A group who shares ideas and experiences employing innovative acquisition practices, collaborative methods and use of Web2.0 technologies to transform federal acquisition.
What’s Wrong With Federal Acquisition
July 23, 2009 at 1:06 am #76296
Yesterday at the Open Government and Innovations Conference ( a fantastic conference) we held a panel discussion on Acquisition 2.0 to discuss the Industry Advisory Council’s Transition Working Group paper entitled “Enabling Federal IT Innovation and Results through Strategic Buying and Management”( you can find it at http://www.actgov.org). Earlier in the day at the conference we were fortunate to hear from Dave Wennegren, Aneesh Chopra, Tim O’Reilly, and David Weinberger on the topics of Gov2.0, transparency, collaboration, openness, etc. Listening to our panelists and adding the perspectives I took from the keynote speakers as well as some conversations I’ve had with people like Kim Kobza and Andy Krzmarzick, I voiced some opinions about our current federal acquisition system and why it’s not working so well. Would love to hear your opinions:
1. The current system with all the rules, regs and laws was designed to promote a fair and equitable process that would ensure honesty and integrity to the extent possible on the part of the government and the private sector. However, I believe we have taken this simple principle and made it complex, confusing, and “anti-communicative and collaborative.” The system isn’t designed for cooperation, collaboration, openness, or transparency (an O’Reilly principle).
2. The barriers to experimentation and entry are not low (another O’Reilly point).
3. Dave Wennegren described our current environment as a “dynamic community of players who move in and out depending on the situation”. If we apply this concept to acquisition, should we expand the definition of the “acquisition workforce” and the actions we take to support that workforce beyond our government employees to also include our stakeholders, academia, industry who have as much at stake in the process and success as government to ensure the best possible outcomes?
4. Kim Kobza focuses on the “network perspective” and as I listened to his presentation today, it became clear to me that our acquisition network is a subset of a larger network responsible for delivering mission results. If we use this premise, how do we define our network in terms of roles/responsibilities, expectations, identifying the real value we can provide, the intersections of those networks and how to best position our network to maximize effectiveness? Are we looking at our “network” too myopically and thus limiting our effectiveness? Kind of related to #3.
July 23, 2009 at 1:39 am #76350
Thank you as always for sharing your notes. I am attracted to these discussions on the federal acquisition process and how one can go about improving those processes in terms of efficiency and full compliance at once, 2 goals that can work against each other. It’s’ a Rubic’s Cube with 3X order of magnitude complexity.
I read the postings here and follow other collegial exchanges, but I admit that I am usually head down in operational acquisition. I wonder how we can engage senior operational acquisition professionals in these discussions to provide practical, informed and useful feedback toward practical solutions to at least positively affect tactical problems.
July 23, 2009 at 1:42 am #76348
Felton – glad you posed this – many of our folks are “heads down in operational acquisition” and I’d like to find out what kind of forum, networks, informational exchanges, access to information, access to others across the community, etc would provide the most value to help get the job done. Any suggestions are welcome and much appreciated.
July 23, 2009 at 2:17 am #76346
Hmmm….I feel led to ask the opposite question, Mary: What’s RIGHT with Federal acquisition? Where are the strengths and how can we build from there to prove out the possibilities. It’s a strengths-based approach. Rather than focusing on the places where you’re currently bogged down and spending time to improve what may never get fixed (sorry!), can we list the things that are working well and build upon that foundation? Maybe what’s wrong will be rendered irrelevant if we can maximize what’s best about Federal procurement…(as I said earlier today: just raising the questions!).
July 23, 2009 at 12:09 pm #76344
I like the change in direction you suggest to this thread. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, let’s seek best practices either generically or at a specific federal acquisiiton organization. In mind, the “art” of successful acquisition turns on two competing agendas. First and foremost one must meet customer requirements and expectations; acquisition is, after all, a service. Second, one must practice acquisition to ensure sound business practices/judgements and compliance with the rules. It is my experience that it is not too hard to meet one, but it is very difficult to sustain success against both competing agendas.
