Old Newsletters - 2021

Old newsletters from 2021 are archived here.

Click the date to see the full issue. 

February 19, 2021                                                                                                      Issue 43

Senate leadership is filling out for the armed services and appropriations committees, with junior members playing bigger roles. The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification process is continuing to adapt as it rolls out, with some modifications in response to public comments. And every week brings more news about data – the drive to make it more interoperable, the push to use it for artificial intelligence, and the insight the right data can provide about budgetary priorities. Here at ARP, we have a lot of events coming up, with the next one showcasing the latest research on artificial intelligence from acquisition to development. The 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium isn’t far away, and you can preview the online program of events now. Hope to see you soon!

 

This Week’s Top Story

CMMC language is in GSA’s latest contracts, but requirements will be order-specific
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

Any new cybersecurity requirements the General Services Administration asks of contractors will be introduced at the order — not the contract — level, according to the deputy assistant commissioner of IT acquisition.

While language from the Department of Defense‘s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) has been included in GSA‘s latest governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs), any application of its five levels will be order specific, Keith Nakasone, deputy assistant commissioner for acquisition in GSA’s Office of IT Category, said during an AFFIRM event Wednesday.

That way GSA can begin requiring contractors to prove their networks meet a certain maturity level while still ensuring agencies’ mission requirements are met.

“Not every single system is equal,” Nakasone said. “So we have to have the flexibility in the contracts to deliver the acquisition solutions.”

Read more.

 

ARP News and Events

Been There, Done That: Who Is the Customer?
Robert F. Mortlock, Army AT&L Magazine

This recent article from ARP’s principle investigator poses what seems like a simple question: who is the customer? For non-acquisition professionals, it’s unfathomable that acquisition professionals find this difficult to answer.

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.

Webinar Recording: Innovations in Software Acquisition at the Department of Defense
From our February 3 event.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

US Air Force’s top acquisitions exec joins Pallas Advisors
Defense News

The Navy’s top data official wants to incentivize interoperability
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

CMMC model tweaks coming after industry feedback
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Time to bone-up on those new Buy American procurement rules
Tom Temin, Federal News Network

 

Policy

Memorandum: Restructuring of the Certification Program for the Contracting Functional Area
Director, Defense Pricing and Contracting

 

Events

Barriers to Entry in Government Markets Symposium
Public Spend Forum
February 25, 2021

 

Congress

Sens. Mark Kelly, Tammy Duckworth and Angus King claim Armed Services gavels
Joe Gould, Defense News

Sen. Jon Tester takes defense appropriations gavel
Joe Gould and Leo Shane III, Defense News

 

Defense and Federal Government

Army stands up first multi-domain task force in Washington state
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Biden Builds Out China Team With Staff Who Reflect Tougher Tone
Nick Wadhams and Jenny Leonard, Bloomberg

Air Force Chief to Order New Tactical Air Study
Mandy Mayfield, National Defense

Navy to Fully Integrate Laser into Aegis Combat System
Stew Magnuson, National Defense

Pentagon acting CIO pushes on with cybersecurity, software development
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Commission tells DoD to prepare for ‘military AI readiness’ by 2025
Jory Heckman, Federal News Network

Commentary: Want bigger aircraft force levels? Buy spare parts.
Everett Pyatt, Defense News

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Want Your Acquisition Professionals to Become Leaders? Make Them Speak in Public.

I was recently in a meeting discussing development for future leaders, and I thought back to what helped me when I was young contracting person selected for an Army leadership development program. The program required I choose a mentor, and they provided a list of General Officers and Senior Executive Service (SES) members. I picked an SES mentor that I heard was a good leader and outside of the 1102 series. In our first meeting he told me to:

  • Learn how to brief and speak in public
  • Understand what I was buying and the end-to-end defense process
  • Support the customer and the mission

My mentor’s advice fit well with the development program and my development assignment, where I would spend half the time in the Pentagon learning how the building operated and the rest in a Program Manager Office (PMO) with a customer. At the PMO portion, I would rotate through each division (e.g., technical, business) to understand how a PMO operates end-to-end. Another requirement of the development program was to deliver a briefing to our senior leadership at the end of the program on our experiences and lessons learned to help the next program participants.

This briefing would be to General Officers and SES members. That task did give me a small case of glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking. The good news is it gave me an opportunity to develop my public speaking skills and increased my confidence. Over the years, I’ve never had the fear of briefing or public speaking.

Public speaking is critical to many kinds of success. When a person is able to skillfully express himself or herself as an orator, especially early in life, it is more likely to foster better friendships and relationships and build a larger network of collaborators. We know public speaking is not easy for some, so we need to start training our folks early to hone this skill. Warren Buffett is a good example. He admits in his biography, “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life,” that he had to overcome a crippling fear of public speaking when he was in his teens. “You can’t believe what I was like if I had to give a talk,” he recalls. “I would throw up.”

