A group who shares ideas and experiences employing innovative acquisition practices, collaborative methods and use of Web2.0 technologies to transform federal acquisition.
Ideas for saving money?
September 16, 2009 at 11:44 am #80621
OMB’s Memo entitled “Improving Government Acquisition” (found here http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/asset.aspx?AssetId=1535 ) issued on July 29 among other things, “requires agencies to take the following actions: (1) review their existing contracts and acquisition practices and develop a plan to save 7 percent of baseline contract spending by the end of FY 2011; and (2) reduce by 10 percent the share of dollars obligated in FY 2010 under new contract actions that are awarded with high-risk contracting authorities.”
For the govies – would love to hear how your agency is approaching this as well as any ideas you have; from the non-govies – what ideas do you have for us? Would also like to hear what you think won’t work or what we shouldn’t try to do.
September 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm #80689
Great subject Mary – thanks. A couple of thoughts……In regards to Point (1), IMHO what will work and will be accepted by both industry and the government is an unbiased review of individual contract requirements, activities and deliverables to weed out those which may not really add much value to actual mission accomplishment. Here is a simplistic example – one thing the government requires in many contracts is monthly program status reports and meetings, even with very mature contracts/programs. Perhaps quarterly status reports would be more appropriate for less complex and more mature programs. Let’s be honest – who reads the reams of program status reports anyway – the COTR? What probably won’t work well is to simply “salami slice” contracts with a 7% across-the-board cut – even though this method would be quicker to achieve. Point (2) might also be addressed by an unbiased review of T&M, LH, FPLOE, CR or other types of higher risk contracts to determine if the requirements are well enough defined or stable enough to convert the contract or selected line items to fixed-price. Another simplistic example might be if a T&M contract for supplemental staff is mature enough so that the requirement is relatively stable, e.g. it’s always going to be 15 FTE and the supplemental staff performs the same types of tasks day-in-day out. Negotiate w/the contractor to convert the out-years to FP and add an additional CLIN for a “lot” of hours in case you need additional unanticipated staff to support a spike in activities. Anyway, just some Wednesday morning ramblings. I look forward to seeing other opinions. Cheers.
September 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm #80687
Oh, Mary, where to start, where to start… Well, let me just start with one of my many concerns. One of the primary problems I have encountered in my contract audits are with agency Blanket Purchasing Agreements (BPAs). In particular, I believe the fact FAR 8.4 indicates that FAR 13 does not apply to BPAs issued against GSA Schedule contracts is extremely misleading and disconcerting. BPAs are defined as “a simplified method of filling anticipated repetitive needs for supplies or services by establishing charge accounts.” Of significance is the fact that BPAs are specifically addressed under the “Simplified Acquisition Methods” section of FAR. So the awarding of multi-million dollar BPAs/”charge accounts” appears to be totally contrary to the intent of FAR 13.303, in my opinion, and therefore not in the best interest of the Government. I would argue that FAR 8.4’s exclusion from FAR 13’s requirement pertains only to the competition and synopsis requirements; nothing else. In my opinion, the remainder of FAR 13 should apply to all BPAs including those against GSA Schedule contracts. I believe GAO/OFPP needs to clarify the intent of BPAs as well as the extent that FAR 13.3 applies to GSA schedule contracts.
I would also argue that many agencies are abusing the use of BPAs as a means of avoiding the fair opportunity requirements required under FAR 16.505 for IDVs. FAR must do a better job of clarifying the difference between BPAs vs. IDVs. How exactly do BPAs differ from IDVs? I also believe that agencies are using BPAs, in lieu of IDVs, as a means of avoiding the requirement to obligate the minimum guarantee amount. I also feel that BPAs are just another method agencies are using to avoid set-aside requirements of FAR 19. And NONE of the BPAs I have reviewed, including the stand-alone (non-GSA Schedule) BPAs, comply with the mandatory requirements under FAR 13.303-2(b) and -3. [And I believe FAR needs to define “numerous purchase orders” under 13.303-2(a)(3), because some COs are interpreting this to mean as little as even two or three orders per annum].