July 23, 2009 at 12:28 pm #76342
I agree with Andrew — there is much that is right about the U.S. contracting process. In general, given the size and complexity of the system and the layers of constraint and requirements that have decided are important, in general it works fairly well.
My biggest concern is that we don’t know what we don’t know — and I think that is particularly true with multiple-award contracts, which now make up 50 percent of government spending. And there is an odd lack of transparency in MACs. Essentially task orders under MACs are not made public — at all. Not the statements of work. Not even the fact that there was an award, as far as I can tell. The IAC transition document that you cite, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/MzAuT
this makes reference to transparency, but… the important issue is to find out what the issues are. I’m not sure we know. And so we get fixes by anecdote, without ever having the data to ensure that we know what the problem may be.
It is why the Recovery Board’s $9.5 million Recovery.gov contract is so interesting — and, I think, can be a real test case for transparency in the contracting process… but also as the contract evolves.
More on DorobekInsider.com: http://federalnewsradio.com/index.php?sid=1719111&nid=150
Thanks for the post. Sorry to have missed the session.
July 23, 2009 at 1:46 pm #76340
Felton: Your statement “First and foremost one must meet customer requirements and expectations; acquisition is, after all, a service” is very true and a significant factor in how we perform our support mission. Unfortunately, we’ve all had customers (read program and project managers) who come to us contracting folks with not only the requirements they need filled, but also the solution (read specific vendor, product, etc.) and the procurement method that they want us to use. Unfortunately, in my experience, many customers are not willing to accept “no” or “let’s try another approach” or “I can satisfy your requirements but need to do it this way” or any number of logical responses that differ from their demands. Now I plan to say something controversial to promote some community dialog on this subject. Frankly, I believe that the extreme focus on customer satisfaction that has taken hold in the contracting world over the last 10 years has, in part, created a lack of professional balance within the overall acquisition community. Many customers have now come to expect that their contracting offices will simply conduct the transaction with no push-back, debate or profession exchange of ideas/approaches. Admittedly, this type of situation is not the case in all organizations – thank goodness. There must be a check-and-balance to the process. Contracting has historically performed that function, at least in modern memory. I have high hope that as the acquisition workforce grows due to the Administration’s insourcing initiative and other agency hiring programs, that this balance will be regained. I look forward to the exchange of ideas – this is a great forum.
July 23, 2009 at 1:58 pm #76338
Mary: Thanks for your leadership and the interesting post.
I started my career doing supply chain / purchasing work for big companies as a McKinsey consultant.
Since 2000, I’ve been running a software as a service firm that sells to local, state, and federal government which has allowed me to see a lot of different pros/cons of the different systems.
A few observations:
1) Federal procurement works a lot better than city/county/state procurement and UK procurement. There is more standardization of process and there are more people who know how to evaluate software and buy software. It’s a profound difference and was very counter-intuitive for us. As a Minnesota-based company, we actually feared working with federal government when in reality, it’s much easier than working with other levels of government where you face different rules everywhere you go.
2) Software executives from the West Coast find everything about federal government confusing and bureaucratic, but I think that perspective is based as much on lack of understanding as it is based on reality. If you are not accustomed to dealing with government, your knee jerk reaction will be to find it frustrating. Imagine that you’ve been playing basketball for years and someone invites you to play in a football game. Your first reaction will be that the rules are confusing, the game moves to slowly, and the ball is the wrong shape. Government does not and should not follow the same rules as the private sector. It is a different animal altogether and has different priorities and constraints (public good, accessibility, security, privacy, transparency, involvement of disadvantaged businesses, etc.)
