Old Newsletters - 2021

Recent Newsletters

The past two months of newsletters are archived here. Click the date to see the full issue. 

Looking for older newsletters?  Need to Know launched in March 2020. All issues are archived with the NPS library in a special collection.

April 30, 2021                                                                                                  Issue 53

Leadership positions at DoD are filling out with nominations (Kendall, Ortiz, and Shyu) and a confirmation (Colin Kahl). The trend of putting experienced acquisition leaders in broader leadership positions continues. We’re proud to note that both Kendall and Shyu have given keynote addresses at past symposiums. Speaking of a busy Congressional schedule, it seems increasingly likely that the full budget request will be delayed for a while. NDAA markup is now scheduled for July, two months later than normal. Odds are we’re starting FY2022 with a continuing resolution. In acquisition news, our top story tells the sad tale of JEDI—the cloud computing contract that couldn’t. Several articles describe some exciting progress with acquisition innovation—from using commercial solution openings for services to the push to make covid-era expedited acquisitions the norm rather than the exception.

The symposium is less than two weeks away, and we are breaking records—nearly 700 people have registered. Each webinar session is limited to 500 people, so set your calendar reminders! We’ll be posting on Twitter and LinkedIn during the event, and we encourage you to join the conversation by using #AcqnSymposium. See below for a preview of the Day 1 lineup.

 

This Week’s Top Story

The JEDI saga continues: Court denies motion to dismiss AWS protest of political interference
Billy Mitchell, FedScoop

The Court of Federal Claims issued a sealed decision Wednesday denying a motion by the Department of Justice and Microsoft to dismiss Amazon’s protest of the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.

While the decision to dismiss wasn’t made available to the public, Amazon confirmed the court’s denial.

Amazon has two main claims in its larger JEDI protest of Microsoft’s award: That “DOD consistently and repeatedly made prejudicial errors, at every step along the way, that systematically favored Microsoft,” and that this happened because of overt influence from President Trump and other high-level government officials, who wanted to do harm to Amazon.

There’s a very real possibility the Department of Defense could now decide to give up on this program. The DOD has been working to get the JEDI contract awarded and operational for the better part of four years now.

In January, acting DOD CIO John Sherman told FedScoop: “Regardless of the JEDI Cloud litigation outcome, the Department continues to have an urgent, unmet requirement for enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services for all three classification levels that also works at the tactical edge, on scale. We remain fully committed to meeting this requirement—we hope through JEDI—but this requirement transcends any one procurement, and we will be prepared to ensure it is met one way or another.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
May 11-13, 2021

Day 1 kicks off with a keynote address from Ms. Stacy Cummings, followed by a plenary panel on “Implications of the Next Administration for Defense Acquisition,” with chair Todd Harrison and panelists Elaine McCusker, Peter Levine, and David Berteau. The day continues with six more panels and concludes with a virtual student poster show, where attendees can come on screen to directly ask questions and engage with these scholar-practitioners.

Full program is available online. Links to webinar sessions will be posted on the private program page—you’ll need to sign in to get access. Keep your password handy!

 

Naval Warfare Studies Institute: Innovation through Collaboration
Joshua O’Day, Georgetown Security Studies Review

The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), an institution that has worked to solve complex national security problems since its inception, took another step towards helping the U.S. maintain a military advantage by founding the Wayne P. Hughes Jr. Naval Warfare Studies Institute (NWSI) in December 2020. NWSI is uniquely designed to address current and future national security issues by building relationships between six key stakeholder groups: the Naval Education Enterprise, the Naval Research and Development Establishment, the Service headquarters and supporting establishment, industry, academia, and the Sailors and Marines of the Fleet/Fleet Marine Force.

 

Dr. Charles Pickar’s article “Getting to a Win” named Editors’ Pick for Runner Up in the Best Commentary category of the ALTies Awards

The ALTies celebrate the best of Army AL&T—the best article, commentary, graphic and photograph that appeared in print or website issues in 2020. The list of nominees was long and impressive, and standing out among an already elite group is a noteworthy accomplishment.

 

Events

The Biden Administration's First 100 Days in Review
with Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, former Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun, and Chairman of BlackRock Investment Institute and former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon
Aspen Institute
TODAY! Apr 30, 2021 09:30 AM

 

Acquisition and Innovation

COVID-19 successes set new expectations for federal acquisition community
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

Hawley bill would spotlight Chinese electronics in defense systems
Joe Gould, Defense News

DOD to Flex CSO Fast-Track Buying Powers for Consulting Services
Chris Cornillie, Bloomberg Government

Kessel Run Reaches AOC WS Modernization Milestone
Press Release

Biden Nominee for Pentagon Weapons Buyer Under Investigation
Tara Copp, Defense One

DHS launching a CDO office and CMMC-like risk management program
Dave Nyczepir, FedScoop

 

Research

Emerging Technologies and Acquisition
ACT-IAC

DOD Science and Technology Executive Committee Announces Winner of FY21 Applied Research for Advancement of S&T Priorities Program Award
DoD Press Release

Resources for Tracking Federal COVID-19 Spending
Congressional Research Service

Audit of Other Transactions Awarded Through Consortiums
Department of Defense Inspector General

 

Congress

Biden budget delay blows up Hill defense schedule
Leo Shane III and Joe Gould, Defense News

Biden’s Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl confirmed with GOP senators absent
Joe Gould, Defense News

Watch: Department of Defense’s management challenges and opportunities
with testimony from Peter Levine, Adam Grant, and Elizabeth Field

Senate Armed Services Committee

Watch: Defense acquisition programs and acquisition reform
with Stacy Cummings, Raymond O’Toole, and Shelby Oakley

Senate Armed Services Committee

 

Defense and Federal Government

Frank Kendall Nominated as 26th Secretary of the Air Force
John A. Tirpak, Air Force Magazine

Navy Chief Aiming for 355-Ship Fleet Despite Calls for Larger Force
Jon Harper, National Defense Magazine

Biden picks Shyu for DoD research and engineering chief
Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Pentagon now using direct-hire authorities for a third of its cyber workforce
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

The world spent almost $2 trillion on defense in 2020
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

 

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

What is Highest Technically Rated with Fair and Reasonable Price?

A friend of mine is putting together a Multiple Award IDIQ strategy and asked what I thought about using the Highest Technically Rated with Fair and Reasonable Price source selection evaluation scheme. I told him I had no experience with this evaluation scheme. This piqued my curiosity, and the following is the information my research uncovered.

In January 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a protest decision finding that the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) permits agencies to use a source selection scheme that provides for award to proposals receiving the highest technical rating with fair and reasonable prices. This evaluation scheme was used by General Services Administration (GSA) as a multiple award, indefinite quantity set of contracts for information technology services. The RFP provided that GSA would select 60 awardees using a “highest technically rated with a fair and reasonable price” evaluation scheme. GSA would first rank all offerors from highest to lowest point scores, verify the scores, then identify the top 60 firms and analyze the pricing of those 60 proposals for fairness and reasonableness. The solicitation stated that any offer that lacked a fair and reasonable price would be eliminated, and there would be no tradeoff between the non-price factors and price.

The protester primarily protested the evaluation scheme, asserting that the scheme violated the Competition in Contracting Act, 41 U.S.C. § 3306(c)(1)(B), which states that “cost or price…must be considered in the evaluation of proposals. The protester stated that a determination that a price is “fair and reasonable” does not constitute a meaningful consideration of price.

The GAO began by pointing to FAR 1.102(d) which states that agencies “may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interest of the government and is not addressed in the FAR, nor prohibited by law (statute or case law), Executive order or other regulation, that the strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority.” The GAO further noted that besides a tradeoff, FAR 15.101 envisions at least two other source selection processes: “lower price offeror” and a process that results in award to the “highest technically rated offeror.” GAO concluded that there was no basis in the FAR to object to a source selection process that contemplated award to the highest technically rated offerors without using a tradeoff process.

Next, the GAO addressed the need to consider price. GAO noted that in a tradeoff process, the agency cannot so minimize the impact of price as to make it a “nominal evaluation factor.” However, this solicitation involved no comparison of an offeror’s price relative to the benefits of its proposal. GAO concluded that here, the “relatively low importance of price in an evaluation scheme that does not contemplate tradeoffs” was unobjectionable. Further, because the selection process considered the price of every awardee and rejected those firms that lacked fair and reasonable pricing, GSA has satisfied the requirement to consider price to the government.

GAO’s ruling was consistent with an earlier Court of Federal Claims ruling in Octo (Octo Consulting Group, Inc. v. United States, 117 Fed Cl. 334 (2014). There, the protester challenged the award of GSA’s One Acquisition Solution for Integration Service-Small Business (OASIS). The solicitation appeared to be very similar and stated that “The best value basis for awards will be determined by the Highest Technically Rated Offerors with a Fair and Reasonable Price.” 

After my research above I spoke to some smart people to get experiences and seek out policy and guidance documents, especially in DoD. My research did not come up with any in policy or guidance documents in DoD. Some of my network had used it for Multiple Award base IDIQs under FAR Part 15. They had implemented the evaluation scheme using an Objective Self Scoring Point-System and had used it because they thought GSA had been innovative, and it was a good process to meet the CICA requirement to evaluate price under the Multiple Award base IDIQ. I also found other GAO Protest cases that supported the 2017 GAO decision.

