Whether it is intentional or not, nearly every revision of the Federal Acquisition Regulations drive the process to be more complex. The first version of the FAR was thinner than it is now, not to mention the agency specific supplements and case law (stemming from the multitude of protests). Add to that an army of oversight in the form of auditors and IGs.
As a practicioner in this field, I would love to see it become more streamlined and faster. I spend my days making sure that we deliver an acquisition process that is rapid while complying with the rules. Unfortunately, the actions by people than make the rules are clearly heading in the other direction. Take the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as an example. They rules associated with spending ARRA funds significantly increased the complexity. That’s why I struggle with the easy criticism of the acquisition process taking too long. Taking too long is a symptom. Don’t treat the symptom. Treat the problem.
Here are a quick list of the things I would change:
(1) Remove all artificial barriers between the acquisition folks and the mission folks. In most organizations, these are separate groups in separate buildings serving separate needs. I’ve seen the benefit of organizational and physical integration (e.g., same office, same floor). Make the acquisition team part of the mission.
(2) Increase the financial cost of protests to industry. The current cost is minimal (e.g., lawyers on retainer [which the Government pays for if the protest is successful). There are many valid protests, but based on GAO’s data, most are frivilous. The cost to the Government (in terms of dollars and time) is massive. The risk of protest is mitigated by risk averse behavior. The process becomes incredibly slow to ensure every technical detail at every step was conducted properly and is defensible in court.
(3) Technology – Use Electronic Files, Electronic Signatures, Web Based Applications. A shocking amount of contracting still lives in a paper based world. Simply moving to the web lets you work from anywhere and lets you source the work to resources beyond your walls.
Poll of the Week
Could your inbox use a little more awesome?
Sign up to get a daily dose of awesome gov-focused resources, trainings, blogs and articles to help you do you job better.