3) It is very difficult and frustrating for my friends in government when they want to “buy” something that is free or low cost / off-the-shelf. That must change for government to keep functioning without driving IT spending even higher. Many procurements are made so big that it is impossible to find COTs products to meet the needs identified. Internal discussions focus on lengthy requirements documents and market research often focuses on “who can meet my exact needs” instead of “what is the lowest cost off-the-shelf product that meets my must important business needs” and how could I change those needs so they can be met by a COTS product?
In a technology purchase, making the decision to build something custom or modify a standard product rather than use off-the-shelf capabilities multiplies the upfront cost and maintenance cost of a procurement while dramatically decreasing the odds of success. The priority in many technology procurements (especially where products are involved) should be getting requirements refined to the point where they leverage as much off the shelf capability as possible.
July 23, 2009 at 2:20 pm #76336
My concern is that acquisition professionals are so busy ensuring they are checking off all the appropriate blocks and creating mounds of paperwork in order to avoid an audit finding that they don’t have the time to add a lot of their true value to an acquisition.
For example, how many acquisition professionals are forcing requirements into a firm fixed price type contract instead of a time and material contract which might be the better solution because there is so much negative focus on time and material contracts? We seem to be putting more weight on doing things right versus doing the right thing.
We need to allow/incentivize acquisition professionals to take chances and be creative and stop the scapegoating and second guessing. Otherwise, acuisition professionals feel pressured to take conservative, risk averse, safe approaches on acquisitions. Today it is safer to limit communication and collaboration and avoid the appearance of favoritism. However, by not communicating and collaborating we are missing out on valuable information and ending up with an inferior acquisition although it will be handled in accordance with all appropriate laws and regulations and result in a positive audit. So, we have a clean procurement but the public ends up losing. And we wonder why we have such a significant shortage of contracting officers in this type of environment. Acquisition is an exciting and dynamic field. We just need to do a better job of recognizing the acquisition champions and reinforcing innovative behavior.
July 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm #76334
Paul – Great statement: “We just need to do a better job of recognizing the acquisition champions and reinforcing innovative behavior.” 100% behind this!!!!
July 23, 2009 at 2:55 pm #76332
Mark D. AucelloParticipant
Paul – I totally agree. What’s right about government procurement are the acquisition professionals dedicated to the mission and truely seeking to do right by the agency and taxpayer. What’s wrong is the bureaucratic process, political agendas, and overbearing oversite by non-acquisition professionals which stiffle and limit innovation. Nowadays, it’s a lonely place at the innovative edge. It’s tough to attract and retain young people in the acquisition field. They want to feel that they’re making a difference, and it’s difficult when the rules and regulations are growing at an alarming rate (the FAR isn’t getting any smaller each year) and auditors are looking over your shoulder ready to pounce if you make a mistake. Whereas previously we’d encourage risk taking and innovation, it’s better now to be cautious and safe. I fear the young, talented acquisition professionals may be driven away from federal procurement because it just may not be worth the scrutiny.
July 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm #76330
I feel that “Right” and “Wrong” have some unintended connotations – How about looking at what is “Working Well” and what can be “Improved”? We can then focus our conversations toward positive solutions.
Also, we need to keep in mind what worked well in the past may not work quite as well today, or that it can be improved based on changes that have occurred in the System; System being rules, processes, and tools available. These changes also affect expectations in the role for the acquisition function and how it is being performed.
At the session, we discussed the need to move from ‘detailed specifications’ to ‘expected capabilities’ – perhaps, that is where this group could contribute — we can start forming conversations around — ‘Expected capabilites of the acquisition function within the Federal Government’. Once we have a better idea of the desired future capabilities, we can discuss how best to address it from a multi-discipline perspectives.
July 23, 2009 at 4:26 pm #76328
Peter- Great comment. My experience is Government has it’s best acquisition successes when the acquisition team (contracting officers/PMs/Industry/etc) behave like true partners. The team respects and honors each others perspectives. This does not mean there is always agreement but it does mean there is excellent communication. Decisions are made based on lots of information vice limited information which compromises the quality of the decisions.