Developing public speaking skills can enhance creativity, critical thinking, leadership abilities, poise, and professionalism, qualities which are very valuable. Strong public speaking skills can also boost one’s confidence, make it easier to speak up in meetings and promote ideas, and help candidates excel in job interviews.

When I think of the young acquisition professionals studying at Naval Postgraduate School and receiving support from the Acquisition Research Program, I’m happy to see they are well on their way to becoming confident speakers and leaders. Just look at the insightful research the recent class of graduates produced. They even practiced public speaking by recording short videos summarizing their thesis research. (Check out ARP’s YouTube channel to see some of those short presentations.) And this year’s annual acquisition research symposium continues its tradition of the student poster show in a virtual format, as students stand by, ready to discuss their work.

In my opinion we need all our folks to develop their public speaking skills. Let us start early in people’s careers and find opportunities for them to brief and speak in public. It will help them to think critically about their speaking style and improve their general business acumen. Overcoming the fears and insecurities that accompany public speaking is empowering.

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February 12, 2021                                                                                                      Issue 42

There’s a new deputy secretary of defense in town, and some of her talking points are themes in this week’s news: concerns about consolidation in the defense industrial base and strategies for managing a flat or reduced defense budget. DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is leading efforts to acquire AI more effectively across the force, and we’re seeing lots of other initiatives in Congress, DoD, and across the federal government to coordinate and modernize procurement of legacy and emerging technology. Speaking of AI, we have a new webinar coming up sharing research on developing, acquiring, and implementing AI. Check out the recording of last week’s webinar on software acquisition to hear from experts in the trenches. And of course, don’t forget to register for the symposium!

 

This Week’s Top Story

DoD’s JAIC rolling out new contracts to speed up AI acquisition
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

The Defense Department has made no secret about its ambitions to employ commercial advances in artificial intelligence in military systems. But adapting the government acquisition process to those technological developments is no small matter.

Three new contract vehicles the department is in the process of deploying should make things a whole lot easier — at least that’s the hope.

For starters, last month, the department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center reached an agreement that’s intended to create a rapid procurement process for AI. Defense officials are hopeful that the project, called Tradewind, will help the JAIC meet one of its core missions: Finding use cases for AI throughout the military and getting the right algorithms in the right places.

Thus far, the JAIC has been using traditional contracts that follow the standard Federal Acquisition Regulation to establish new relationships with industry. But officials said there’s reason to believe those contracts aren’t a great fit for integrating AI into military systems — a project a recent request for information characterized as “complicated and fraught with risk.”

Instead, Tradewinds is building off of DoD’s authority to use other transaction agreements (OTAs). DoD selected the nonprofit Indiana Innovation Institute to manage the OTA process. It will spend most of its effort on AI market research and finding new teaming arrangements with industry, with a heavy emphasis on nontraditional vendors.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Webinar Recording: Innovations in Software Acquisition at the Department of Defense
Software is part of almost everything the DoD buys, from cloud services and apps to weapons systems. This webinar explains some of the recent changes to acquisition law and policy, including pilot programs at the Navy, as DoD pivots to modernize its processes for the 21st century.

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. Seats are limited; register today to make sure you hear the latest in acquisition research and updates from senior policymakers.

Technological Leadership: Combining Research and Education for Advantage at Sea
Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau, U.S. Navy (Ret.), U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings

 

Acquisition and Innovation

GSA credits success of record IT revenue savings to transparency, more trust
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

These three companies won contracts for DARPA’s new LongShot drone
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Watchdog: pause on VA's $16B electronic health records project might be needed
Adam Mazmanian, FCW

For contractors seeking CMMC certification, start with a self-check, DOD says
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

 

Events

Developing Artificial Intelligence in Defense Programs
Acquisition Research Program
March 3, 2021

DAU-South Region Acquisition Update
February 17-18, 2021

Barriers to Entry in Government Markets Symposium
Public Spend Forum
February 25, 2021

 

Congress

Unhappy with response, senators ask for a leader to head up cyber breach cleanup
Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET

How Republicans might accept a smaller defense budget
Joe Gould, Defense News

Krebs to Congress: Empower CISA’s shared services office
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

Congress’ newest subcommittee is focusing on cyber troops and JEDI
Scott Maucione, Federal News Network

 

Research

How the NSC can better tackle emerging technology threats
Brendan McCord and Zoe A. Y. Weinberg, Brookings Institute

AI and International Stability: Risks and Confidence-Building Measures
Michael Horowitz and Paul Scharre, Center for a New American Security

Defense Primer: Department of the Navy
Congressional Research Service

 

Defense and Federal Government

Senate confirms Hicks as DoD’s No. 2
Joe Gould, Defense News

Biden announces new Pentagon-run China task force
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Northrop CEO forecasts ‘more consolidation’ for defense sector
Joe Gould, Defense News

Leaders Should Prioritize Troops Over Weapons Amid Defense Spending Cuts, Former Officials Say
Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One

TMF Funding Boost Dropped From $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill
John Curran, MeriTalk

New Officials Sworn-In at the Department of Defense
DoD Press Release

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Plans are Nothing. Planning is Everything.