I also find it troubling that individual BPA calls/orders, including those against non-GSA Schedule BPAs, are being awarded for half a million dollar and up when FAR 13.303-5(b) states that “individual” BPA orders are limited to the “simplified” threshold of $100,000 (unless agency regs permit otherwise). I frankly do not think it is in the Government’s best interest to exclude from this “Simplified Acquisition” procedures (SAP) threshold individual BPA calls/orders for BPAs awarded against GSA Schedule contracts.
One particular BPA call issued by USDA’s Forest Service (FS) against a GSA Schedule contract was reported in FPDS-NG as “full and open competition”. On what basis can a BPA call against a GSA Schedule contract be determined full and open competition? At most, it could be a ‘follow-on order to a competed (FSS schedule) action’. The transparency and accountability of BPAs, and orders/calls placed against BPAs, is non-existent in FPDS in my opinion.
With the availability of e-Buy, GSA Advantage, FedBizOpps, email, and internet access, I feel that BPAs may have outlived their intent, need and usefulness. If it is determined that BPAs should be maintained as a viable contracting vehicle for federal agency use, I would recommend that FAR Council consider implementing the same competitive requirements that apply to fair opportunity actions under IDVs (> $30K). In the alternative, I would then recommend, at a minimum, that FAR Council consider implementing restrictions on all orders (> $100K) against GSA schedule contracts, including BPAs, similar to those recently implement under DFAR 208.405-70. I also believe there should be a ceiling limit placed on BPAs in general and I would contend that FAR never intended for “charge accounts” to be awarded for millions and multi-millions of dollars. It would seem more appropriate to award these million/multi-million dollar procurements as separate IDVs (preferably advertised on FedBizOpps rather than against a GSA Schedule contracts, especially if they include options).
September 16, 2009 at 3:29 pm #80685
I fail to see how this harangue against BPAs is on-topic. Where is the argument for dollar savings here?
September 16, 2009 at 3:30 pm #80683
Good and productive thinking.
September 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm #80681
WOW Debbie! Very detailed. I can see what you mean. If the use of BPAs are abused this could eventually waste tax dollars by not utilizing the correct competition and award procedures. If some COs are using the BPAs to avoid FAR 13 procedures, then yes, this may cost more money in the end. Fair and open competition may save more funds than BPAs.
September 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm #80679
Mary, I love this topic! it si always fun trying to find a same or similiar item and buy it cheaper. I think it is fun to see how much money I can save compared to the appropriated amount.
Peter – I like where you are going with (1). Labor costs are the number one cost on a project, but you don’t have to cut employees to save money. Small items add up. Something as small as creating, reviewing, and sending out a monthly report may take many man hours. Just eliminating the monthly report and making it a Quarterly report would save some of the dollars. The information from all the months would still get put into the report. But, as we all know, doing the project once take less time than doing it over and over.
I would like to throw something out from agencies like mine, saving some dollars can comes down to one small change; Getting the PRs into the office with plenty of lead time. When we receive a PR and it has a very small lead time, we go into frantic contracting mode. You find some vendors on GSA or CCR and you run with it. But, when someone has a nice lead time, you have the time to really shop for a good vendor. You have the time to send it out to more vendors, than just the min. vendors. It is the difference between buying milk from a Gas station because you are tired and want to go home, compared to proper shopping when you have hours to compare prices.
Plus, if you send a vendor a RFQ, with a short lead time, you may end up paying more for the goods. The vendor needs a good lead time to also find a good prices.
Last minute contracting is mostly more expensive than contracting with lead tme.
I use this example to save money, because it is so simple to use this and save money right off the top. Just like Peters idea, if we add up all the simple ideas, thy would add up to great savings, and very few people (employees) would be affected.
September 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm #80677
Great comments Amanda – back in the day in the Army we used to say Proper Prior Planning Prevents …. Poor Performance. Admittedly it is a trite, somewhat descriptive phrase – but at times still appropriate. Not receiving PR packages on time (or receiving incomplete or inadequate ones) still seems to be a common complaint. The issue IMHO is symptomatic of some of the types of challenges experienced throughout the acquisition process. Maybe this group can work to solve one or two of them. Cheers.
September 16, 2009 at 6:35 pm #80675
When looking at Cost savings, we need to consider the entire life-cycle cost not just the execution phase costs. As Amanda said, last minute contracting is more expensive – not only does the vendor usually come in with a higher price because they see more risk in responding to something they haven’t read thoroughly but then you wind with extra time spent by the contracting staff and the COTR to fix anything that was overlooked, not clear, etc because it was rushed.