I have found that many average acquisitions are the result of either a PM pressuring a contracting officer to go forward with their solution without respect for the contracting officers opinion or a contracting officer being conservatively married to the FAR and not taking advantage of the flexibility the FAR and case law gives us.
The reason I keep focusing on innovation in the acquisition process is because when I started out as an 1102 many years ago, my wise Acquisition Director told me the following: ‘Here’s the FAR. If you want to find a reason not to make an award, you’ll find it in the FAR. But, that’s not what I am paying you to do. I am paying you to help your customers navigate through the acquisition minefield to get to a timely award which contributes to mission success’. What great advice for a contracting intern. Living this advice is what makes it deeply satisfying to be a contracting officer.
July 23, 2009 at 4:38 pm #76326
Mary — you have launched an excellent discussion — I have forwarded your opening statement to all our GSA FAS ITS senior program managers, inviting them to chime in or at least follow the discussion.
I am not an 1102, but I have had the good fortune to be close to some of the most significant IT acquisition programs that GSA has rolled out over the past 10 years, and I have been an IT senior manager in other federal agencies before that. So, I have a few observations from my experience… you cited this as a potentially controversial topic, so I will share my views.
While we can focus attention on what’s right about the acquisition process, we really cannot ignore the complexity you cite in your comment — the federal acquisition process has a fairly logical, reasonable core, but it also has layers upon layers of bandaids that have been added over the years to plug holes that allow for ‘contracting irregularities’ or inappropriate use and even crimes.
The process we work with today requires all the documentation Paul McDermott cites in order for the CO to protect their own integrity and ensure the usability of the resulting contract transaction (avoid protests). Dotting I’s and crossing T’s demands so much attention that it seems like the importance of producing the outcome government is seeking is minimized too much through the acqusition process. From my view, it seems the pendulum has swung so far in that direction that the customer cited in Felton’s comments is way down the list of priorities.
And it is true that the customer — the program manager with the need — often comes to the table with a requirement and forgone conclusions re: what solution they want and which IT supplier or service provider they want to buy it from. In the private sector, a business manager has much more latitude to direct the business to whatever company they believe will deliver to meet the need, and the business manager is held accountable for the results. Somehow, that concept has been buried pretty deep when it comes to the federal acquisition process.
Like anyone, the federal program manager wants to do business with people who understand the requirement, present themselves credibly as able to meet it, and the PM cannot waste any time getting a contract in place to do the work — he or she has a schedule to meet and often has only funding with a very short shelf life.
The government buyer (both the PM and the CO) is challenged to find solutions from sources that meet a wide range of conflicting objectives — politics has its fingers in the process due to the influence of political supporters and lobbyists who are looking for little pathways to competitive advantage, and the desire of elected officials to score points with their electorate by highlighting executive branch faults and adding more bandaids to the process to fix them; government is committed to following the high road with socio-economic goals that attempt to create a level playing field — that is laudable, but it does limit the customer’s ability to go directly to the company they believe they would like to do business with; and the customer (the program manager) has fought hard to get funding for his or her program and has a small window of time to get the money obligated before they lose it to some other agency program that can spend it faster…. The number of competing factors in all this is huge.
I doubt it’s possible in the real world, but It seems to me that it would be heaven if we could start from scratch with a clean, logical, simplified process that emphasizes the value of openness, incentivizes and rewards fair play, and limits the number of trap doors that so easily send things back to square one or into a deep hole that takes forever to climb out of.
Just think what government program managers could achieve if that was how business could be conducted?
July 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm #76324
Andrew-I hope my tie-in to your comment has some relevance. A few years ago a new approach in psychology arose called psoitive psychology. Dr. Martin Seligman (University of Penn)found that almost all of the research on mental health studied those people having mental problems and how to make them better. He decided to start studying people that were doing extremely well and learn from them. His position was that will allow us to set a goal for an excellent outcome instead just a satisfactory outcome. I believe your suggestion embraces the same principle. I hope this contributes to the discussion.