The title of today’s column is a famous quote by former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. While some may question whether plans really are nothing, many more would understand and agree with Eisenhower’s sentiment and his emphasis on the importance of the planning process over the plan itself.

FAR 7.102 requires acquisition planning and market research for all acquisitions. This policy ensures that the “Government meets its needs in the most effective, economical, and timely manner,” and is detailed in FAR 7.104 and FAR 7.105.

Who is in charge of acquisition planning? “The Program Manager, or other official responsible for the program, has overall responsibility for Acquisition planning” (DFARS 207.103 (g)). The Program Manager does this with multi-disciplined participants who work together as a team and should be empowered to make decisions within their area of responsibility (see FAR 1.102-3).

There is no one-size-fits-all for acquisition planning. This is not an easy business, and our job is to conduct planning in a way that optimizes the program’s chances for success. Planning involves research, team discussions, and thinking to develop the supporting data that determines a specific acquisition strategy. If you cut time on planning, you’ll likely learn the truth of Meskimen’s Law: “There’s never time to do it right, but always time to do it over.”

Beware team members who have the easy answer because it is “protest bulletproof,” since a little research shows there is no such thing. A few recent cases disprove some common myths that some transactions are immune to protests:

ANCs have become popular in DoD based on direct awards (no justification and approval required up to $100 million, as enacted in FY20 NDAA). My concern is that the ANC will grow in popularity for the wrong reasons, e.g., they are perceived to be protest bulletproof and easy (no competition process).

If you decide to do an ANC 8(a) Direct Source, it should be because acquisition planning and market research have shown it is in the best interests of the Government and can be contracted for a fair market price. In my experience, negotiating with a sole company is never going to get you the pricing discounts of a competition, and it must be fully documented. (See 15 U.S.C. §637(a)(1)(A); 48 C.F.R. §19.806(b).) Additionally, the Small Business Administration must accept the requirement in the 8(a) program, and they may have to perform an adverse impact analysis. (See 13 C.F.R. §124.504(a)-(c).) Once we put a requirement in the 8a program, it is very hard to get it removed. Thus the saying, “once an 8a, always an 8a.”

The bottom line is we must think about how to best meet our requirements in the most effective, economical, and timely manner. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take the time to do your due diligence, and be like Ike, who got it right: Proper planning really is everything.

February 5, 2021                                                                                                        Issue 41

The new administration is taking shape in the Pentagon and on the Hill. Secretary of Defense Austin is taking on some organizational challenges (extremism in the ranks and policy boards). Congressional committees like the House Armed Services Committee are taking shape. DoD is moving out on shoring up the American clothing industry with a new contract. And the CMMC board is splitting to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest. NPS is launching a new partnership with Xerox for liquid metal 3D printing, and AI is continuing to reshape acquisition.

Thanks to those who attended our webinar on software acquisition! We’ll be sharing that recording next week. And remember to register for this year’s symposium. We’ve confirmed keynote speakers Stacy Cummings (A&S) and Jon Hill (MDA), so expect some robust conversations. See you next week!

 

This Week’s Top Story

Opinion: To compete with China and Russia, the U.S. military must redefine ‘readiness’
Charles Q. Brown Jr. and David H. Berger, The Washington Post

Every year the United States commits billions to building it, developing metrics to measure it, and striving to create and maintain more of it — but what exactly is readiness?

Readiness is fundamentally about preparedness for combat — having the right equipment, training and maintenance to succeed on current and future battlefields. Unfortunately, the high operational tempo of the past two decades has distorted the understanding of readiness. Readiness has become synonymous with availability. In other words, a ready unit is one that is available for immediate deployment — prepared to “fight tonight.”

The current framework is unbalanced and strongly biases spending on the legacy equipment we possess today, much of which was designed in the 1980s and 1990s. While these legacy capabilities may have been instrumental in deterring conflict and winning battles in an earlier era, they no longer provide an edge over competitors — a core conclusion of both the NDS and Congress’s bipartisan Future of Defense Task Force. We propose a new framework for defining readiness, one that better balances today’s needs with those of tomorrow, incorporating elements of current availability, modernization and risk.

As a starting point, we recommend adding to readiness metrics new layers of analysis utilizing artificial intelligence to leverage the military’s data-rich environment. Such a framework would enable military service chiefs to better prioritize investments in research, development and future force design initiatives, rather than spending the majority of their resources on making decades-old capabilities ready for employment.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Xerox, NPS Announce Collaboration to Advance Solutions with 3D Printing Research
NPS Office of University Communications

As part of a Collaborative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), NPS was the first to receive an installation of the Xerox® ElemX™ Liquid Metal Printer on the university campus in December. The Xerox solution will provide NPS faculty and students with hands-on exploration of new ways the technology can deliver on-demand 3D printing of metal parts and equipment. 