Some Takeaways:

  • We commend GAO for supporting FAR 1.102(d) “may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interest of the government and is not addressed in the FAR, nor prohibited by law (statute or case law), Executive order or other regulation, that the strategy, practice, policy or procedure is a permissible exercise of authority.” This type of support should give rise to innovation and risk-taking.
  • GSA created a source selection scheme that focused on an objective point system and smart way to evaluate pricing. This objective scoring-system requires meaningful thought on critical aspects tied to performance. This moves the price competition to the task order level where each agency will assess whether the prices are a good value.
  • Thanks to early adopters who see a good idea and move out to innovate.

Before the source selection subjective evaluation police inform us that this will require a Waiver of the DoD Source Selection Guide and other reasons we can’t do it, providing some valuable information to our folks would help:

  • Best practices and lessons learned for Self-Scoring Point system
  • When the Highest Technically Rated with Fair and Reasonable Price would be effective i.e., Multiple Award base IDIQ especially when maximum interest from industry
  • If an acquisition uses Objective Self-Scoring system the approval of the Acquisition Strategy is all needed and no other waivers are required
  • Add to the much-needed new DoD Source Selection Guide a section on these areas as well as others we have discussed in previous Tips & Tools e.g., Use of Oral Proposals and Presentations, How to select true discriminators, and preventing Race to the Bottom through Price Ranges
  • AND most important leadership sharing some of the different techniques being used in the field and teach us how and when to use them.

April 23, 2021                                                                                                  Issue 52

We’re seeing more nominations for top leadership positions in DoD, State, and National Intelligence. Colin Kahl is making slow, tortuous progress through the Senate, where he continues to face strong Republican opposition. The F-35 is in the news this week, with concerns about maintenance costs and a pause on ODIN, the replacement logistics system for ALIS. The CMMC rollout is meeting an anticipated bottleneck as the process for qualifying assessors appears stymied.  In good acquisition news, there is lots of momentum to connect data, companies, and capabilities—as highlighted in our top story. And for those from the education contingent of the ARP community, check out Mark Folse’s commentary piece on why the Navy needs a comprehensive approach to education, along with champions willing to guide and protect that investment.

Over the past few weeks, the ARP crew has been connecting virtually with symposium presenters in practice webinars as we gear up for the live event. It’s almost embarrassing how great these sessions are going to be – the mix of perspectives from researchers and DoD leaders truly creates new knowledge and insights. Make sure you plan to attend a variety of panels to get the full experience. We’re even planning a few open networking sessions so you can talk amongst yourselves—open to registered attendees only!

 

This Week’s Top Story

Free the Data: Vice Chiefs Launch an Acquisition Crusade
Patrick Tucker, Defense One

America’s sophisticated jets, drones, combat vehicles, satellites, and other gear produce data that the Defense Department can’t access, use, or share in the way that it wants to.

Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the services’ vice chiefs are looking to change that. In May, they intend to release a set of mandates that they hope will reshape how defense contractors produce things for the U.S. military.

The week before last, Hyten and members of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, or JROC, journeyed west to speak to the heads of some of America’s most innovative companies, large and small. They met with senior leaders at leading companies like Qualcomm and Microsoft as well as Rebellion Defense, a startup focusing on software and data analysis products for defense applications. They had dinner with Elon Musk at SpaceX. The objective wasn’t to discover new products but to understand how digitally-driven industries produce things in the year 2021.

These discussions helped the JROC come to consensus on at least one principle for the new mandates, Hyten said on a plane during the trip.

“Data can’t be stovepiped,” he said. “It must be shared and made available to the community. There’s still [intellectual property] in the platform owned by the contractors, but in order to maintain the system, we need the data. To operate the system we need the data. It can not be stovepiped. Period.”

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
May 11-13, 2021. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.
Register to get full access to panels and networking events.

Student research video: Next Generation Logistics Ships (NGLS): Refuel
DoD is the largest consumer of energy in the US & the world’s largest international user of petroleum. ARP students Capt Barry Loseke and Capt Kevin Yarnell discuss their research exploring how DOD can maintain its competitive advantage by reexamining the way fuel is distributed in a contested environment.

Innovations- No Contract, No Budget, No Protests: Public-Private Collaboration Delivers Contracting Innovation
Anne Laurent, NCMA Magazine

This month, a team of writers led by the peripatetic Air Force Maj. (and NPS Professor) Dan Finkenstadt partnered to illuminate a successful innovation partnership that led to a procurement protest tool. That might seem like a lot of partnership, but that’s the point.

 

Education

Bring Back Education for Seapower
Mark R. Folse, USNI Proceedings

In early 2018, the Donald Trump administration promulgated a new (and inherently naval) National Defense Strategy (NDS) aimed at peer competition with China and Russia. A key assumption of the NDS was that after two decades of fighting terrorism, the U.S. military’s advantage over peer adversaries has eroded. The Department of Defense sees itself operating in a new “Cognitive Age” where artificial intelligence, cyber, and remote-controlled weapon systems make warfare in the air, on land, or at sea more complex and dangerous than ever before. To reverse the effects of this erosion, service members will have to be highly trained to survive and succeed in this environment. Education is also needed, however, to best prepare officers and enlisted for the challenges of the 21st century. The Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps have university systems that oversee and unify the educational efforts of their various schools. The Department of the Navy (DoN) does not, which leaves it disadvantaged. 

 

Acquisition and Innovation

New bottleneck emerges in DOD’s contractor cybersecurity program, concerning assessors
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

How will the DoD’s next multibillion-dollar IT contract fare after messy JEDI deal?
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

New DARPA initiative gives contractors access to cutting edge commercial tech
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Pentagon readies new policy to boost cyber workforce amid recruitment challenges
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

Striking the Balance - Software Acquisition
Webinar recording with a variety of private sector and government experts in software acquisition, presented by Defense Acquisition University

 

Research

Opening up Military Innovation: Causal Effects of ‘Bottom-Up’ Reforms to U.S. Defense Research
Sabrina T Howell, Jason Rathje, John Van Reenen, Jun Wong  | SSRN

F-35 Sustainment: Enhanced Attention to and Oversight of F-35 Affordability Are Needed
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Aircraft Carriers: Homeport Changes Are Primarily Determined by Maintenance Requirements
U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Congress

No 5-Year POM Likely In DoD’s 2022 Budget
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

DoD nominee Colin Kahl advances in Senate as vice president casts tie-breaking vote
Joe Gould, Defense News

Mara Karlin selected to lead Pentagon strategy office
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

 

Defense and Federal Government

President Biden Announces Key Administration Nominations for National Security
White House Press Release

Space Force wants to reorganize some offices as it continues setting up
Scott Maucione, Federal News Network

F-35 program office announces a “strategic pause” on new logistics system
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Effective application rationalization eludes agencies
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

Navy Information Warfare Leader Says IT Adoption Too Slow
Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense Magazine

Another year, another record-high budget request for VA
Nicole Ogrysko, Federal News Network

Commentary: Biden Appointments Signal Major Changes In Digital Operations and Acquisition
Stan Soloway, Government Executive

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

So you think you know the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)?

The FAR recognizes that acquisition planning and coordination is successful by using multi-functional teams with varied expertise. Acquisition team participants are identified early, and team members should be empowered in their areas of responsibility. This leads to teamwork, unity of purpose, and open communication among the members of the team in sharing the vision and achieving the mission. Contracting officers are encouraged to take the lead in business process innovations and ensuring that business decisions are sound. As a Program Manager (PM), it is key to get the best Contracting Officer support, and there are many contracting organizations and individuals that deliver good advice, help solve problems, and find a reason to say “yes” instead of “no.”

No one is an expert in the entire FAR (53 Parts). It is a living, breathing document that you must keep up with as it changes, and it doesn’t stop there. You also need to track changes to the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), Services Regulations like the Army Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (AFARS), and local policies and procedures. The key is to get good team members who represent their area of expertise well and can help deliver the best product or service in a timely manner. Each member of the team needs to know their area well, and the Contracting Officer is a key player on the team.   

The FAR is complex, but digging into the details can be rewarding. A friend of mine who was a recognized acquisition and FAR ninja, Mark Lumer, spent years writing about the FAR and DFARS in a series of articles titled “So you think you know” for National Contract Management Association. Below are a few nuggets.

Ready to test your FAR knowledge?

QUESTIONS (Answers below):

  1. True or False- Every federal contractor must have a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to be eligible to receive US Government contracts.
  2. True or False- Contracting officer's representatives are contracting officers.
  3. Yes or No- Does the FAR apply to Navassa island in the Caribbean?
  4. True or False- The FAR defines the word "day" as a business day.
  5. True or False- The FAR lists 11 separate definitions for the term "United States."
  6. True or False- There are 5 different definitions of the term "micropurchase threshold" in the FAR.
  7. True or False- The definition of "contract specialist" does NOT appear in the FAR.

ANSWERS:

  1. Answer- False. FAR 52.203(d) lists several situations where a TIN is not required.
  2. Answer- True. They are- FAR 2.101 defines "contracting officer" to include- " Contracting officer means a person with the authority to enter into, administer, and/or terminate contracts and make related determinations and findings. The term includes certain authorized representatives of the contracting officer acting within the limits of their authority as delegated by the contracting officer." P.S. CORs still cannot change the contract.
  3. Answer- Yes. Under FAR 2.101, definitions- see "Outlying Areas."
  4. Answer- False.  FAR 2.101 states "Day means, unless otherwise specified, a calendar day."
  5. Answer-True. See the definition in FAR 2.101.
  6. Answer – True. FAR 2.101.
  7. Answer – True. FAR 2.101.

