Mythbusting in Action – Communications and Their Value

The July 2013 edition of Contract Management magazine, published by the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), included an encouraging article on how communications between government and industry not only can improve outcomes and business relationships, but also show positive results to improve requirements and the opportunities for better outcomes overall.

The article, “MythBusting – Communications with Industry,” (subscription required through NCMA membership), written by Jeffrey D. Claar, a senior procurement analyst with the Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), describes the successes at the establishment of monthly PEO STRI Acquisition Center Procurement Administrative Lead Time (PALT) Industry Days.

These monthly forums demonstrate the way procurement offices are changing the dynamic of what most “normal” Industry Days entail, which are time-consuming ways for government to advertise requirements that most commercial professional business development types know better than government personnel at the front of the room. Further, rarely are productive question asked, as industry attendance is normally for scouting competition or finding potential teaming partners.

However, living the spirit of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s MythBusters is principal assistant responsible for contracting (PARC), Joseph A. Giunta, Jr., who stated these forums are “a means of providing ground truth and situational awareness of PEO STRI’s Acquisition Center procurement process and ongoing procurements.”

The article goes on to talk about the value of the program, and how communications have helped foster a collaborative environment.

…Since August 2011, PEO STRI PALT Industry Days have grown exponentially, serving the contracting community, requiring activities, and industry partners alike. The monthly PALT Industry Day venue provides industry representatives with the status of PEO STRI programs, ongoing procurements, and the distinct opportunity to request updates on specific procurements of interest in a Q&A-type forum. These types of venues have indeed enhanced communication and have enabled PEO STRI to respond faster to critical, emerging requirements with innovative acquisition and technology solutions, thereby putting the power of simulation into the hands of our nation’s warfighters.

Recently, as a result of sequestration, PEO STRI’s monthly PALT Industry Days have swelled to more than 220 industry representatives and taken on a “standing room only” reputation. As a result of this overwhelming desire by industry, alternative overflow seating and viewing capacity have been predicated…

Further, the exchanges have been helpful and productive for both parties, which one would expect when open and honest transparency, combined with a spirit of collaboration are created, to develop better requirements and provide actionable information for industry consumption:

…At its core, the PALT Industry Day sessions are driven by industry’s questions and not a fixed government agenda. Industry attendees routinely ask questions to a senior PEO STRI panel—consisting of the PARC, deputy PARC, division chiefs, program managers, and legal representation, as well as the Small Business Program Office and a host of contracting officers—about contract types and PALT milestones associated with a specific procurement. This has enabled industry representatives to better allocate resources and facilitate their investment decisions.

In this unscripted setting, industry partners have been more open and comfortable with sharing information, and in turn, as Giunta noted, “Better information is obtained for the acquisition community and for industry partners to support their pre/post-award activities.” Giunta went on to state, “While the sessions are in essence driven by industry, we do have the ability to push information to industry, leading to an educated partner.”…

As the sequestration vice tightens, it is even more important than ever for industry and government to share vital information on how missions will be supported with even more limited resources and contract opportunities.

It is encouraging to see procurement shops proactively improving their relations with industry through communications, and we can expect better outcomes as a result.

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