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live, interactive webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Seats are limited; register today to make sure you hear the latest in acquisition research and updates from senior policymakers.

ARP Student Thesis: Preparing the USAF Contracting Career Field for the Next Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response within the Continental United States
Capt. Geoffrey S. Bender, USAF, and Capt. Chase Lehocky, USAF

This project’s focus is on the alignment of a U.S. Air Force (USAF) exercise design process with FEMA's challenges regarding humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) events. The authors applied Joint Publication 4-10 and Yoder’s Three Tier Model approach to inform a disaster model that delineates roles and responsibilities for stakeholders. The authors also reviewed 104 after-action reports to identify trends within FEMA’s 15 emergency support functions and added three more categories to capture trends: finance, manpower, and training. This research resulted in five recommendations to the USAF contracting exercise designers: 1) ensure that exercise frameworks are aligned to the lead agency; 2) consolidate the many advance contracts throughout the federal agencies into one location such as Acquisition Gateway or GSA Advantage, or on a SharePoint site; 3) continue adopting category management practices within the disaster environment in order to effectively implement advance contracts; 4) further refine the career field education training plan with tiered development under a synthesized HADR framework; 5) consolidate the federal external stakeholders into a simplified location to improve the ability to research trends within the USAF contracting career field; and 6) ask other federal agencies for their approaches while deconflicting procurement strategies.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

JAIC inks deal for prototype of new AI acquisition system
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

DOD Announces $1.1 Million Defense Production Act Title III Agreement With American Apparel, Inc. to Strengthen the Domestic Clothing and Textile Industrial Base
DoD Press Release

CMMC Accreditation Body must split to meet requirements of new contract
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

USPTO modernizing its trademarking process with $80M IT contract
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

AWS cloud now available on milCloud 2.0
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Tech startups still face the Pentagon’s ‘valley of death’
Joe Gould, Defense News

 

Congress

HASC’s new lead Republican on making Space Force permanent and budget fights to come
Joe Gould, Defense News

House Armed Services Committee adds subcommittee focused on tech
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Smith, Rogers Announce HASC Subcommittee Assignments, Chairs, And Ranking Members
HASC Press Release

Rogers Opening Statement At HASC Organizational Meeting
HASC Press Release

 

Research

Fixed-Price-Incentive Contracts: DOD Has Increased Their Use but Should Assess Contributions to Outcomes
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Vital Signs 2021: The Health and Readiness of the Defense Industrial Base
National Defense Industrial Association and Govini

 

Defense and Federal Government

Pentagon chief purges defense boards; Trump loyalists out
Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press

Commentary: Pentagon Advisory Boards Need to Offer 10X Ideas, Not 10% Ones
Steve Blank, Raj Shah, and Joe Felter |  Defense One

Hicks Warns Against ‘Extreme Consolidation’ in Defense Industry
Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One

Air Force’s Platform One deepens ties with industry in new agreement with Lockheed
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Commandant Calls Marine Corps Tech Refresh ‘Urgent’
Stew Magnuson, National Defense

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Bridge Contracts: How to Use Them for Good   

This week we continue with articles on how to research to find “The Answer” to support our customers. This Contracting Officer generally recommends against bridge contracts since leadership frowns on them. However, when used correctly, bridge contracts are a valuable tool. I compiled research from GAO, DAU, Google, and WIFCON to help explain when to use them and when they’re a bad idea.

What is a Bridge Contract?

While there is no government-wide definition for bridge contract in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), GAO has defined it as “an extension to an existing contract beyond the period of performance (including base and option years), or a new, short-term contract awarded on a sole-source basis to an incumbent contractor to avoid a lapse in service caused by a delay in awarding a follow-on contract. Bridge contracts can be a useful tool to avoid a gap in services and are typically envisioned as short-term.”

Several service and agency acquisition regulations define a bridge action as a non-competitive action requiring a justification to retain the current or similar product or service as a result of delay in the negotiation and award of a follow-on contract.

Bridge contract actions are executed through the following methods:

  • A modification to an existing contract to extend the period of performance, increase the cost ceiling/value, or both.
  • The award of a new, interim sole source contract, either to the same contractor or to a new contractor, to cover the time frame between the end date of the existing contract and award of a follow-on contract.

Extensions of services executed in accordance with FAR clause 52.217-8, Option to Extend Services, should not be considered a bridge action unless or until the total six (6) month extension period allowed by the clause is exceeded.