July 23, 2009 at 8:02 pm #76322
Paul: It looks like you had a wise leader as a director in your formative years. So did I. He had been a procurement guy since 1946 when I was a CO back in the 80s. He encouraged us to use common sense and reminded us that our ultimate customer was the taxpayer. He fostered team good relationships with our PM counterparts, but never hesitated to bring all parties together to hammer out a mutually agreeable direction before a crisis or knee-jerk situation was created. I am glad my initial procurement experience was working in his organization. Perhaps some of you other grayhairs remember Mr. Henry Jones of USA TACOM.
I agree with you that the FAR and and case law provides enough flexibility for contracting professionals. I think the taxpayer – at the end of the day – wants us to make smart investment decisions with their hard-earned dollars.
July 23, 2009 at 11:01 pm #76320
Peter and others, thank you for the feedback. We have not had a thread that sparked such interest in awhile. It is an enjoyable and worthwhile discussion.
Peter, we agree. Acquisition is a service to meet customer needs but at the same time, we must ensure sensible business judgement and adhere to rules. Maybe there are 3 competing agendas? The challenge for the acquisition professional is to serve all 3 masters. A common concern in this thread is the proliferation of regulatons. It has been suggested that perhaps it is time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. That was tried in 1947 with the ASPR and again in 1984 with the FAR; both designed to establish a uniform set of regulations. Along the same vein, one of my pet peeves are the agency supplements that impose requirements beyond the FAR. I am not suggesting elimination of supplements since certainly there are agency specific requirements but rather perhaps agencies could be restrained from going beyond the FAR? 62 years after ASPR and 25 after the FAR, I suggest that a uniform set of regulations continues to be a noble objective. Thoughts?
July 23, 2009 at 11:11 pm #76318
Maybe now since technology is so much more advanced than it was in 1984, we can now reduce the proliferation of subordinate regulations, guides, letters and back-of-the envelope instructions. We can all get to this stuff on-line anyway, so maybe it is now time to focus on what’s really necessary and important, and reduce the sheer volume of regulation. The USPS a few years ago took a bold step and produced a fairly slim set of acquisition guidelines and (at least to me) appeared to purposefully place more dependence on the business acumen of their CO’s and acquisition teams. I would be interested in any opinions on how USPA has succeeded on this. Cheers!!
July 24, 2009 at 2:33 am #76316
AMEN re: low cost/COTS/free software — it’s ‘discounted’ both by the procurement rules — and by leadership
July 24, 2009 at 3:08 pm #76314
I have a comment to this discussion on “What’s Wrong With Federal Acquisition”.
I think “the current system with all the rules, regs and laws to
promote a fair and equitable process” is a cost of democratic society.
The question is whether the cost is too high for the society. In this
context, performance-based acquisition seems to me a better ruling for
the procurement system by seeking customer (in the agency)’s
requirements first and reducing/eliminating the burden, which may be
boring for AO, of simple compliance to procurement rules for
processes. It may be an exciting job to identify what would be
requirements of customers who sometimes do not recognize them at the
beginning. Acquisition officers could be experts of requirement
But, the problem under the above new role might be the new role would
be duplicative with that of project manager in some projects, like
large scale system development. In those cases, I think it is better
for PM and AO could be performed by one person or under a team. CO
(contracting officer) may have different role to have a responsibility
of legal aspects of contracts.
Performance-based acquisition may create another problem of the
complexity of handling, but more exciting problem to be solved.
July 24, 2009 at 3:59 pm #76312
July 26, 2009 at 4:13 pm #76310
As I read your notes from the conference, I am reminded of the many conversations I’ve been part of around the Human Resource/Human Capital profession and its role in helping build successful organizations.
Where are the similarities? They are in the roles and responsibilities that have long been recognized as core to the profession and the importance of those roles in defining organizational performance and success.