Contracting officers should be experts in the FAR and PMs should demand that expertise, but acquisition is a team sport and goes beyond contracting. Success requires the whole team to be empowered and bring exhaustive expertise like a contracting officer

April 16, 2021                                                                                                  Issue 51

This week, the Biden administration has finally provided more nominations for key leadership positions, including Christine Warmuth for Secretary of the Army, Susanna Blume to lead CAPE, and Gil Cisneros as undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. HASC chair Adam Smith described his desire for a leaner, more focused defense budget in a talk at the Reagan Institute, and shared concern that continued delay of a detailed budget request might lead to a continuing resolution for FY 2022. For those watching the Technology Modernization Fund, it’s up to $1.5 billion—meaning agencies may finally be able to tackle long-overdue overhauls of legacy systems and processes. Our top story showcases how DoD’s cloud computing and data processing needs are inspiring industry to innovate new solutions – and one of these days, DoD will be able to move out on a contract to procure those solutions. (We’re taking bets on whether the JEDI protest will be resolved before 2022.) Don’t miss the commentary piece describing how the author used AI to write a new national security strategy based on previous versions. It’s a fascinating combination of predictive analytics and rhetorical analysis.

 

This Week’s Top Story

How the DoD’s future war-fighting needs are shaping cloud vendors’ products
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

The U.S. Defense Department’s expectation that future wars will be fought across dispersed, disconnected environments is driving changes to its cloud needs. Industry is preparing for that reality.

With the nascent concept of connecting the best sensor from any location with the best shooter in any service, known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control, the defense industrial base is seeing a shift in the Pentagon’s need for tools that people can access from any location.

In the future the military wants to process data, such as drone footage or vehicle-mounted sensor data, in the tactical environment, rather than transporting it back to data centers thousands of miles away, a process that sucks up precious bandwidth and takes too much time.

The need is driving investment by major cloud providers in smaller servers and processing devices for war fighters in remote environments. The need is evident, for example, with the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, which uses cloud services from vendors Microsoft and AWS through indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts.

Beyond that, the department needs to be able to easily and securely pass data between classified and unclassified environments — another requirement that has industry brainstorming new options.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

Understanding the Incentives for Small Businesses to Participate in the Acquisition Process for R&D Intensive Products
Vivek Bhattacharya, Northwestern University

This ARP-supported, grant-funded report studies the incentives that small businesses face when they participate in the procurement process for R&D-intensive products through the DOD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Using contract-level data, this report concludes that there are likely strong internal incentives within the SBIR program but finds less evidence for strong external incentives. DOD could incentivize more firms to enter the procurement process by changing the structure of the SBIR program itself rather than changing the broader defense procurement ecosystem.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DoD’s New Pushback Against Chinese Money In US Defense Industry
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

Pencils up: Bids are due for Army’s Bradley replacement and it’s only the beginning
Jen Judson, Defense News

DOD’s innovation ecosystem is growing, but strict compliance is a barrier, DARPA director says
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

White House proposes even more for Technology Modernization Fund
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

New Look for beta.SAM.gov - Before and After
fsd.gov

 

Events

C4ISRNET Conference
April 21, 2021

Measuring R&D Productivity, Perspectives on Trends and Policies
George Mason University Center for Government Contracting
April 22, 2021

 

Research

What Are the Priorities of Bureaucrats? Evidence from Conjoint Experiments with Procurement Officials
Janne Tukiainen et al., EconPol

 

Congress

HASC Chair Blasts White House For ‘Dragging Their Feet’ On Budget
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee
Brett Samuels, The Hill

 

Defense and Federal Government

President Biden Announces His Intent to Nominate 11 Key Administration Leaders on National Security and Law Enforcement
The White House

7 allies sign onto polar research project
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

US sanctions makers of supercomputers linked to Chinese military
Joe McDonald, C4ISRNET

US Should Push New Space Treaty: Atlantic Council
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

China aims to weaponize space, says intel community report
Joe Gould, Defense News

New ICBM Costs Can, Must Come Down, Hyten Says
Patrick Tucker, Defense One

Commentary: Strategy In The Artificial Age: Observations From Teaching An AI To Write A U.S. National Security Strategy
Elena Wicker, War on the Rocks

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Racing to the Bottom on Professional Information Technology Services

The mission stakes are high when it comes to buying the services of professionals with the best skills and greatest experience, especially in critical Information Technology and Cyber Services. Unfortunately, over the past few years and with restrictions on the misused Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) for professional services, the Race to the Bottom has worsened.

One of my favorite movies, Remember the Titans, has a line similar to this:
‘We sure could use your help. Race to the Bottom is kicking our butts.’

For those who haven’t heard this phrase before, “race to the bottom” describes when industry bids responding to RFPs price services at unrealistically low levels, especially for Firm Fixed Price and Time & Materials contracts. Industry bidders do not trust the Government’s Best Value Tradeoff selection process and feel they must significantly reduce rates and prices to win a contract. The Project Managers (PMs) who must live with this contract in performance know that ‘the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low prices is forgotten.’ There are unnecessary contractual risks of poor performance, future change order price increases, delivery delays, and higher likelihood of mission failure.

Let’s say you put out a RFP that requires an ERP Architect, and now you’re evaluating bids. Here, you’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that a contractor proposed $80 loaded for an ERP Architect. But the bad news is the contractor proposed $80 an hour, and now they must find people to fill those roles at that pay scale.

Some will argue that if you want to pay more money for quality services, you can just state it in the solicitation: “all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are significantly more important than cost or price.” This basis of award statement will not make a difference. Even on the acquisitions where the government team understands what this basis of award means (and they did not just copy it from the last acquisition), it will not prevent the industry culture of race to the bottom on best value tradeoff acquisitions.

Some recommendations to fix this area:

  • Let’s start with better training of our people that includes, but is not limited to, making clear who is in charge, developing true discriminators and criteria, properly documenting findings (strengths and weaknesses), making proper tradeoff decisions, and documenting decisions.  How about updated Source Selection Guidance and one section on best practices for buying professional services—which is by far the hardest to come up with meaningful discriminators. Of course, we could continue to have the companies write how they will meet the PWS and Key Personnel resumes. This training and new Source Selection Guidance will help attack the problem and slowly build up confidence with industry that we are following the evaluation scheme, fairly and reasonably evaluating the competing proposals, and properly documenting decisions.
  • Clarify proper use and guidance on how to evaluate professional compensation as required by FAR provision 52.222-46.
  • Properly evaluate Staffing as a Quality discriminator versus Cost or Price.
  • Update training on Cost Realism. In my career I have not met too many folks who understand Cost Realism. Now once they understand Cost Realism, you need to show them the differences between Cost Realism and Price Realism and the WARNINGS and pitfalls of using Price Realism. I have never been involved in an evaluation that included Price Realism.
  • Use price ranges, as discussed in the INSA report, “Improving Acquisition of Services in the Intelligence Community”:

"The Government may also consider establishing a price range in appropriate situations. Acceptable price ranges may be established by the Government’s Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) and/or through market research; in particular, solutions that use commercially available technologies will have many data points available as input to the ICE. Acquisition organizations such as the General Service Administration’s (GSA’s) Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM) have had success with this method. Specifically, the acquisition may stipulate that, “Price/Costs that are excessively high or low (without sufficient justification) may be considered unrealistic and unreasonable and may receive no further consideration.” (For those of you who have worked with FEDSIM, they are top notch innovators.)

  • Last recommendation and probably the most important: if we continue to put inexperienced people on Source Selections, we will continue to get more and more protests that lead to corrective actions, and sustained protests.

Source Selection process is both an art and science and requires that we facilitate the “seasoning” of the workforce through planned and strategically managed participation and growth in the entire source selection process.

April 9, 2021                                                                                                    Issue 50

Today should see the release of the President’s Budget Request, with Politico reporters hinting the DOD topline will stay essentially flat at $715—neither the 3-5% increase pushed by some DOD leaders and GOP lawmakers nor the 10% cut favored by progressive lawmakers. Two commentary pieces on the budget process provide context: former comptroller Dov Zakheim authors our top story arguing for reprogramming reform, and Bob Work, former DepSecDef, considers the legacy of the Budget Control Act and its lingering effects on readiness.

The other big news this week is that two more top positions have been nominated, and both by individuals known for being acquisition innovators. Mike Brown is picked to move from leading DIU to filling Ellen Lord’s shoes as the new Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment. At GSA, Robin Carnahan is slated to move to the top after pushing new initiatives with 18F, the innovative tech arm of GSA.

In ARP news, we’ve reached a milestone, delivering 50 issues of Need to Know over the past year. Thanks for reading and being part of the ARP community!

 

This Week’s Top Story

Reform the Pentagon's budget process, or lose our military and tech advantages
Dov S. Zakheim, The Hill

What do artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Defense Innovation Unit and reprogramming requirements have to do with one another? The answer is, “Everything.” For unless both Congress and Department of Defense (DOD) seriously reform the manner in which they move funds from one appropriations account to another, the DOD’s ability to introduce new technologies rapidly will be seriously compromised — and with it, potentially, the nation’s defenses.

The development and fielding of new technologies involve a considerable amount of risk. Not all programs that are attractive on paper actually will succeed in the laboratory. Not all that succeed when subjected to developmental testing will succeed when put to the operational test. The earlier a potential cutting-edge program is determined unlikely to succeed, the sooner its funds should be transferred to a different program, via a system termed “reprogramming.” Unfortunately, congressional restrictions render it exceedingly difficult to transfer funds from one new program to another with any degree of alacrity.