When bridge contracts can be bad:

  • Bridge contracts are almost always noncompetitive, which may put the government at risk of paying more than it should for goods and services.
  • While bridge contracts can be a necessary and appropriate tool, they can be abused instead of taking reasonable efforts to put a follow-on competitive contract in place. Reference FAR 6.301(c)(1): “Contracting without providing for full and open competition shall not be justified on the basis of a lack of advance planning by the requiring activity.”
  • They are ripe for protest. In a 2018 case, a disappointed offeror successfully protested the Army for awarding the incumbent five sole source bridge contracts. Plaintiff protested on the ground that the sole-source award violated the Competition in Contracting Act (“CICA”).  The Court of Federal Claims sustained the protest, concluding that the bridge contract resulted from the Army’s lack of advance planning, which is not an adequate justification for a sole-source award.

When a bridge contract is appropriate:

  • The competitive follow-on contract or solicitation has been protested.
  • The approved acquisition strategy requires a necessary change.
  • A statutory or regulatory change necessitates a change prior to award.
  • Other circumstances, demonstrated to not be due to lack of advance planning or inadequate procurement execution, result in delay of a solicitation or award.

As DAU’s Dennis P. Longo explains, bridge contract actions endure high-level and persistent scrutiny. A Justification & Approval (J&A) is required with detailed rationale for use of a bridge contract. The rationale must focus on why we need the bridge action in the first place, and this cannot be due to lack of advance planning or inadequate procurement execution. Acceptable rationales provide a justification for the length of the bridge and a discussion of actions to be taken to avoid additional bridge contracts. Longo’s advice for contracting officers looking to execute a bridge action: “Tell the story, be precise, and include dates.”

Recommendations:

  • If a bridge contract is appropriate as referenced above, document reasons and do it.
  • Leadership needs to get to the root cause problems of misused bridge contracts.
  • In addition to issuing guidance on problems and misuse, leadership needs a plan to fix the problem. They must keep in mind how overuse of bridge contracts impacts culture: people become risk averse and do not want to use bridge contracts even when they are being used properly.
  • We need to train acquisition personnel on proper planning and preparing of contract requirements packages to include market research and acquisition strategies.
  • Acquisition professionals need better training in source selection.
  • Finally, it is well past time to reform the protest process. At a minimum, we need to remove the incumbent’s incentive to protest. Why wouldn’t a company protest when they get 100 days of additional work while the protest is adjudicated by two different entities, GAO and COFC? If we eliminated these incentives, there would be many happy government acquisition folks.

January 29, 2021                                                                                                        Issue 40

This week has seen a slew of executive orders from President Biden impacting federal government and acquisition. Our top story highlights the EO creating a purchasing priority for “Made in America,” which encompasses Buy American and Buy America. Among other changes, it makes waivers harder to get, enforces procurement from American sources across all federal agencies, and it establishes a new office to coordinate these efforts: the Made in America office at OMB. DoD is reevaluating the stagnated JEDI contract as it awaits the next ruling in the Court of Federal Claims. And the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification board and process are continuing to shape up.

From your friends here at ARP, we’re getting jazzed about seeing you at our upcoming events. We are finalizing the lineup for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium, which features panels on topics including artificial intelligence, blockchain and supply chain security, contract management, and the digital transformation of engineering. While you’re waiting for our signature event in May, don’t forget to join us next week to get the scoop on the latest initiatives in software acquisition!

 

This Week’s Top Story

Biden turns to ‘Buy American’ law to aid US manufacturing
Ellyn Ferguson, Roll Call

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday to tighten “Buy American” rules to boost federal purchases of U.S.-made goods as part of his campaign pledge to invest in the country’s manufacturing industry.

“I don’t buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past. American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War II. It must be part of the engine of American prosperity now,” he said.

He said agencies in the Biden administration will take a tougher line on waivers or exemptions that allow federal agencies to make purchases of foreign goods. He singled out the Defense Department, noting that in 2018 it spent $3 billion on foreign construction contracts, “leaving American steel and iron out in the cold.”

In a Sunday press call that preceded the signing ceremony, an administration official said the executive order is part of Biden’s Build Back Better campaign platform “to address the structural challenges to our economy that have existed before the COVID crisis” and reflects the president’s view that “making things in America is core to our economic strategy.”

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Webinar: Innovations in Software Acquisition at the Department of Defense
February 3, 2021  |  11:00 a.m-12:15 p.m. PT

Join us for a discussion on current challenges and best practices for software acquisition. Learn about recent changes in policy, regulation, and law that are working to improve software acquisition in the Department of Defense.

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live, interactive webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Seats are limited; register today to make sure you hear the latest in acquisition research and updates from senior policymakers.