Spending the time upfront establishing a good system (even in Excel) for tracking funding, invoiced amounts, deliverables, property, etc saves time (and therefore money) when it comes around to doing close-outs on orders as well. Because every hour spent trying to track down something on an order that ended 2+ years ago is an hour not spent working today’s mission.
Can’t forget the cost associated with not having a well-defined requirement either.
To reduce the amount that is awarded non-competitively and/or receive only one bid, the only real strategy is to start early. Agencies should have some sort of master list of all service contracts and when they are scheduled to end and require the organizations receiving the support to provide their plan for getting future support a full 12 months before the current support ends (the plan is due 12 months out) and then measure the organization on how well they meet that plan. Starting early allows for Pre-solicitiation notices/conferences, draft RFPs to be released, Industry Days, Due Diligence sessions, etc which all generate interest and increase the likelihood of receiving more than one bid. An earlier start also ,eams the RFP can be on the street longer, and a meaningful transition period can be included.
September 16, 2009 at 8:29 pm #80673
The bottom line to saving money is competition and, yes, Pattie, acquisition planning should always start early to maximize that competition. But invariably I find that COs/KOs are taking the easy way out by going to existing contracts like GWACs/Schedules, BPAs, MAS, IDIQs for procuring items to avoid that 45 day time-frame that is required to go out full & open (15 day pre-solicitation synopsis notice + 30 day solicitation posting and response time). So is this a result of lack of advance planning or a way to avoid having to do a full fledge procurement? I’m not sure, but my fear is that it’s the latter. There may be mini-competitions being conducted on these existing IDV contracts, but it is clearly limited to certain vendors. And in the case of BPA calls/orders, I’m finding little or no competition whatsoever among the vendors on the Agreements. The vast majority are sole-source, because there is no ‘fair opportunity’ requirement on BPAs. However, as FAR says and we all know, “adequate price competition estalishes price reasonableness.” Clearly I agree that competition is where a lot of the “savings” can be realized.
Another sore spot for me is where I see specifications/SOWs that are padded with unnecessary, and more importantly, unauthorized requirements that add nothing to the Scope of Work but yet which result in additional costs/risks for the contractor. I think Peter hit upon this in his comments about the requirement for monthly status/progress reports. The Govt. is notorious for recycling old specs/SOWs without even really reading them to see if the requirements are still applicable or, more importantly, necessary. Two of my biggest pet peeves found in SOWs/specs are NonDisclosure Agreements and Organizational Conflict of Interests statements. The Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) is very clear that all ‘collections of information’ must be approved. I have YET to see a NonDisclosure Agreement that has been approved by OMB in the “inventory” or contain an OMB Control number. And none of the Organizational Conflict of Interest Statements I’ve seen meet the FAR 9.5 requirements. And don’t even get me started on the HSPD-12 and Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) requirements. The costs passed on to the Government, by offerors, for all these unnecessary and unauthorized requirements are astounding in my opinion.
The problem I have found with a “review” of T&M/LH contracts, Peter, is that, like CMc (construction manager as Constructor), which is an unauthorized cost-reimbursable contract, a whole lot of these contracts are being reported incorrectly in FPDS as fixed-price contracts. (GAO issued an audit report recently with this same finding.) But I agree that it certainly would at least be a starting point for review. The one way I have found to search out true T&M/LH contracts, that were erroneously reported as fixed price, is to find the final ‘definitization’ (referred to as “deobligation’ by some agencies) modifications. The research has been extremely revealing to say the least. And a review of CR contracts as a means of saving money goes without saying. But who are we proposing to do these “reviews” and what would we do with the findings? I think it’s a great idea, but I just want to make sure the findings from the “reviews” have an audience.
This is indeed a most excellent topic, Mary!
