A group who shares ideas and experiences employing innovative acquisition practices, collaborative methods and use of Web2.0 technologies to transform federal acquisition.
Dr. Steven Kelman Visits GSA
March 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm #94374
Dr. Steven Kelman Visits GSA
Recently a group of GSA Directors and Managers from the Office of Assisted Acquisition Services met in Arlington, Virginia. One of the featured speakers was Dr. Steven Kelman, Author, Speaker and Professor of Public Management at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Dr. Kelman spoke about three major topics involving a strategic view on organizations, major acquisition moves from the current administration in Washington, and assisted acquisition services.
Dr. Kelman stated that from a strategic point of view, every organization must meet its organizational goals while staying within the boundaries of its constraints. Success for the organization is meeting both the goals and the constraints and not just one or a majority of one over the other. Success is also maximizing the achievement of the organizational goals while staying within the constraints. Dr. Kelman pointed out that federal government contracting today focuses more on the constraints then on goals to the detriment of the government’s mission. It was noted that several reasons for this overweighting in the constraints area arises from how audits are conducted mixed in with how politics works and how procurement rules, procedures and laws proliferate. The professor concluded that much more balance is needed between achieving the government’s mission goals and staying within federal constraints.
As for the Administration’s initiatives in procurement, Dr Kelman focused in on the themes of competition and contract type. The current Administration of course would like to see more competition in federal government contracting and is analyzing the statistics of such. Dr. Kelman is a big fan of GWAC and Schedule contract vehicles. He noted that if we count FAR part 8 and 16 as competitive procedures there would be no problem with how the numbers look on competition. However, if FAR part 8 and 16 are not viewed as competitive procedures, there may be a problem. The professor pointed out that the impression is that these FAR parts will be counted as competitive as indeed they should be.
Another procurement theme in the current Administration is that of contract type. There is talk about how there should be more Firm Fixed-Price contracts and that this is not receiving a positive reaction in the contracting community. Dr. Kelman noted that the Firm Fixed Price initiative is OK but only if applicable. In this writer’s perspective of what Dr. Kelman was saying is that experienced contracting folks know that contract types are like tools. We should use the right tool for the right job and so in contracting we should use the right contract type for the right contract requirement. It is not so much a matter of using more of one contract type over another but using the contract type that fits best with acquiring the need.
Equally important is the idea of savings plans for agencies. Dr. Kelman is a fan of the effort to achieve savings within federal agency operations and believes in the power of strategic sourcing that leverages the Government’s enormous buying power to achieve significant savings on the services and products it buys. However, the professor pointed out that efficient and effective federal contracting alone will not solve the deficit problems of our nation. Yet he also observed that federal contracting employees should indeed continue their efforts to save money and expenses in procurement whenever and wherever they can.
Wrapping up the session, Dr. Kelman stated again that he is a fan of assisted acquisition services. Many agencies need help with their procurement efforts and GSA has the knowledge, experience, expertise and contracts to help them achieve their procurement goals in the support of agency missions. He said that GSA is also in a strong position to assist agencies with creating and executing better contracts.
GSA was glad to spend a few hours with Dr. Steve Kelman and thanked him for his time and insights.
Dr. Kelman writes extensively about federal procurement under his blog called The Lectern at FCW.com.
March 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm #94382
John van SantenParticipant
Professor Ralph Nash, Professor Emeritus in Frederick J. Lees, E.K. Gubin Professor Emeritus of Government Contracts Law, The George Washington University Law School, provided testimony (at http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&…) stating “In the 1990s Congress authorized two new forms of ‘assisted acquisition’ contracts – Government-Wide Acquisition Contracts (GWACs), 40 USC § 11302, and Franchise Fund contracts, § 403 of the Government Management Reform Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-356. These types of contracts apparently were based on the theory that allowing a single agency to acquire certain types of products or services would allow the government to obtain better prices by taking advantage of economies of scale. They may also have been the result of a belief at the time that having competing contracting agencies would induce contracting offices to improve their acquisition practices. It is my view that neither of these theories have worked out in practice.” The issue at hand is whether services can be acquired at lower prices due to economy of scale as goods have been demonstrated to do – this goes to the heart of Dr. Kelman’s support of “the effort to achieve savings within federal agency operations and […] the power of strategic sourcing that leverages the Government’s enormous buying power to achieve significant savings on the services and products it buys.”
March 8, 2010 at 4:17 pm #94380
Peter G. TuttleParticipant
Thanks for posting this Bob. I’m glad you talked about assisted acquisition services. I happen to agree with him about GSA. A number of franchise fund activities, etc. are on the bandwagon of providing assisted acquisition services, and perhaps, it might be time to evaluate the overall quality/utility of the fee-for-service support effort provided by those various organizations to their federal clients. One area that might deserve a little more daylight/debate is that the financial management systems being used by assisted service provider organizations is, in a number of cases, driving the accompanying acquisition solution that is being offered as well – take a look at which large businesses provide both….and then ask the hard questions about what means more to the nation – competition, innovation and overall best value, or financial management process efficiencies. Just food for thought. I would enjoy hearing other opinions.
March 8, 2010 at 6:19 pm #94378
Thank you Bob very much for the insights and information sharing.
We at Open Government TV would like to talk with Dr. Kelman about coming on our Open Government TV show.
Please send us his contact information or if Dr. Kelman or his office would be interested in contacting us, please call 202-449-7705 or email us at [email protected]
Some interview clips can be seen at http://www.opengovtv.com
Again, keep the information sharing alive and watch innovation and the private industry come alive.
March 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm #94376
Per your request, here is Dr. Kelman’s contact information from his web page. You can also see his blogs at the Lectern and perhaps Email him a message from there as well. See below.
Professor Steve Kelman
Kennedy School of Government
79 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
E-mail: [email protected]
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.