As currently mandated, Congress permits the Defense Department to transfer only $6 billion from one appropriations account to another in any given fiscal year; of that amount, one third — termed Special Transfer Authority — draws from the Overseas Contingency Operations accounts. The $6 billion that can be transferred represents less than 1 percent of the department’s annual budget. The chief financial officers of most corporations have far more discretion when moving funds from one account to another.

Congressional restrictions do not end there, however…

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

NPS Announces the Graduate School of International and Defense Studies
MC2 Taylor Vencill, Naval Postgraduate School

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DIU’s Mike Brown is Biden’s pick to head DOD acquisition
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Top Air Force IT leader has ‘mixed feelings’ about CMMC
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

USSF Unveils Space Systems Command’s Structure
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

Commercial Interest Grows in Defense Innovation Unit
Jon Harper, National Defense

These white hat hackers keep finding new ways to help out the armed services
Tom Temin with Steve Blank, Federal News Network

GBSD Passes Integrated Baseline Review, on Pace for IOC In 2029
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

Biden taps 18F veteran Robin Carnahan to lead GSA
Adam Mazmanian, FCW

 

Events

“Missile Defense and Technology Warriors” by VADM Jon A. Hill, USN
Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture, Naval Postgraduate School
April 13, 2001  |  3:00 pm PT

 

Research

Space Threat Assessment 2021
Todd Harrison, Center for Strategic & International Studies

 

Policy

Class Deviation–Prohibition Against Using Fiscal Year 2021 Funds to Maintain or Establish a Computer Network Unless Designed to Block Access to Certain Websites
Principal Director, Defense Pricing and Contracting

 

Congress

Special report: Microchip security continues to confound Pentagon
John M. Donnelly, Roll Call

 

Defense and Federal Government

Biden to request $715B for the Pentagon, slight increase from last year
Connor O’Brien and Andrew Desiderio

The Defense Department isn’t meeting its readiness goals, report finds
Meghann Myers, Defense News

Naval Audit Service cuts still pushed by Navy Department, despite lawmaker opposition
Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times

Commentary: Storm Clouds Ahead: Musings About The 2022 Defense Budget
Bob Work, War on the Rocks

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools

Using Case Studies for Professional Development

This week we’re giving Larry a break so we can highlight an acquisition tool developed by our very own Bob Mortlock, Principal Investigator for ARP.

Professor Bob Mortlock has been conducting case study workshops for members of the defense acquisition workforce for over two years, and he’s ready to expand them to new organizations. The case studies are based on real-world defense acquisition programs, so participants can learn first-hand about navigating the complicated decisions involved in managing acquisition programs. The greater acquisition workforce rarely gets the opportunity to read and study case studies, and this opportunity fills that learning gap. Members of the acquisition workforce can earn continuous learning points in a learning environment.

These workshops feature 6 hours of group discussion and directed study on a defense acquisition program. The Leader Professional Development (LPD) workshops allow participants to develop critical thinking, decision-making, resource management, and stakeholder engagement skills. The sessions also enhance communication between NPS faculty and the acquisition workforce, and highlight current defense acquisition challenges—enhancing the connections between acquisition research and education.

This year, Mortlock has already facilitated two workshops:

  • On 2 Mar 2021, BG Vince Malone, JPEO Armaments & Ammunition (A&A) at Picatinny NJ, hosted a Leader Professional Development (LPD) workshop for the 35 members of the JPEO A&A acquisition workforce.
  • On 23 Feb 2021, BG Mike Sloane, PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S) at Aberdeen Proving Ground MD, hosted a Leader Professional Development (LPD) workshop for the 20 members of PEO IEW&S acquisition workforce.

Mortlock previously offered the following acquisition workforce development sessions:

  • Mar 2020, PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Orlando FL
  • Feb 2020, PEO Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), Warren MI
  • Mar 2019, PEO Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Orlando FL
  • Feb 2019, PEO Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), Fort Belvoir VA
  • Feb 2019, PEO Ground Combat Systems (PEO GCS), Warren MI

These acquisition workforce development opportunities have been highlighted in the Summer 2019 edition of Army AT&L magazine article entitled “A Chance To Think”.

Want to get your acquisition team into one of these sessions? Mortlock offers the workshops through a virtual, distance learning environment. Development sessions are modular and can be tailored to the needs of the hosting organization. The hosting PEO/PM offers the education to their workforce on a volunteer basis. Current cases available for discussion include:

  • Rapid acquisition – combat helmet program initiation and procurement decisions
  • Incremental development – acquisition strategy for missile development program
  • Decision making & stakeholder engagement – combat uniform camouflage effort
  • Defense Industrial Base – body armor/PPE industrial base planning
  • Cost estimating – missile development program milestone review
  • Adaptive acquisition/prototyping – combat pistol acquisition program planning
  • Shipbuilding – warfighter requirements and acquisition strategy planning

For more information, please contact:  Dr. Bob Mortlock, Colonel U.S. Army (Retired), Professor of the Practice, Program Management and Defense Acquisition, Graduate School of Defense Management, Naval Postgraduate School, Email:  rfmortlo@nps.edu

April 2, 2021                                                                                                    Issue 49

This week’s top story covers the launch of a new partnership between the National Security Innovation Network (parent company to Hacking for Defense) and the DoD Office of Small Business Programs to support, among other things, more prototyping, faster transition of technology into the acquisition process, and better market research. A related commentary piece recommends substantially increasing funding for the Small Business Innovation Research program to achieve the same goals while shoring up American manufacturing. Speaking of innovation, two articles in our Research section consider the pervasive challenge of culture as either an obstacle or an asset to organizational innovation and agility. This recent research situates the push for cultural change in the bureaucratic DoD within a larger historical context and in relation to drivers such as leadership style, disruptive vs. sustaining technologies, and systems thinking. In AI news, the JAIC just posted an RFP to get multiple companies, especially non-traditionals, to prepare data for AI usage. And while there’s a big delay getting more top DoD positions officially confirmed, there’s a new CEO for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Board and a new head performing the duties of DoD Research and Engineering.

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day and, as it happens, the anniversary of the Federal Acquisition Regulation—launched April 1, 1984. For more fun April Fool’s acquisition trivia, check out the Wifcon post. And check out Larry’s column this week on challenges we have with our blended workforce of government employees and contractors. Enjoy, and we’ll see you next week.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Partnership Expands Opportunities for New and Small Businesses to Work With the Department of Defense, Expand National Security Innovation Base
DoD Press Release

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on small business matters, and the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), an innovation unit within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, signed a memorandum of agreement on March 5 to collaborate on expanding the national security innovation base.

The new partnership links two DOD organizations with a common mission to establish an annual, joint program plan to leverage OSBP and NSIN resources to achieve shared objectives:

  • Collaborate to develop events and programs to engage small businesses in the National Technology and Industrial Base.
  • Prototype operational concepts related to emerging technologies and accelerate the transition of technologies and services into acquisition programs and operational use.
  • Support partnership between DOD and academic institutions, commercial firms, accelerators, incubators, and nonprofit organizations whose missions relate to national security innovation.
  • Enhance the capabilities of the DOD in market research, source selection, partnerships with private capital, and access to commercial technologies.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

Blurry Vision: Supply Chain Visibility for Personal Protective Equipment during COVID-19
Maj. Daniel Finkenstadt USAF, Ph.D. and Robert Handfield, Ph.D

NPS professor and ARP collaborator Dan Finkenstadt continues his research on supply chain management throughout the COVID pandemic. This study explores supply chain visibility challenges in the context of our contemporary COVID pandemic, and offer insights, models and potential solutions to remove barriers to clear supply chain visibility. Visibility and velocity are the two key attributes required to enabling critical decision-making accuracy which will in turn increase the ability of local, state and federal healthcare and public health decision-makers to respond to shifts in the U.S. system.

NPS Master’s Degree in Contract Management Ranks in Top 10 Nationally
Great Business Schools

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Enabling AI Data Readiness in the Department of Defense (Public Release of the Data Readiness for AI Data (DRAID) Acquisition Vehicle RFP)
JAIC Public Affairs

Pentagon Reviewing CMMC for Potential Improvements
Jon Harper, National Defense

Matthew Travis hired as CMMC Accreditation Body CEO
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Pentagon tech office asks industry for ‘leap-ahead capabilities’
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

‘Remotely Crewed’ Systems Can Save Money, But Specialized Thinking Needed
John A. Tirpak, Air Force Magazine

Air Force Goes All in on Digital Twinning—for Bombs As Well As Planes
Shaun Waterman, Air Force Magazine

Commentary: To rebuild manufacturing, the US needs to beef up the Small Business Innovation Research program
Sean O’Sullivan, TechCrunch

 

On a lighter note

April Fools’ Day in Federal Acquisition
Wifcon

 

Events

“Missile Defense and Technology Warriors” by VADM Jon A. Hill, USN
Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture, Naval Postgraduate School
April 13, 2001  |  3:00 pm PT

 

Research

Leader and Organizational Attributes that Cultivate Innovation
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Gillikin, Small Wars Journal

Transformational Leadership in the Navy—Cultivating a Learning Organization Culture
Brenda Oppermann and William Nault, Naval War College Review

China’s Belt and Road: Implications for the United States
Council on Foreign Relations

U.S. Government’s 2020 Financial Statements Reveal Serious Management Weaknesses and Ongoing Efforts to Correct Those Weaknesses
U.S. Government Accountability Office

2021 Government Trends
Deloitte

 

Congress

Top level nominees still missing at DoD, three months after last announcements
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Air-Land chairman talks F-35 costs and ‘Buy America’ in the next defense bill
Joe Gould, Defense News

Biden’s infrastructure plan includes billions to develop emerging tech the military needs
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

 

Defense and Federal Government

JAIC director: Pentagon’s biggest competitive threat? Obsolescence
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

CBO: Navy Still Needs Bigger Workforce To Dig Out of Submarine Maintenance Backlog
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News

Brown Says Networks are Key to New Revolution in Military Affairs
John A. Tirpak, Air Force Magazine

Audit of the Department of Defense’s Compliance With the Berry Amendment
DOD Office of the Inspector General

ACC’s U-2 Federal Laboratory rapidly integrates Platform One in first weapons system flight
Capt Brittany Curry, Air Combat Command

Commentary: War is Changing. So Should the Pentagon’s Budget
Scott Cooper, Defense One

Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Research and Technology Sworn In
Defense Technical information Center

(Available with CAC access only. We’ve copied the full content here for your convenience.)