September 16, 2009 at 8:50 pm #80671
Great point about who actually does the contract reviews, Debbie. I imagine that the actual reviews will fall on the usual suspects – CO and COTR and company contract administrator & PM. Even though it sounds like a worthwhile effort, both sides senior management will have to be supportive (and actually be willing to take action based on results – whatever they are) prior to any reviews commencing, else much time will be wasted with no gain. Before any detailed reviews start, senior management will have to perform analysis at a high level to narrow-in on those activities which do not contribute to mission – they may even have to redefine mission into a “core” mission in case there are lots of tangential activities, etc. I guess this can turn into sort of a chicken and egg scenario …….
September 17, 2009 at 12:29 am #80669
OH Pattie, you said a mouth full!
If the requester takes the time to send in a good list of salient characteristics or SOW we can save a ton of money down the road. Having a good COTR who is with the PR from start to finish will also save time and money.
The sad part here is we are listing items which can be done right now without many changes to day to day work. Prior planning needs to be a priority, leadership need to learn to share or combine reports, and start cutting down on too many reports or paperwork (which adds up to man hours), and just plain common sense will cut some of the fat right off the top.
BTW – My pet peeve – Every single leader in an organization should not be asking for different individual reports (unless really needed). One large report can be created, and each leader could reorganize the report as needed. This is very easy in excell. Plus, unless there is an emergency, all reporting should all be done at a specific time each week/month/ quarter etc. Stopping someone from working just to frantically get a report is a waste of time and morale. Thnak goodness I don’t normally have to do this, but my co-worker spends alot of her time stopping and starting what she is doing because of various reports the leadership wants. I have watched her stop and start projects in between getting reports, this is a huge waste of time and money.
September 17, 2009 at 12:29 am #80667
Thnak you Peter. Maybe we can change things!
September 17, 2009 at 4:29 am #80665
Debbie – thanks for your comments. I think there are many ways that BPAs still serve a purpose and can be administered in a way that still provides for further competition. If you’d like to talk about specifics let me know and I’ll have someone get in touch with you. There is certainly always more GSA can do to educate agencies on appropriate and innovative use of Schedules and this continues to be a focus of ours.
September 18, 2009 at 12:25 am #80663
<<>> Every huge office does not need a flat screen TV on every wall. (Sorry — needed to vent.)
September 18, 2009 at 12:47 am #80661
Lobbyists have them – why not…..oh, never mind.
September 18, 2009 at 3:53 am #80659
I see I am not the only one venting about obvious ways to save money. LOL
September 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm #80657
One more simple way to cut cost; take the time to check the numbers. I have to share this, because it worked out great.
When I worked as an 1101 GOR type, the state would send me invoices to be paid to them by the Federal side. I used to actually break out the old calculator and make sure numbers were correct. I would spend this few minutes doing this, as I was putting numbers into a spreadsheet. It really did not take me much longer than just going with invoice that was given me, but just for fun, I really liked to check the labor hours (especially if it were overtime hours, and I like to make sure the percentage being charged met each step of the way for an MCCA. Well, in my first week, I save the Federal Government over $100,000. Normally, everyone had always just assumed someone up the line had checked the numbers, so no one else ever checked the actual calculations on the invoices. What had been happening was this; the Accountant for the contractors would turn in invoices to the contractor to be checked, believing the accountant to be good at their job, the contractor would not check the numbers, so the contractor would turn in the invoice to F&E, F&E believing someone checked the numbers would turn over the invoice to the State accounting, who would not check, then they would turn it over to the GOR – ME. And guess what, I would break out a calculator and start checking. This is what I found (which turned into a huge audit), I found that every time a certain contractor would turn in invoices, the labor numbers were way off. I am talking thousands of dollars. I could not figure out how an accountant of a huge company could make such a mistake, so I went with the part of maybe they were good at their job, and they were not crooks, and this were people who just making mistakes. So, when you take the side that everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing (except they are overworked and underpaid), what are you left with? You are left with a really good group of people who are somehow failing at their jobs. What do accountants use more than anyone? Spreadsheets. No matter how I put my numbers into my spreadsheets, could I get my numbers to add up to theirs. It looked good on paper, but not in the electronic world. I am a normally nice, level headed person, so I sit back and think. Where is the issue? I have run my numbers over and over and they still do not add up. It took me a month, and a plain ole $3 calculator (because one leader said my spreadsheets must be wrong – but a calculator does not lie) to prove that my numbers were correct, and the numbers from the contractor were not correct. Basically, we traced the whole issue back to one small, very simple issue. The spreadsheet the accounting office at the contractors had one calculation put into the spreadsheet wrong. And as the old saying goes “Junk in equals junk out”. I never once blamed anyone. There was an issue, and it needed to be fixed. Like I said, in the first week I found over $100,000 in mistakes, and then the IR department took it from there. We had been doing business with this contractor for years, so I have no idea how much money we over paid them. It wasn’t bad contractors, it wasn’t bad people, it wasn’t even people not doing their jobs, it just happened. But, keeping an eye on the checkbook is one way to make sure we save money. We should be good stewards of the taxpayers dollars, and we should watch the Federal checkbook as closely as we watch our own. That alone, can save money.
