Fighting information overload and listening to operational contracting officers (LOCO)

Originally posted February 26, 2021

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

This week has me thinking about what it means to be a wise acquisition professional. Every day it seems like there are more and more resources available, but still the same number of hours in a day. How can you decide what to spend time reading and learning about? I offer that you distinguish between information and wisdom, with a few suggestions for how to get started.

Defense Acquisition University (DAU) Contracting Subway Map

Thanks to Michelle Currier, a Professor of Contracting at DAU, for developing a great Acquisition Tool, and providing us updates adding more great information. The purpose of the Contracting Subway Map, according to its website, “is to provide you with a generalized order of events in the acquisition contracting process.”

Let me reiterate: there is an order of events in acquisition and it can be adapted, but you must understand the art and science of acquisition to come up with the order of events of an executable Acquisition Strategy.

Many folks will tell me they are drowning in information and don’t have time to read acquisition policies, news, research, and sites like DAU Contracting Subway Map, Aida, and WIFCON. We may be drowning in information, but we can never have enough wisdom. The two are related, but different. Wisdom means “having experience, knowledge and good judgment.” It’s hard to be wise if you don’t know enough, but this information must also lead to good decisions in new situations. In our business, I will guarantee if you do not gain wisdom to do it right in the beginning, you will have all the time later to fix it. As I always say, “Pay now or pay later.” 

What is most impressive with the contracting subway map is that it lays out the foundational items every acquisition person needs to fight the daily fight to effectively meet mission. The tool starts with two core concepts:

  • Industry Engagement: Communications with Industry (they have nailed it on content!)
    • Engaging with Industry memo                                   
    • 4 Myth-Busting OMB memos which include improving communications with Industry and effective Debriefings
  • Identify Acquisition Team
    • FAR 1.102 lays out the Guiding Principles for the Acquisition System.

I implore you to read the items above, and you will understand the principles of the Acquisition System, clear up many myths on communications, and feel empowered to meet your mission. You have to make choices about what information you learn every day, and this is one tool that both informs and fosters wisdom.

Listening to Operational Contracting Officers (LOCO)

I know it’s a farfetched concept to listen to the hard-working people in the field, but rather than commission reports, studies, and committees made up of folks who have never done acquisition and contracting, or not done it for years, let’s LISTEN to the struggles our folks go through every day so we can truly reform things like:

  • The broken protest system – causing lengthy delays, over and misuse of Direct 8(a) awards, OTAs, SBIR Phase III, and LPTA (oh Congress took care of LPTA - thanks).
  • Myriad of acquisition documentation – many items not read by anyone and are file stuffers written by a cottage industry of support contractors.
  • New training tools and techniques – Training of fundamentals from people who have done it, and the sharing of lessons learned. Source selection training will help us live in the broken protest environment.

We can do a lot of positive change by LOCO. Let the culture tell us what they need, fix what we can, and ask Congress for help with what we can’t in FY22/23 NDAAs.  


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