Littoral Combat Ship and Expeditionary Fast Transport: Their Utility as Support Platforms during Humanitarian Aid / Disaster Relief Operations (Dec. 2020)
LT Theodore C. Awa, USN; LCDR Peterjohn T. Gangcuangco, USN; LCDR Kendrick R. Garrett, USN

Over the last several decades, there has been an increase in U.S. naval involvement in supporting humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HA/DR) operations. Cruiser and destroyer (CRUDES) platforms, two of the most heavily employed platforms in the United States Navy, are frequently tasked outside of their primary mission sets as a result of HA/DR events, both natural and man-made. This ARP-supported student thesis examines the capabilities and cost effectiveness of the littoral combat ship (LCS) and expeditionary fast transport (T-EPF) as “first-responder” platforms during initial relief efforts. While it is widely recognized that the CRUDES platforms are severely limited in their ability to respond when diverted to a crisis, we propose that perhaps a more direct approach of outfitting the LCS and T-EPF platforms’ modular mission bays with a critical aid package and potentially utilizing the two platforms in tandem during the initial onset of a disaster may provide the support that is lacking from the separate CRUDES assets.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Imminent ruling in JEDI cloud lawsuit could force Pentagon to reevaluate program's future
Justin Doubleday, Inside Defense

Connolly, Maloney push for $9B boost to Technology Modernization Fund
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

USAF Space Acquisition Office Prepares for Handoff to New Leaders
Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Magazine

CMMC board gets first permanent chair since September
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Final rule, formal training orgs on CMMC could hit this summer
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

Commentary: Hit the ground running: Three acquisition ideas for 2021
Alan Thomas, Federal News Network

Commentary: Ike Was Wrong: The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex Turns 60
Bill Greenwalt, Breaking Defense

 

Congress

23 Republicans urge Biden to work with allies on tech to combat China
Joe Gould, Defense News

Commentary: President Biden shouldn’t replace military strength with diplomacy
Sen. Jim Inhofe, Defense News

 

Research

Winning the Great Power Education: Revamping the U.S. Approach to Education Exchange
Richard Crespin and Kristen Cordell, Center for Strategic & International Studies

China’s Digital Currency: Adding Financial Data to Digital Authoritarianism
Yaya J. Fanusie and Emily Jin, Center for a New American Security

Myths and Realities of China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy
Elsa B. Kania and Lorand Laskai, Center for a New American Security

 

Defense and Federal Government

Software Modernization Means Moving Faster, Smarter
David Vergun, DoD News

Biden administration puts a hold on Trump's arms sale to United Arab Emirates
Dan De Luce, NBC News

Navy Sticks With LCS Despite Engine Troubles; Lockheed Races To Make Fixes
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

Lockheed Overtakes Boeing as Largest US Aerospace and Defense Firm
Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One

Boeing’s cost overruns on KC-46 now exceed initial contract with US Air Force
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

President Joe Biden commits to replacing entire federal fleet with electric vehicles
Kirsten Korosec, Tech Crunch

 

Policy

Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers
The White House

Executive Order on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
The White House

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

“You Must Exercise a Contract Option or Else You Can Get a Protest!”

Last week’s article discussed how to deliver “The Answer” to the tough questions we get to meet mission needs. This included researching laws, regulations, and policies, contacting your network of friends, and coming up with the right answer based on facts and research. Over the next few newsletters, I will provide some of the questions that have come up over the years to derail progress. And yes, you can’t make this stuff up.

A friend told me they were planning to consolidate contracts to achieve savings through category management and administrative savings (reducing four contracts to one). The contracting officer on one of the contracts said you must exercise the option, and if you don’t it can be protested. I asked him what FAR reference the contracting officer gave him, and he said none, but the contracting officer was adamant.

This is the first time I had heard that you must exercise an Option, so I went to FAR 2.101, Definitions. 

“Option means a unilateral right in a contract by which, for a specified time, the Government may elect to purchase additional supplies or services called for by the contract or may elect to extend the term of the contract.”

Then, as my lawyer friends taught me, I broke down the definition:

  • “Unilateral right in a contract” – Webster’s definition of unilateral: done or undertaken by one person or party
  • “May elect to purchase additional supplies or services” – Webster’s definition of may: Permissive; allowed but not obligatory; optional

Next I went to the GAO site on protests and found this: "Our Office will not consider an incumbent contractor's protest of an agency's refusal to exercise an option under an existing contract since this decision is a matter of contract administration outside the scope of our bid protest function.”

On to the Armed Services Board Contract Appeals (ASBCA) – “The presence of an option in a contract does not create a legal obligation upon the government to exercise the option. The exercise of an option is generally within the broad discretion of the government.” It continues:

“The terms of the contract do not require the government to exercise any of its options; rather, they provide that the government "may" do so. Consequently, as a matter of law, the government is under no obligation to exercise its contract options, and its failure to do so is not actionable unless the failure is motivated by bad faith or is arbitrary and capricious.”