September 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm #80655
One more story that happened this week – this time in favor of the vendor. I tell the truth with money, no matter which way the hammer falls. This week I worked a large PR, and while evaluating the quotes, I realized one of my vendors had some accounting issues. So, I did the right thing, first I looked up my rights in the FAR, and then I sent an e-mail to all the vendors who had submitted quotes and put something to this nature in an e-mail. (The actual e-mail is at work) “There seems to be an issue with the accounting process of one or more quotes. I would appreciate it if all vendors would double check your accounting, and please send me back you final quotes. If there is a mistake on my part, this issue should be resolved once all the quotes are received. Do not change the amount of the individual item, just the accounting that finalized the quote.”
Yes, a vendor mistakenly put too many of an item in one CLIN and not enough in the other CLIN, which made their quote really high. I could have used their numbers they presented me, and accepted them as one of the higher bidders, but I always double check a vendor’s numbers, no matter what. Wouldn’t you if you bought something from say; JC Penny, or Walmart?
Good ending for them – They ended up being the lowest quote, and thanked me for taking the time to use a calculator, instead of just accepting all the quotes at face value.
BTW – I just saved the Federal Government $60,000. (My calculator says that is way over 10% on one contract)
September 19, 2009 at 9:31 pm #80653
Yup, I always still use my 1990’s calculator too. I never cease to be amazed at the simple math errors that are made that nobody else caught.
September 20, 2009 at 4:47 am #80651
I knew I liked you! When in doubt, break out the calculator. Numbers don’t lie.
September 21, 2009 at 5:12 pm #80649
I’m starting to require folks to show me their on-going tracking mechanisms for the contracts. It’s amazing how much time and effort goes into doing the reconciliation at the end of the contract because no one built a spreadsheet as they went along to capture the data they will need at the end. How many times are we taking the cumulative figures on an invoice as correct? Or the fact that we can’t answer the question if a contract is eligible for quick close-out because we have no idea what the total unreconciled indirects are – or if the vendor ever withheld part of the fee like they are supposed to? A few more hours up front results in lots less time at the back end – esp when the people with the history have moved on to other jobs.
September 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm #80647
I’ve got no problem with the use of GWACs/IDIQs and MACs if the requirements fit within the scope because the vehicles themselves were competed on a full and open basis. I don’t think it’s avoiding the work of a full and open, but instead using the processes and tools available to make us more efficient in our work and maximize the use of our resources. Even under a GWAC/IDIQ/MAC, you’ve got to advertise the opportunity early to promote competition and leave it on the street long enough to allow vendors to submit a meaningful proposal. If you’re putting it out there for the minimum time allowed by the vehicle, with no advance notice; then you should just write the sole-source justification instead of doing a no-competition competition
September 21, 2009 at 5:36 pm #80645
Just to be somewhat contrary, it’s tough not to fit many requirements into some GWACs and MAC’s due to the extremely broad nature of their SOWs. We’ve seen where agencies used GWACs to outsource their purchasing responsibilities to LSI’s. This effectively removes any subsequent competition from the federal arena and places in the murky commercial world where the rules are not the same. Obviously, GWAC’s, MACs and ID/IQ’s exist for a reason and are beneficial when used correctly.
September 22, 2009 at 3:14 am #80643
Very good ideas! Now Pattie, I have a question for you….we were just looking for that information recently —- How do we know if a contract if eligible for a quick close – out? Where do I find that information. Your input in this would be very vital to our office right now. 3 years ago an old boss did a numebr of quick close outs, that we are trying to find out if they were done correctly or not. Higher ups are looking at these, and we are trying to keep their hands out of our home.