Ms. Barbara McQuiston has been sworn in as the Director of Defense Research and Engineering for Research and Technology, and is performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering. Ms. McQuiston previously spent nearly a decade in government service at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While at the agency, she served in the Defense Science Office, the Strategic Technology Office, and finally as a Special Assistant to the Director for Energy. 

In addition to her time at DARPA, she has more than 30 years of commercial experience. Her work in the private sector has included various research roles, technology management, commercial development, and strategic planning. She has also worked on the development of innovative information, communications, biological, medical, and environmental technologies. Additionally, she has also advised capital management funds and has negotiated and managed technology transfer agreements in both the public and private sector.

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

The Blended Workforce

The recent report from the National Academy of Public Administration, Elevating Human Capital: Reframing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Leadership Imperative, discusses numerous personnel issues that we hope are strongly considered for implementation.

One of the areas in the report that hit home with me was how the Government continues to struggle with hiring policies and practices. The second level effects of not being able to hire Government personnel is the use of more contracted Advisory and Assistance Services (A&AS) for mission support. The Blended Workforce is when Government workers are co-located with contractor personnel (e.g., A&AS contracted personnel) in the same government offices and often doing the same or similar work. This causes numerous issues with the potential for Personal Services, the concern of Public Interests versus Private Interests, Organizational Conflicts of Interest (OCI), and loss of critical knowledge and experience by Government personnel.

Nowhere are the problems more evident than in acquisition, where the number of Government workers has declined, and the workload has increased in documentation, dollar value, and complexity. We must reform hiring, pay, retention policies to ensure the Government can develop an experienced, skilled, and balanced workforce to improve acquisition practices.

As we improve the hiring process the blended workforce will continue to be woven into the government's fabric for the foreseeable future.

Some recommendations to address the improvement and oversight of contracted personnel in a Blended Workforce:

  • A clear understanding of the supervision of contractor employees to ensure that a nonpersonal services contract does not inadvertently function as a personal services contract. See Section 809 Panel Recommendation 20: Clarify the definitions of personal and nonpersonal services.
  • Acquisition personnel must be trained to protect the government's interests (and contractors are not government employees) without telling contractors how to do their work or improperly interfering with their performance.
  • Include clear terms requiring the avoidance or mitigation of conflicts (OCI) and the protection of personal information and intellectual property to which contractors will have access.
  • Avoidance of OCIs for A&AS should be the preferred method with extremely strict clauses that prevent A&AS contractors from providing multiple services as A&AS and Provider. 
  • Improve training on how to structure A&AS Service contracts.

March 26, 2021                                                                                                           Issue 48

This week sees a number of articles on the Space Force, as the new service continues to take shape. Our lead story suggests that Space Force acquisition has a new lead, at least for now. Two articles touch on education for current and future Space Force guardians – the first class of JROTC students and a suggestion for a Space Force War College. The integrity of the supply chain continues to be a hot topic, with commentary from journalists and analysis from GAO. And this week we’re enjoying the latest hit in a surprising new genre—music about alternative acquisition authorities. Who knew you could create a jingle around OTAs?

 

This Week’s Top Story

Rogers feeling optimistic about Space Force procurement efforts
Sandra Erwin, Space News

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said the Space Force is making progress in the organization of its acquisition office and expects to see new proposals to accelerate acquisition programs.

Rogers told reporters March 22 that Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond brought in veteran space procurement expert Ellen Pawlikowski to help set up the service’s acquisition organization. Congress directed the Department of the Air Force to stand up a separate civilian acquisition executive for space by 2022.

Pawlikowski is a retired four-star general who ran the Air Force Materiel Command, the Space and Missile Systems Center and held senior posts at the National Reconnaissance Office and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

The Space Force last year planned to send to Capitol Hill a list of recommendations for how to accelerate acquisitions but the proposal had to be pulled back because it was not approved by the White House. Congressional committees want to see a new set of recommendations but also a plan for standing up a Senate-confirmed space acquisition executive office in the Department of the Air Force.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

Acquisition Data Analytics for Supply Chain Cybersecurity
Randy Maule, Naval Postgraduate School

Cybersecurity is a national priority, but the analysis required for acquisition personnel to objectively assess the integrity of the supply chain for cyber compromise is highly complex. This ARP-sponsored report presents a process for supply chain data analytics for acquisition decision makers, addressing data collection, assessment, and reporting.

The Profession of Acquisition
Dr. Robert F. Mortlock, Army AT&L

Elements of a profession include accredited education, the acquisition of specialized skills, certification, licensure, continuous professional development, a certified governing society and a code of ethics. Acquisition (specifically program management) is not considered a profession in the eyes of most outside the acquisition workforce, as is evident in senior leaders’ lack of trust and respect for acquisition professionals. In this article, Mortlock (ARP’s Principal Investigator) proposes a major upgrade in the standards of conduct for the acquisition profession, in line with one of the key principles of recognition as a profession in society. This article focuses specifically on the certification requirements for the program management career field—both civilian and military, as with DAWIA.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DoD top brass worried about supply chain amidst heavy spending, fewer prime contracts
Tom Temin, Federal News Network

Exiger Appoints Hon. Ellen Lord as Advisory Board Chairwoman
William McCormick, ExecutiveGov

DUNS Not “Done” Until Spring 2022
Nicole Pottroff, SmallGovCon

Tech Groups Push TMF Repay Changes to Speed New Spending
John Curran, MeriTalk

F-35 Procurement Could Be Swayed by Robo-Jets
Jon Harper, National Defense

Commentary: Want an Agile Pentagon? Don’t Go Chasing ‘Waterfalls’
Chris Dougherty, Defense One

Air Force Seeks White Papers for Potential $975M Capabilities for Cyber Advancement BAA
Jane Edwards, GovCon Wire

 

On a lighter note

A Song about 10 USC 2373
Strategic Institute

 

Education

Space Force JROTC to Get First Units Starting This Fall
Tobias Naegele, Air Force Magazine

Commentary: Why Space Force Needs A War College Just Like Everyone Else — And Why It Should Be Different
Jonty Kaskku-Jason, War on the Rocks

 

Research

The 2020s Tri-Service Modernization Crunch
Mackenzie Eaglen with Hallie Coyne, American Enterprise Institute

Trusted Partners: Human-Machine Teaming and the Future of Military AI
Margarita Konaev, Tina Huang, and Husanjot Chahal  |  Center for Security and Emerging Technology

VA Acquisition Management: Comprehensive Supply Chain Management Strategy Key to Address Existing Challenges
U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Congress

Pentagon policy nominee Colin Kahl survives Senate committee vote
Joe Gould, Defense News

Washington’s battle over nuclear weapons budget already underway
Joe Gould, Defense News

Watch: Subcommittee on Readiness Hearing: “Investing in an Organic Industrial Base to Support Service Modernization Plans”
House Armed Services Committee

 

Defense and Federal Government

Hypersonic Research Funding Skyrockets as DOD Looks to Push Capability to the Field
John A. Tirpak, Air Force Magazine

GAO to review Space Command headquarters decision
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Pentagon modernization in for ‘Terrible ‘20s,’ report warns
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

DoD Cloud Exchange Keynote: Navy’s transformation to modern service delivery
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

Zumwalt Destroyer Will Control Unmanned Ships, Aircraft in Upcoming Fleet Battle Problem
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

Deputy Defense Secretary Sees Challenges, Opportunities for DOD
Jim Garamone, DOD News

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Post-Award: The Forgotten Phase of Acquisition?

In last week’s article I touched on the need to improve Contract Administration, or those activities performed after a contract is awarded. The Post-Award activities cover all actions from the time the contract is awarded and is an important part of the procurement process that assures the customer receives delivery on time and within cost. The extent of oversight required for Post-Award activities varies from contract to contract. It can range from the minimum acceptance of a monthly report to delivery and payment to the contractor or extensive involvement by Program Office, Contracting Officer, and Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) throughout the contract period of performance. In my experience the larger programs, e.g., ACAT I, are staffed with experienced Post-Award personnel based on the nature of the work, the type of contract, and level of the program interest.

I found a great article by Dr. Steve Kelman, “Talking with a procurement icon about post-award contract management,” in which he interviewed Ms. Deidre Lee in 2016. Excerpts of article below (some updates added):

“Deidre (Dee) Lee entered the government in 1978 as a GS-4 contract specialist buying supplies at the U.S. military base in Okinawa. From there she rose up through the ranks, moving to NASA Johnson Space Center and becoming the senior procurement official at NASA. She succeeded me as OFPP administrator (she was my choice for the job, and I was happy to see this go to a career civil servant), and from there she went back to the Defense Department as Director DPAP. Dee also had senior positions at the General Services Administration, Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Chair of the Section 809 Panel.”