I provided the above information and references to my friend to show that clearly an Option is a unilateral right of a contract, and it may (not must) be exercised. Protests are filed on solicitations and awards of contracts, so they don’t apply to options, which are matters of contract administration. And per ASBCA, the government can only be challenged if a decision not to exercise an option is arbitrary, capricious, or motivated by bad faith.

Last, before the contracting officer exercises an option, they must document that it is the most advantageous method of fulfilling the government’s need, price, and other factors (FAR 17.207).

These are the types of issues our folks go through to do things smarter and save money. Learn to deliver “The Answer” and you will help support your team’s business decisions.

January 22, 2021                                                                                                        Issue 39

We’re seeing lots of expected personnel turnover as the Biden-Harris administration gets underway. The waiver for Lloyd Austin has been approved in both the House and the Senate, and his official nomination as Secretary of Defense is up for confirmation vote in the Senate around 10:30 this morning. In acquisition and modernization, the push for integrating DevSecOps and agile approaches continues throughout the federal government. In ARP news, we’re excited to invite you to two upcoming events, a webinar on software acquisition and our world-class annual acquisition symposium in a new, online format. Can’t wait to see many of you in our new digital gathering place.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Congress approves waiver for Biden’s pick for defense secretary
Joe Gould and Leo Shane III, Defense News

President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon took a major step toward confirmation Thursday, after House and Senate lawmakers voted to waive a law blocking the recently retired general from assuming the post.

That means Lloyd Austin, the former Army four-star general and head of U.S. Central Command, could be confirmed as the military’s new leader and the first Black defense secretary as early as Friday.

The House first voted on a bipartisan basis, 326-78 to waive the seven-year cooling-off period for Austin, who retired in 2016, to serve in the top Pentagon job. The Senate, where the waiver needed 60 votes to pass, approved it soon after with a bipartisan tally of 69-27.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Webinar: Innovations in Software Acquisition at the Department of Defense
February 3, 2021  |  11:00 a.m-12:15 p.m. PT

Join us for a discussion on current challenges and best practices for software acquisition. Learn about recent changes in policy, regulation, and law that are working to improve software acquisition in the Department of Defense.

Registration is open for the 18th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium
This year’s event will be held May 11-13, 2021 as a live, interactive webinar presented through Zoom for Government. Seats are limited; register today to make sure you hear the latest in acquisition research and updates from senior policymakers.

Call for Applications: Master of Science in Contract Management
Applications are due March 29 for the distance-learning offering of NPS’s degree in contract management. The Master of Science in Contract Management (MSCM) is designed to provide an advanced education in the concepts, methodologies and analytical techniques necessary for successful management of acquisition and contracting within complex organizations. The MSCM program is open to qualified DoD civilians and other federal government agencies, uniformed officers, and a limited number of DoD contractors. During this 24-month distance program, students who complete the program attain DAWIA Level III training and education requirements for the CON Series. Classes start July 6.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

President Biden taps Obama alums to lead GSA tech, acquisition
Billy Mitchell, Fedscoop

DISA’s first-ever production OTA eliminated $300M in future costs
Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione, Federal News Network

Top Navy IT office planning how to speed up software development
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Will Roper to whoever replaces him at Air Force: Stay agile
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Just hours before Biden’s inauguration, the UAE and US come to a deal on F-35 sales
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

 

Events

Great Power Competition in the Cognitive Age: Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USN (Ret.)
Virtual Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture at NPS
January 26, 2021  |  3:00 pm PT

Pub K’s Government Contracts Annual Review
January 25-28, 2021 

 

Congress

In win for Austin, top Senate Democrat agrees to back waiver
Connor O’Brien, Politico

Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official
Jordain Carney, The Hill

Biden names temporary VA leadership as his secretary nominee awaits Senate debate
Leo Shane III, Military Times

 

Research

The U.S. Defense Industry in a New Era
Doug Berenson, Chris Higgins, And Jim Tinsley  |  War on the Rocks

 

Defense and Federal Government

Presidential Inauguration Includes a Digital Transition
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

As 5G auction continues, Pentagon turns to safety planning
Valerie Insinna and Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Marine Corps to Stand Up First Marine Littoral Regiment in FY 2022
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News

Roth takes over as acting Air Force secretary
Stephen Losey, Air Force Times

Pentagon announces new acting CIO as Deasy departs
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

 

Policy

Memorandum: Succession Plan for January 20, 2021
Deputy Secretary of Defense

Here’s Who Will Be Running the Pentagon When Biden Takes Office
Katie Bo Williams, Defense One

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Deliver “The Answer”

I’ve been blessed to work with many good Acquisition Corps board-certified Project and Product Managers (PMs) in my career. The DoD has invested heavily in training, education, and experience for program managers who are tasked to solve some very complex challenges to meet the mission. One project manager I supported used to speak about the importance of delivering “The Answer.” His leadership brief on the topic hit these key points:

  • Often we find ourselves with difficult questions (strategy questions, technical questions, process questions, cost questions, etc.).
  • Coming up with “the answer” — the right answer — is what separates the best people from the average people.
  • Look around your organization. Who consistently gives you “the answer” … and who consistently gives you “a better description of the problem?”
  • Mission accomplishment means coming up with “the answer.”