So, where do I find this information on quick close outs? Thank you. Please feel free to post the answer on my personal page also. I would really appreciate the help.
September 22, 2009 at 3:23 am #80641
I thought GWACs were used mainly for IT products, STARS and CHESS? I don’t deal in IT products but maybe once or twice a year (open seasons), so, I don’t know a huge amount about it, but again I thought that is the main reason for a GWAC. Am I wrong? Or a bit off? Does someone mind setting me straight on this?
As for BPAs; we are careful to get competition for BPAs. In fact I am setting up 4 right now, and all 4 will go through compeition, but in all four areas we need BPAs. we will also have 3 BPAs (for a total of twelve), so the customers will be forced to rotate the vendors. It is almost crazy when we do BPAs, we are more careful with them then others, because we know the history of BPAs. I can honestly say, right now, any BPAS I have seen are as clean as they can be. Probably cleaner than they need to be.
September 22, 2009 at 3:19 pm #80639
Steve Kelman has posted a blog topic and written an article with additional ideas on this subject. Read the blog post here http://fcw.com/Blogs/Lectern/2009/09/kelman-contract-spending-savings.aspx and the article here http://fcw.com/articles/2009/09/14/comment-kelman-contracting-savings.aspx
September 22, 2009 at 3:42 pm #80637
For Quick close-outs the contracts have to be, IAW FAR 42.708, (a) physically complete, (b) “amount of unsettled indirect cost to be allocated to the contract is relatively insignificant” defined as $1M or less, and less than 15% or unsettled indirects but the 15% is waivable bvy the CO.
To figure out what’s unreconciled, it’s back to invoices and Excel LOL
October 1, 2009 at 12:31 pm #80635
Just added a new blog post on some recommendations and things that can be accomplished long and short term based on the OMB guidance, included integrating Web 2.0 strategies. Will be expanding views in the next few weeks and months with different publications and posts.
October 8, 2009 at 8:39 am #80633
Three really small simple areas I think could be improved: government purchase cards, COR/COTRs, and planning for furniture acquisitions.
I have yet to see a GPC program run (DoD) well. We have agency regs on top of Army regs, on top of DoD regs, on top of DoD FMR/DFAR regs and yet no one knows how to run this program. We have an agency requirement to compete all GPC card purchases, so we spend man hours getting at least 3 quotes for things like a file cabniet. We do not have any system-wide process for logging, tracking and reviewing purchases – even though the GPC program with the banks include a web-based system that will do this – we have 12 card holders (and only 200 employees) who make up different excel spreadsheets (and one who keeps a hand written ledger like its 1940) and no one in charge of the program ever has access to any information on what is being purchased by whom (several people wind up purchasing the same thing within months or even days of each other – when if purchased together might have qualified for a bulk discounts). Our RM Chief has everyone getting a LOA for each individual item purchased instead of bulk funding the cards, adding over 250 man hours for one card holder simply on data entry to an automated request system to request funding for the purchase who then waits 3-7 days for a budget analyst to assign a LOA for the 16.00 dollar box of labels…So, we have now spent anywhere from 1-15 man hours and wasted 1-2 weeks for a 16.00 purchase and involved the requestor, card holder, budget analyst and supply (who has to go with card holder to pick up item). There needs to be clear guidance on how to use this program so that we are not spending the same amount of man hours on simplified purchases under 3K that we spend on larger contracts. Bulk fund the cards up front, stop giving them to everyone who says they want one, and stop making this an additional duty for people who have had no training in procurement (one slide show presentation a year on the GPC program does not make anyone knowledgable about how to legally use this card as a method of contracting/ordering or payment). This should really be looked at as a job in and of itself IMO. We could have 2 or 3 card holders here instead of 12 (sometimes more) who could do this full-time and free up a lot more man hours for people actually working on the mission.
COR/COTR-similiar problems with card holders in that there is very little training/knowledge about contract/fiscal laws. We have CORs all over the place who have this duty tacked on the their regular job and have no time and little incentive to learn how to do this well. These jobs need to be taken seriously, a good COR can help save money on any contract, but not if it is an additional duty thrown at someone with no knowledge of how to do it and no time to learn…I think the COR/COTR should have similiar training and continous learning requirements as any other position in acqusitions.
