter craze to their advantage — and got information out about how people can protect themselves from real tornados. For those of you not attuned to crazy online crazes, Sharknago is a made-for-cable movie where sharks are sucked up by a tornado and hurled throughout Southern California. And yes, it is as bad as it sounds, although Paste magazine said “For what it is, ‘Sharknado’ does what it’s supposed to do better than almost all of its peers.” That being said, the hashtag #Sharknado blew up on Twitter last week turning a camp classic into must-see TV. And The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang captured some of Twitter’s #Sharknado best, including the @NEWKansasCity item). (My personal favorite.)

  • Flying cars? Human-powered helicopters are already here–just be ready to duck. Wired U.K.’s Duncan Greene reports that the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter competition, created in 1980 to recognize the “first successful controlled flight of a human powered helicopter,” finally has a winner — a Canadian team whose helicopter hit a height of three meters while hovering at least one minute. The helicopter had a wingspan of 47 meters.
  • Fast Company: The Gates-Funded Toilet Of The Future

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Profile Photo Dale M. Posthumus

Regarding Byron Johns’ comments about protests, I cannot agree that an arbitrary limit on protests lost (who determines it is frivilous?) is the way to go. There are many simple and complex reasons for a decision to protest and a decision to withdraw (or push to the end). The concept of frivilous, if defined well, could be used as a gate to formal protest, part of finding ways to make the process more efficient and quicker. Of course, it would help if the Govt did a better job of writing and evaluating RFPs, as well as making relevant information available to all bidders well in advance of the RFP. Some agencies do well, many do not.

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