Although there are always exceptions, I maintain that inherent in the roles and responsibilities of both the acquisition and the human resource professional is the need to be the voice of compliance and regulation. They are there to protect their employer from trouble. The synergy between guarding and protecting with innovation is often strained.
One way the human capital profession has been seeking to move into a more strategic, and therefore higher visibility and higher risk mode, is to ask for a seat at executive strategic planning meetings. These meetings allow otherwise “non-visible” organizational functions to showcase the value they bring to the mission and ROI. Likewise, they become part of the conversation of the broader organizational discussions about markets, finances, operations,etc. As these conversations occur, there develops new opportunities to explore innovation, a renewed understanding of the importance of the function to support the mission of the organization and a new willingness to explore new ways to do work that is more efficient, more cost effective and more satisfying.
The point I’m making is that as the importance of the job and functional area become recognized, there is often a greater willingness to be innovative, and an acceptance of a risk factor. Leadership recognizes that to reach goals, you have to be innovative. you have to manage change, you have to risk. The difference between success and failure is preparing for innovation by testing new ideas, having a clear sense of purpose, creating measurements that can be used to build on–and, tolerance of failure.
So, back to the Acquisition Workforce. Yes, it has a huge role in how our government succeeds in its stated mission. Yes, the people who are in the field are bright, hardworking and committed. Yes, to all of the points that were raised at the conference. So, I suggest the conversation about its problems begin with the end in mind. What would “it” look like if the “problems” were fixed? How is Acquisition at the table when strategic plans are being made, new policies and practices defined to support these plans and implementation rolled out.. What examples of success can be showcased? Reading the comments already posted, I see great examples of problems and solutions. Someone mentioned using tools like appreciative inquiry–also, how about Action Learning?
My personal interest is in the Acquisition Workforce itself. I see many ways to be innovative in recruiting, retaining and developing a strong workforce; and, I have also seen many innovative programs being tested. Positive change is happening which integrate new technology, compliance with hiring rules, etc. Change is an organic process–it’s begun.
July 26, 2009 at 7:52 pm #76308
Cynthia – thanks so much for your comments. The Federal Acquisition and Innovation Reform (FAIR) Institute has recently published a paper by some of the board of directors called “A Call to Restructure the Acquisition Workforce” It’s a short read and describes “a healthy acquisition environment”. Might be of interest to you based on your comments. Would also like to hear your reaction to the ideas in the paper.
August 15, 2009 at 2:30 am #76306
Mary, Great Discussion!
There are so many issues, which work so closely together, I believe we need to look at the whole group.
For instance – Longevity is so important in the 1102 world. We lost a long time employee to another agency last year, and we still have not fully recovered. It takes a very long time in the 1102 world for someone to really get up to speed on the projects at hand. The fix may be better moral in an office that is lacking, a better promotion system for those with many years of experience, for offices who lack a good supervisor, the supervisors would need to learn to appreciate the person as a vital employee to the whole process.
The heads down approach someone mentioned – at some time we all get into that mode. “Just doing my work, in my lane”. We need to interact and not let ourselves become machines (except in AUG and SEP).
As for learning from each other, the recent discussions we have had about expanding technology to learn from each other, and learn about the mistakes of prior work, is a perfect example of why those discussions are relevant.
In addition, my personal favorite – there are many polices, regulations, rules, and laws which many times contradict each other. This leads to mistakes that cost money, and frustrates those who are trying to do the right thing. Which in turn leads to low moral.
The supervisors give up, and then people with many years of experience move on to other agencies, and we start all over again.
This is just one big hypothetical example, but ALL of these items need a little attention for the process to continue to work.
And yes, with all we have going on, most of the time, our chaos works out well!