“The main question I asked her was the differences in the behavior of government organizations she saw as being in the top 25 percent in terms of post-award management skills versus those in the bottom 25 percent. Her answer was fascinating: The key job in contract management is to monitor performance in terms of what the contract is trying to accomplish, The top 25 percent understand what they've trying to accomplish, and that's what they pay attention to. They look at what really matters, and they evaluate that. The bottom 25 percent track inputs, such as whether you've submitted monthly reports to the government."

"The top 25 percent look at things that really matter, and evaluate that, they recognize that It's more important that you deliver the service on time than that you submit reports on time. The bottom 25 percent have no idea whether they're getting a result. So they focus on nits, which are easier to measure but aren't real performance drivers."

"Often the origin of the problems for contract management is that the government didn't really know or describe what they wanted in the original RFP, so in the contract they measure things that are easy to measure, like submitting a report or measuring the number of Corrective Action Reports. If the contract is poorly written or doesn't solve the mission problem, the bottom 25 percent will just stick to doggedly administering the contract as written."

We could not say it any better than Ms. Lee, and thanks Dr. Kelman for a great article and interview. In my career I never knew who the OFPP Administrators were or cared much of what they were saying as it was mostly buzzwords. I waited until it affected me and my team at the working level. But we all knew Dee Lee because she was one of us, having come up through the ranks, and always provided acquisition policy we could relate to through bold and effective guidance. Ms. Lee is the epitome of an acquisition icon and has the whole package—she is a great leader and a nice person (I had the pleasure of working for her on the Section 809 Panel). We would also like to thank her for the influence and contributions she has provided us all during Women’s History Month.

Some recommendations:

  • More leadership attention on effective Post-Award management.
  • No one-size-fits-all CORs. The DoDI 5000.72 is on the right track with DoD’s standards for COR certifications: with Type A, B, or C work efforts. (1) Type A: Fixed-price requirements without incentives, low performance risk; (2) Type B: Other than fixed-price requirements without incentives, low performance risk; (3) Type C: Unique contract requirements that necessitate a professional license, higher education, or specialized training beyond the Type B requirements.
  • We need to ensure that the concepts in DoDI 5000.72 are leveraged and train the workforce on how to effectively manage Post-Award activities and assign the right support based on the contract complexity.
  • Increase that top 25 percent to make it the norm to understand what they're trying to accomplish and what to pay attention to. Look at what really matters and recognize that “it is more important that you deliver the service on time than that you submit reports on time.”
  • Let us hold management accountable for the bottom 25 percent. 

March 19, 2021                                                                                                           Issue 47

Lots of activity and news from Congress this week, as the debate over the defense budget continues. This week’s hearing on unmanned systems in the Navy digs into how to acquire this new technology without wasting time and resources. As one of the key witnesses, Jay Stefany discusses Navy acquisition and priorities on this front. We’ll see more from him when he delivers his keynote speech at our symposium, coming up in May. Our lead story provides insightful research on how the pandemic impacted the defense industry and how acquisition leaders quickly pivoted to find solutions to many of the past year’s challenges.

Of note in acquisition news: new contracts for satellites are shifting to become shorter and open up the field for multiple vendors. DARPA is actively innovating to get American (not foreign) investment for new defense technologies. And one of our ARP-sponsored student reports from 2020 is getting endorsement from the industry it studied – the American Kennel Club has shared the NPS student research on the challenge of acquiring government working dogs from domestic suppliers. It’s a great illustration of how good market research can forge strong relationships between buyers and sellers in government acquisition.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Chaos, cash and COVID-19: How the defense industry survived — and thrived — during the pandemic
Aaron Mehta and Valerie Insinna, Defense News

U.S. Air Force leaders faced a dilemma. The service needed a key raw material from Italy for one of its critical nuclear modernization programs. But in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as industrial facilities shut down and transit between nations slowed, it was unclear how the material could reach the United States.

Air Force officials were so worried that they eventually authorized military aircraft to fly to Italy to pick up the remaining supply in person, averting an interruption in one of the nation’s most strategic weapons programs.

According to Will Roper, who led Air Force acquisition efforts under the Trump administration, the ordeal was one example of when the Pentagon had to make a “worst-case scenario call” to protect the U.S. military’s technological edge as COVID-19 threatened the defense-industrial base. This sense of urgency would prove common over the next year.

As the pandemic spread, the reality of having a global supply chain that featured a number of small, sole-source suppliers, as well as an aging industrial workforce, collided into a calamity — one that threatened to irreparably damage the American defense industry.

A year into the pandemic, a Defense News review tried to measure its toll on the defense industry. The full scope of damage is complex and still coming into focus, but a broad outline is becoming clear.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

Demand Is Soaring for US-Bred Working Dogs, So Why Can’t We Supply More?
American Kennel Club Government Relations

A recent report from the Graduate School of Defense Management at the Naval Postgraduate School revealed the importance of working dogs within the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies. The report backs concerns previously raised by the AKC Detection Dog Task Force about over-reliance on foreign-sourced dogs being placed as government working dogs (GWD). It also contains an in-depth analysis of the GWD industry and provides recommendations to improve the sourcing of U.S.-bred and trained dogs, including working more closely with the AKC and other stakeholders. Sponsored by the Acquisition Research Program at the Naval Postgraduate School, this report is the first comprehensive government analysis of the GWD industry in 15 years and explores the disconnect between the demand for working dogs and domestic supply.

DOD Selects NPS to Advance Research in Environmental Resilience and Surprise
MC2 Taylor Vencill, NPS

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) has awarded the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) funding to begin a new research project, titled “Advancing Resilience Theory and Tools to Combat Environmental Surprise,” focused on developing new theory and tools to better understand and prepare for future climate events that present challenges to military installation operations.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

L3Harris sees opportunities in Pentagon’s growing responsive space business
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

DoD’s new Adaptive Acquisition Framework takes new approach to tailoring procurement strategies
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

Top Pentagon research arm combats ‘aggressive’ foreign investors
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

DoD plan will streamline contractor security clearance appeals
Jessie Bur, Federal Times

Commentary: High-wire act: How to unify research and procurement with a tight budget
Olivia Letts and Stephen Rodriguez, Defense News

Pro Q&A: Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit
Bryan Bender, Politico

Commentary: A bridge fund can’t solve the Pentagon’s emerging tech problem
Eric Lofgren and Matt MacGregor, Defense News

 

Events

Increasing Speed and Flexibility in DoD Budgeting — Going from Ideas to Implementation
George Mason University Center for Government Contracting
March 23, 2021  |  12:00-2:00 pm ET

President Biden’s New Directions for Government Contracting
Norcal PTAC
March 23, 2021  |  1:00-2:00 pm ET

 

Research

United States Office of Personnel Management Independent Assessment
National Academy of Public Administration

International arms transfers level off after years of sharp growth; Middle Eastern arms imports grow most, says SIPRI
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

U.S. Government Procurement and International Trade
Congressional Research Service

 

Congress

Even with Democratic support, Colin Kahl faces long climb to the Pentagon
Joe Gould, Defense News

50 House Democrats urge Biden to 'significantly' slash defense budget
Rebecca Kheel, The Hill

McConnell challenges Biden to boost defense budget against China
Joe Gould, Defense News

Virginia lawmakers prepare to battle the Pentagon over a potential cut to the carrier fleet
Joe Gould and David B. Larter, Defense News

Watch: Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Hearing: “Unmanned Systems of the Department of the Navy”
March 18, 2021

 

Defense and Federal Government

Opinion: America’s partnerships are ‘force multipliers’ in the world
Antony J. Blinken and Lloyd J. Austin III, The Washington Post

China’s arms sales drop as ‘other nations buy American’
Minnie Chan, South China Morning Post

US Navy’s new unmanned plan leaves some unconvinced the service can stop screwing up tech
David B. Larter, Defense News

Bipartisan group of senators ask VA to rank and prioritize unfunded IT projects
Nicole Ogrysko, Federal News Network

Army upgrading networks in hopes of creating a super weapons system in the future
Scott Maucione, Federal News Network

Pentagon has new research center to link networks, communications
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

 

Policy

Department of the Navy Unmanned Campaign Framework

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Past Performance: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

No one would ever say that the Past Performance process is not broken. A recent Federal News Network article stated it well:

“No one likes the current approach to rating contractor performance. Neither the agency contracting officers nor program managers, and not the vendors who sometimes wait three to six months after the contract is complete to get a mostly meaningless “satisfactory” rating. The data itself lacks value and transparency.”

The Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI) description of past performance plainly states that “Information regarding a contractor’s actions under previous contracts and orders, also known as past performance, is an indicator of future performance and is one of the most relevant factors that a selection official should consider in awarding a contract.”

If only this were true. The FAI position on Past Performance doesn’t reflect the reality that past performance slows down the evaluation process, the data cannot be trusted, it is difficult to get information from Past Performance questionnaires, and it is seldom the most relevant discriminator in award decisions.

One of the systemic problems is that “unfortunately, closeout and Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) are the two activities that take the back seat in cradle-to-grave contracting offices,” as Kim Yates, a well-respected former 1102, recently posted on LinkedIn.