Furniture acquisitions – at least here we do not have any planning for replacing office furniture, we order it when it is requested or when we hire someone new. Have a 5 year plan and build it into your budget for replacment of your office furniture. We spend a lot of money (esp. on shipping overseas or spend much more ordering locally) ordering furniture piece meal.
One more thing I just thought of, for overseas activities it would save us a lot of money if someone-ANYONE-somewhere knew how to get companies to stop charging us VAT on purchases. The UK is different form Germany is different from Italy, but since we are in Germany we only know how to request VAT reduction in Germany, so we routinely pay the VAT when we order from UK or Belgium because we simply don’t know how to request it to be taken off…I make a lot of purchases from the UK and while I can cite SOFA agreement and NATO treaties to no end, I still pay VAT because no one here knows how we can get an application for exemption from VAT under Article 151.10 of the Sixth VAT Directive.
October 8, 2009 at 1:08 pm #80631
Brenadine: Furniture acquisitions – boy, does that bring back memories. Years ago, that seemed to be a standard way to spend year-end money and I always got into hot water for questioning the “need” for new executive furnishings. How many of you still see these types of requisitions float through?
October 13, 2009 at 4:02 pm #80629
We still dump end of year funds into it…needed or not.
October 16, 2009 at 12:23 am #80627
Bobby – GSA negotiates all the FedRooms contracts on behalf of the Gov. You can find more info here http://www.gsa.gov/Portal/gsa/ep/contentView.do?contentType=GSA_OVERVIEW&contentId=18916
Does this help?
October 16, 2009 at 6:25 am #80625
I think we could save a bit of money if we start being more realistic when putting together an Analysis of Alternatives. Early in the acquisition process, this analysis is required to determine whether our mission need can be met by something already in existence.
When I first joined the Air Force in 1989, it was relatively easy to say you’d done a cursory survey of current technology and write in an AoA that no other product in the world could meet the mission need. Now, however, we have the entire Internet at our fingertips, as well as data sources behind the government firewall. Examples of these include Intelink, DoDTechipedia, Air Force Knowledge Now, Army Knowledge Online, etc. There are probably others outside the National Security community that I haven’t even heard about. Obviously, no single person knows where all the possible data sources are. But perhaps if a single Federal agency (GSA, perhaps?) could bring all these various data sources together into one place, it would be easier for those doing an AoA to find the information they need. (It would also help if they were networked with each other and you didn’t have a do a separate search within each data store. But that’s a topic being discussed elsewhere on GovLoop, I believe.) Perhaps if we move forward with OpenID for Gov and/or the Federal PKI Bridge, we’ll be closer to a one-stop-shopping data environment for the government.)
With all these resources available to any government acquisition officer, I think that rather than approaching the AoA assuming that we will have to acquire something new, we should assume it already exists and try our hardest to find it so that we can avoid spending the taxpayer dollars that are required to reinvent the wheel.
I also think that when we analyze our alternatives, we look for an existing product/system that does 100% of what we’re looking for. How often do we ignore the existence of a COTS product because it doesn’t give us EXACTLY what we’re looking for? Is that what you do when you spend your own money? Say you’re looking for a new digital camera with ten specific functions. You find a number of inexpensive models with only 7 or 8 out of your ten functions, and two models with 9 or 10 functions that cost three times as much. Do you adjust your requirements so that you can purchase an affordable camera, or do you bite the bullet and pay a huge sum for the one that does EVERYTHING?
October 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm #80623
Teri: You make great points here. I especially liked your content regarding COTS. All too often government does not do a thorough business process analysis when buying COTS to determine if the best decision is to alter existing processes to conform to the COTS solution or alter the COTS solution to conform to the processes. Sometimes the processes must stay the same due to statutory or regulatory reason, but many times there is an unwillingness to change them because changing would create brutal “turf” battles and it is easier (and more politically expedient) to pay a contractor lots of taxpayer dollars to modify COTS. True efficiency obviously is a casualty. I’d love to see a posting from an agency acquisition professional about where their organization did modify process instead of the COTS solution and how they overcame any internal turf issues in order to get the job done.
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