August 19, 2009 at 9:18 pm #76304
We have a proliferation of rules/regulations and while they may be arduous and burdensome, they are to infuse principles of fairness within the milieu of a competitive marketplace. Of course, we also have to weigh the significance of CICA while promoting socio-economic/small business programs. I think that we need to share best practices amongst agencies and be empowered to utilize our prudent business judgment while maintaining our fiduciary responsibilities to the taxpayers. However, despite the focus on transparency, there is an increased focus on accountability and oversight (the RATB, as an example). What we need is a clear and articulate vision of federal procurement.
November 13, 2009 at 7:05 pm #76302
Warning: I’m stepping way outside the box here.
Above and beyond the FAR and process issues, I believe Federal Acquisition could be improved by adding a coordinating and prioritization mechanism. Today, ten people in ten locations or at ten different times are acquiring the same or similar product or service. Our “centralized” requirements and approval processes are in fact, very decentralized, often redundant, overlapping, and do not contribute in a substantive way to the evolution of our community.
By “contribute,” I mean that requirements and approval processes by themselves do not guide or constrain our growth. They are reactive processes that wait for some thought leader to come up with an “original” idea. Then, on a one-off basis, they strive to satisfy that thought leader’s requirement within the context of the law, but offer no real guidance back to the thought leader as to whether or not their ladder is leaning against the right wall. Each investment is reviewed within the context of that investment – not compared in a meaningful way against past, ongoing, or future investments in the same space. Each Acquisition professional processes each new investment as quickly as possible, in serial, and without the benefit of exposure to one another or galactic design.
By contrast: New York City (population 8 million +) processes investment and new requirements from around the globe on an hourly basis. A coordinating mechanism in the form of a Master Plan drives priorities, constraints, and process for the entire NYC stakeholder community to one place. If you’ve got some money and wish to plunk it into NYC, you will quickly find that you need to contend with permits, building codes, inspections, and community outreach.
In the Master Planning example, these conventions don’t exist for bureaucracy sake. They are deliberately put in place to take each “investor” on a journey that exposes them to all others who are investing in the same area, to priorities that leadership have set, to quality control, to community expectations, and to universal standards that are considered important by that community. No adult video stores will be erected next to day car centers… All new construction will adhere to the latest building and safety codes…
We have artifacts within the government to do some of this today, and technology can be a huge enabler for this kind of system. But perhaps we don’t have the stomach for that much Transformation.
November 16, 2009 at 2:32 pm #76300
Vonia Callen JacksonParticipant
Peter , from my experiences you are absolutely correct. We have pushed the customer satisfaction envelope to the point we have crossed the line of integrity in some transactions. As a contracting officer for over 20 years, my answer was never no without alternative solutions based on sound business practices and good judgement. However, my judgement was always challenged and not respected by PMs or requiring activities. Therefore, contractors now appear to have no respect for contracting officers. I have seen in my career the PMs and contractors teaming against the contracting offices. Contracting professionals need more support from their superiors in the battle to regain control over the process. I have seen decisions overturned based upon contractors’ and PMs’ complaints. It does not matter how much information you provide in support of your decision, the opposing argument brings only threats. Until we balance the power in the contracting process, new laws, processes nor procedures will matter. The political game has truely rotted the acquisition process. A true acquisition team should have members that respect the knowledge that each brings to the table. In the past, I have participated on phenominal acquisition teams. We got the job done, with minimal controvery, not the chaos that exist today. Contracting Officers spend more time today fighting to exercise an authority they have been warranted to execute, whereby others execute without the authority and without consequences.
November 16, 2009 at 5:59 pm #76298
Vonia – thanks for commenting. I especially like your comments on respect. I can’t count the times some PM (commercial or federal) tried to force some action down my throat with no regard for the law, regulation or my role as a contracting professional in the process. Thank goodness, there are those acquisition teams out there who value the contributions of all the team members – not just some – and get the job done right the first time. Just like back in the mid 80’s and 90’s – wish there were more of them. When the acquisition team works well the taxpayer and Nation reap the benefit, plus there is always a little more personal satisfaction. Cheers.
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