The Past Performance process is not working and is too burdensome. Hopefully it will be replaced soon. Until then, here are some suggestions for leadership attention:

  • Review and improve the quality of the data.
  • Improve the timeliness of CPARS submissions. See the latest DoD Past Performance Scorecard.
  • Review Satisfactory ratings to ensure they reflect actual performance and were not assigned solely because no narrative is required for this rating.
  • Provide robust training on properly monitoring contract performance and documenting performance issues, e.g., documenting by Letters of Concern.
  • Reinforce that Past Performance Questionnaires from contracting officer representatives is important and helps others.

Much attention seems focused on timeliness of submissions rather than improving the overall Past Performance process. It is clear the Past Performance process needs to be reengineered, retired, and thanked for its ~25 years of service. Until the new processes and systems are in place, we need leadership to encourage timely, quality submissions in CPARS and responses to source selection questionnaires. We also need more emphasis on post-award contract administration to monitor performance in terms of what the contract is trying to accomplish. Contracting officers should work closely with the contractor, track and document performance (good and bad), and use that data to document CPARS, rather than selecting ratings as an afterthought.

March 12, 2021                                                                                                           Issue 46

Yesterday, the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law, and with it, the authorization of $1 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund and the extension of federal contractor relief from the CARES Act.  Still on the horizon: what the defense budget will look like for FY 2022. It’s likely that funding will remain flat, and HASC Chair Adam Smith is suggesting DoD can take this opportunity to modernize and cut costs. See the related commentary on how to define legacy systems, which is where many think this cost savings should come from. In our top story, GSA is looking for feedback on its plan to revamp its government-wide service contract, OASIS. In ARP news, last week’s webinar on developing artificial intelligence in defense programs provided robust data, analysis, and conversation on how to acquire, manage, and think about this emerging technology. We’re sharing the recording and slides with you this week.

Finally, don’t forget to change your clocks this weekend! Spring forward to lose an hour of sleep (boo!) and gain an hour of evening sunshine (yay!).

 

This Week’s Top Story

GSA kicks off two-year effort to innovate service contracting beyond OASIS
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

Let’s get the jokes about the General Services Administration’s working title of its new services governmentwide acquisition contract out of the way. Today it’s known as a BIC MAC—Best-in-Class Multiple Award Contract. ...

Whatever name GSA eventually comes up with that is not BIC MAC, the new approach to services contracting aims to shake things up in a way the federal contacting community hasn’t seen in at least five years.

GSA released the first of at least two requests for information on March 2 seeking industry feedback on some of the basic ideas around the contract like socioeconomic reserves, the initial list of functional domain areas, contract structure and much more. Responses to the 27-page survey are due March 17.

Jill Akridge, the director for Customer Account Management for the Office of Professional Services and Human Capital Categories (PSHC), an office within GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), said at a recent ACT-IAC webinar that the goal is to reduce friction in the services market and possibly consolidate existing services contracts like the Human Capital and Training Solutions (HCATS) and the Building Maintenance and Operations vehicle to make it easier for customers.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Watch now: Webinar recording of Developing Artificial Intelligence in Defense Programs

Last week’s webinar on AI had a great turnout! Thanks to those who joined us and engaged in the conversation. If you missed it, check out the recording and review slides from the presenters.  Looking for more guidance on how to lead an acquisition process involving AI? Panelist Tim Shives shared this resource during the webinar: "Understanding AI Technology – AI Guide for DoD Leaders" published by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

Call for Papers: Special Issue "Government Supply Chains, Manufacturing and Procurement Concerns in the Wake of COVID-19"
NPS Professor Dan Finkenstadt is guest editor of this issue of logistics focused on increasing domestic supply chain resilience. Deadline to submit: October 31, 2021.

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Five by Five: Five Disciplines and Five Strategic Initiatives for the Pentagon in the Digital Age
Pete Modigliani, Dan Ward, and Matt MacGregor  |  MITRE

What’s In A Name? Billions In Cuts Depend On Defining ‘Legacy’
Mark Cancian and Adam Saxton, Breaking Defense

USAF Planning Boss Pushes for Flexible Budgets to Keep Up with New Tech
Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Magazine

Anduril hires Pentagon vet Zachary Mears as head of strategy
Joe Gould, Defense News

Navy reorganizes JADC2 project office, boosting tech authorities
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

 

Events

DoD Cloud Exchange
Presented by GDIT
March 23-25, 2021

 

Policy

H.R. 1319 – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021
Congress.gov

Data Call:  Briefing on Acquiring Innovative Commercial Products and Services using General Solicitation Competitive Procedures
Principal Director, Defense Pricing and Contracting

 

Congress

New House Task Force to Examine Defense Supply Chain Threats
Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Magazine

HASC chair flips spending debate to acquisition reform
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

 

Defense and Federal Government

Research, procurement could get squeezed in Biden budget
Aaron Mehta and Joe Gould, Defense News

Technology Modernization Fund on track to receive biggest pay day ever
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

CISA’s four-part plan to spend $650M on cyber protections
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

Biden appoints Clare Martorana to lead the White House’s digital efforts
Katharine Schwab, Fast Company

JAIC planning broad-reaching projects for 2021 focused on business and logistics
Scott Maucione, Federal News Network

GAO’s emerging tech shop developing framework to test reliability of AI algorithms
Jory Heckman, Federal News Network

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Department of Defense (DoD) Sole Source Streamlining ToolBox

In sole source acquisitions, there was a best practice technique started in the Army in the 1990s. The technique, called Alpha, used a teaming approach to streamline the sole source contract award process from beginning to end. The goals were to enhance communication, reduce costs and procurement administrative lead times, and improve the negotiation process.

When I saw the DoD Sole Source Streamlining ToolBox, it emulated the best practices techniques and goals of Alpha. This tool is a must read to help Program Managers and Contracting Officers to “Achieving Faster, Quality Deals” in a sole source environment.

Excerpts from ToolBox “About”

  • Who? This ToolBox is meant for your use as a Government acquisition professional.
  • What? The Sole Source Streamlining ToolBox is a Living Document currently encompassing over 40 techniques which can be leveraged to increase efficiency throughout the acquisition process.

One of the 40 techniques is for the government and contractor to agree on government requirements prior to solicitation release. This session is not to establish or determine what requirements are to be acquired by the Government; that is an inherently governmental function (FAR 7.503). The session is recommended for the contractor to gain an understanding and buy-in on requirements. This will ensure there is a common understanding of the requirement to cut down on rework and submit higher quality proposals. One best practice is to review the draft requirements document, e.g., draft Work Statement, and review and revise collaboratively.

I have experienced that some Contracting Officers push back on this collaborative review session prior to solicitation release stating it was an Organizational Conflict of Interest (OCI) issue. This DoD ToolBox guidance and FAR 9.505-2(b)(1) reflect a similar exception to being conflicted out because they prepared or assisted in preparing a work statement:

FAR 9.505(b)(1) If a contractor prepares, or assists in preparing, a work statement to be used in competitively acquiring a system or services—or provides material leading directly, predictably, and without delay to such a work statement—that contractor may not supply the system, major components of the system, or the services unless—

(i) It is the sole source;

Negotiating Sole Source is “Hard,” and we need all the tools in the DoD Sole Source Streamlining ToolBox to “Achieve Faster, Quality Deals.”

March 5, 2021                                                                                                 Issue 45

This week sees publication of a few notable reports. GAO has released its latest high-risk list. Spoiler alert: DoD contract management is still on it. Other acquisition challenges on the list are weapon systems, federal IT, and acquisition management at the VA and NASA.  The other big publications this week are a new (Interim) National Security Strategy and the Final Report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. This latter report just happened to get released the same week we held our webinar on Developing AI in Defense Programs. If you missed it, we’ll have the recording in next week’s issue. Another trend is continued movement on (re)shoring up the domestic supply chain, with more DPA contracts to that effect. We contextualize that contract with an analysis of January’s Made in American executive order – our lead story this week.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Government Contracting Insights: Biden Issues New Buy American Directive
Samantha L. Clark, Evan R. Sherwood and Michael Wagner, National Defense Magazine

On Jan. 25, President Joe Biden issued a much-anticipated executive order announcing plans to strengthen the government’s preference for domestically sourced supplies, a move that has major implications for contractors.

Executive Order 14005 on “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers” is the most ambitious in a line of recent proclamations from the White House aimed at strengthening domestic preference requirements in federal contracting. It calls for an array of changes to existing domestic preference regulations and procedures in order to “maximize” federal purchases of domestic supplies.

The order calls for the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council to consider amending Part 25 of the FAR to change the regulatory thresholds and standards that have long defined the application of the Buy American Act. …

Of potentially greater significance, however, the order directs the council to consider replacing the BAA’s “cost of component test” for evaluating domestic content with a test that considers “the value that is added to the product through U.S.-based production or U.S. job-supporting economic activity.” This is a potentially seismic change to the law’s regulatory analysis, though substantial questions remain about how the government would identify and quantify the “value” of U.S. production or “job-supporting economic activity.”

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Naval Postgraduate School and Xerox Collaborate to Advance Additive Manufacturing Solutions
Matthew Schehl, NPS

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DOD Announces $9.98 Million Defense Production Act Title III Agreement With Hardwick Tactical Corporation to Strengthen the Domestic Clothing and Textile Industrial Base
DoD Press Release

Basic cybersecurity standards must start with procurements, experts say
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

Defense Innovation Unit Launched 23 Projects Last Year, Up One-Third
Mila Jasper, Defense One

Former Air Force acquisition boss joins drone maker Volansi
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

 

Research

High-Risk Series: Dedicated Leadership Needed to Address Limited Progress in Most High-Risk Areas
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Final Report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence

2021 AI Index Report
Stanford University Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence

Weapon Systems Cybersecurity: Guidance Would Help DOD Programs Better Communicate Requirements to Contractors
U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Policy

Government Contracts Legislative and Regulatory Update – February
JD Supra

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (Beta)

Interim National Security Strategic Guidance
The White House

 

Congress

New Senate defense appropriations chairman talks nuclear modernization, defense cuts and earmarks
Joe Gould, Defense News

Senate draft of COVID-19 relief bill proposes $1B for Tech Modernization Fund
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

What the Pentagon’s top policy nominee thinks about nukes, Iran and other priorities
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Lawmakers propose check on Biden’s war powers
Joe Gould, Defense News

 

Defense and Federal Government

Message to the Force
Secretary of Defense

Biden national security guidance calls to increase diplomacy, downplay nukes, end Afghanistan conflict
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Pentagon's Logistics Agency Utilizes Software Bots to Improve Accuracy, Efficiency
Michael Molinaro, Defense Logistics Agency

Official Explains DOD Data Strategy
David Vergun, DoD News

JADC2 Faces ‘Huge Weakness’: Old Policies, Old Tech
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Now that DoD Acquisition has done the A’s & B’s, how about the C’s?

DoD Acquisition Leadership has tackled the A’s and developed an Adaptive Acquisition Framework. The prior administration provided the B’s with Better Buying Power initiatives. When are we going to deal with the most important challenge, the C’s:

Culture, Culture, and more Culture change.

Let us start with getting the DoD acquisition culture to remove the mindset of the most dangerous phrase in the English language:

“Because we’ve always done it this way.”

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper is famous for this quote. She was a pioneering computer scientist whose work was central to the development of COBOL, one of the foundational programming languages. In 1975 “The Baltimore Sun” published a profile of Grace Murray Hopper. On the wall over her desk, she hung a clock going counterclockwise to remind hardheads that because something was done one way in the past is no reason why it can’t be done a better way in the future. “The hardest thing in the world is to change the minds of people who keep saying, ‘But we’ve always done it this way.’ These are days of fast changes and if we don’t change with them, we can get hurt or lost.”

Are we doing things the way we’ve always done them because we always have, or because it is the right thing to meet mission? Anyone can do things the way we have always done them. The ability to question processes and propose change comes with understanding fundamentals and experience. Each day that we do our job better equips us to ask those questions and change. If we allow our people just to do it the way we have always done it, they will make good clerks and not provide innovative solutions to meet our customer’s mission.

Nothing can stifle innovation more than a work culture that discourages looking for new ways to improve. It takes leaders at all levels to challenge the “we’ve always done it that way” mindset. We need to discourage our people from using phrases such as “This is what we’ve always done,” “That will never work,” “I was told to do it that way,” or “They will never approve that.”

Acquisition is unbelievably bureaucratic and slow. We must change the culture to move in a different direction for the future.

Take on the C’s and create bold culture changes, clean up the regulatory and policy underbrush so acquisition personnel can focus on purchasing smartly and in a timely manner.

Let’s start with eradicating a culture of “Because we’ve always done it that way.

February 26, 2021                                                                                                      Issue 44

This week both DoD and Congress have been talking about what to expect from the FY2022 budget (and beyond). Our top story identifies the few areas under review from DoD as the new administration crafts its first budget. Some of these areas revisit last-minute decisions in 2020, such as shipbuilding funding. On the Hill, Democrats and Republicans are debating budget priorities under the shadow of COVID19 efforts and other domestic expenses. The newsletter includes some research on the defense budget from GAO and the Hudson Institute to put more data and perspective on the topic. A related theme this week is “legacy systems” – what are they, what data is available, and how can we start to let go and move forward with new priorities? There are plenty of thought-provoking pieces in the Acquisition section this week, from how to acquire additive manufacturing to the Space Force’s embrace of OTAs.

Don’t forget to register for next week’s webinar on artificial intelligence! And symposium registration is starting to fill up. Our webinars are limited to the first 500 registrants. Sign up now to reserve your chance to ask questions in real time. See you in March!

 

This Week’s Top Story

New Hicks Memo Sets Acquisition, Force Posture 2022 Budget Priorities
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

The Pentagon will focus on shipbuilding, low-yield nuclear weapons, Central Command funding and force posture and building capacity in the Pacific as it rushes to write its 2022 budget, a memo obtained by Breaking Defense says.

The Feb. 17 memo by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks underscores the urgency with which the department has to move not only on some major acquisition programs, but also efforts to rethink the US force posture in an era where defense budgets are expected to be flat at best. 

In the memo, Hicks wrote that “due to the limited amount of time available before the Department must submit its FY 2022 President’s Budget request, the process to re-evaluate existing decisions will focus on a very small number of issues with direct impact on FY 2022 and of critical importance to the President and the Secretary.”

She directed the Office of the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to review a handful of critical acquisition efforts.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Student Research Video: Implementing Category Management Across United States Special Operations Command

Capt Kelly Wright (USAF) explains how her team (Capt Charlie Mark Dacanay and Capt Moises Guzman) researched SOCOM spending trends to recommend strategies for implementing category management in the near and long term. The top three categories of spend -- IT, transportation and logistics services, and professional services -- are the target for several of those recommendations.

Apply Now: Advanced Acquisition Studies Certificate

The Advanced Acquisition Studies (AAS) Certificate is one of 15 distance learning certificates offered for part-time, non-resident study by the Graduate School of Defense Management at NPS. The AAS certificate is designed for students interested in defense system acquisition and program management processes. The certificate program operationalizes the business of defense acquisition and creates Acquisition Warriors for the DoD while supporting continuous acquisition reform initiatives mandated by Congress and senior leaders. Coursework in AAS contributes to Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certifications in the career fields of Program Management, Test and Evaluation, and Production and Quality Management. Additionally, the program provides education supporting the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.  Apply by 29 March to start coursework in July 2021.

CBS News Special: America Changed Forever
NPS Professor and USAF Major Dan Finkenstadt talks supply chain problems in the distribution of the COVID19 vaccine.

A Unique Take on NPS: Important Then, Critical Today
Dr. Wayne Porter, USNI Proceedings

 

ARP Events

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Keynote speakers are Ms. Stacy Cummings, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Vice Admiral Jon A. Hill, USN, Director of Missile Defense Agency, and Mr. Frederick J. (Jay) Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. Seats are limited. Register today!

Developing Artificial Intelligence in Defense Programs
March 3, 2021

Artificial intelligence has the potential to be a game changer for the Department of Defense, military services, and the federal government as a whole. This webinar highlights the latest research from four members of the ARP community, covering the opportunities and challenges in acquiring and developing AI in defense programs. RMDL Kurt Rothenhaus, an NPS alumnus and current PEO for Command, Control, Computers, Communications, and Intelligence (C4I) and Space Systems at the US Navy, will moderate and kickoff the discussion with panelists Timothy Shives, Bonnie Johnson, Bruce Nagy, and Ying Zhao.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Viewpoint: Changing Acquisitions with Advanced Manufacturing
Frank Gagliardi and Matthew Sloane, National Defense Magazine

Microsoft calls for acquisition reform amid JEDI battles
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

Biden orders a review of US supply chains for vital goods
Josh Boak and Tom Krisher, AP

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 Includes Numerous Provisions Impacting Government Contractors
JD Supra

Lockheed, Government Negotiating New ‘Skinny’ F-35 Sustainment Deal
John A. Tirpak, Air Force Magazine

Space Force chief sees larger role for commercial industry in its missions
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

DoD 5000 Series Acquisition Policy Transformation Handbook
Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment
(Released February 5, 2021)

GAO: DOD has to get a handle on future services spending
Lauren Williams, FCW

 

Research

Service Acquisitions: DOD’s Report to Congress Identifies Steps Taken to Improve Management, But Does Not Address Some Key Planning Issues
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Competing in Time: Ensuring Capability Advantage and Mission Success through Adaptable Resource Allocation
Bill Greenwalt and Dan Patt, Hudson Institute

Defense Budget: Opportunities Exist to Improve DOD's Management of Defense Spending
U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Education

DoD launches aerospace center at Tuskegee University
The Associated Press, Military Times

DOD to Unveil New Vision for Joint Professional Military Education
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

CNO Professional Reading Program

 

Congress

Watch: Emerging Technologies and Their Impact on National Security
Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing

Schumer says Senate will draft tech research funding bill
Joe Gould, Defense News

DoD Budget ‘Bloodletting’ Inches Closer To Reality
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

Top Senate Republican has 'serious concerns' over Pentagon policy pick
Lara Seligman and Connor O’Brien, Politico

Lack of Pentagon nominees could be harbinger of slow process
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

 

Defense and Federal Government

Navy looking to slash the budget of its internal oversight office
Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times

Brown Wants More Data to Support Cuts to Legacy Systems
Jon Harper, National Defense

US Air Force eyes budget-conscious, clean-sheet fighter jet to replace the F-16
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Pentagon’s dated budget process too slow to beat China, new report says
Joe Gould, Defense News

Commentary: What is a legacy system? The key is relevance, not age.
Thomas G. Mahnken and Christopher Bassler, Defense News

Commentary: What Can the Pentagon Realistically Get from Its Advisory Boards?
Eliahu Niewood, Defense One

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Some Tips for Creating Acquisition Wisdom: A new tool that doesn’t add to information overload and listening to operational contracting officers

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.