This week I’m providing some tips and tools on how to provide The Answer. I was lucky when I came onboard as an Army Civilian because there were many mentors to help me learn the fundamentals of acquisition, contracting, and how to think. One was a lawyer at Fort Monmouth who helped me with walk through the logic for providing the right answer: 

  1. What is the real "issue”?
  2. When is it needed? (But note that fast is no good if the answer is wrong.)
  3. Make sure you have all the relevant "facts" or gather any additional "facts" needed.  As Albert Einstein famously said, “If I had only 1 hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem, and only 5 minutes finding the solution.”  
  4. Contact someone in your network who is familiar with this issue. If you don’t have a robust network, get one. Make sure you get a reference to the laws, regulations, and policies (LRPs); it’s not acceptable to say to your PM or boss, “I got this answer from a friend.”
  5. Research the LRPs.  (Golden Rule: Don't be afraid to revisit above). 
  6. Do not forget that research must include all applicable layers.  For example, in DoD contracting, the LRPs consist of the following "layers", in descending order:
    1. Statutes
    2. FAR
    3. DFARS
    4. Service level regulations (e.g., AFARS, AFFARS, etc.)
    5. Local Command/Agency regulations/policies 
  7. There are many tools to help you on your research such as:
    1. WIFCON (My favorite)
    2. GAO Redbook, GAO Guides, and numerous GAO Protest decisions
    3. Federal Computer Week
    4. The Defense Acquisition Innovation Repository (DAIR) at NPS’s Acquisition Research Program
    5. Congressional Research Service Reports
    6. LinkedIn
    7. Defense Acquisition University
    8. Adaptive Acquisition Framework
    9. AiDA – MITRE Corporation
    10. National Contract Management Association
  8. Apply your research to the facts.
  9. Two possible results:
    1. The LRPs provide an obvious, clear, unambiguous, "black & white" answer.
    2. The answer is not clear in the LRPs and must be "interpreted" based on similar facts you uncovered in your research. You will need to make a determination as to the most appropriate answer.

You can help your PM or boss succeed at complex missions by doing your research, discovering all the facts, and then delivering the answer.

January 15, 2021                                                                                                        Issue 38

As we near the presidential transition, there’s been a flurry of activity in personnel and policy. Comptrollers are moving to the top at DoD, Air Force, and Navy. Ellen Lord gave what appears to be her last press conference, discussing the trusted capital marketplace. Stacy Cummings will be filling her slot starting next week. And this week brings two commentaries suggesting reforms to the defense budget process. Farewell to all those who have served in the defense and acquisition communities, and fair winds.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Cummings to serve as acting Pentagon acquisition head
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Stacy Cummings, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, will temporarily fill the department’s top acquisition office once Joe Biden becomes president, Defense News has learned.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, will step down on Jan. 20, with Cummings filling that role until the Biden administration can put its own Senate-confirmed individual into the role.

Cummings is a career member of the Senior Executive Service and previously held jobs at the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Navy. Over the summer, Cummings led the Joint Acquisition Task Force, which was the Defense Department’s interagency point of contact for dealing with COVID-19 procurement issues.

Lord, a former head of Textron Systems, was the longest-serving Senate-confirmed individual in the Pentagon under the Trump administration. During her tenure, she managed to avoid getting brought into the political fights that downed so many other department appointees, instead focusing on rewriting acquisition regulations in an attempt to streamline the department’s famously arcane processes.

Read more online.

 

ARP and NPS News

The Federal Government Is Not a Good Customer for the Working Dogs It Uses Every Day

In the field, military working dogs save lives by alerting service members to dangers such as improvised explosive devices, gas attacks, and other lethal threats. But there is a shortage of this valuable resource animal. 93% of working dogs for federal agencies come from European suppliers rather than American sources. Two Air Force contracting officers and students at Naval Postgraduate School, Captain Jason Passarella and 1st Lieutenant Robert Ocampo, researched this problem sponsored by the Air Force Installation Contracting Center (AFICC), to identify actions the federal government can take to improve the domestic supply of working dogs. Their ARP-supported thesis, Research and Analysis of the American Domestic Government Working Dog Industry, evaluated the problem with a focus on the defense industrial base, the concept of reshoring, and the application of category management across federal procurement.

Call for Applications: Master of Science in Program Management

Applications are due March 29 for the distance-learning offering of NPS’s degree in program management. This defense-focused curriculum is taught by experts in the field and builds critical thinking skills using case studies, team exercises, hands-on applications, active participation and other similar activities.

Making Friends in Maker-Spaces: From Grassroots Innovation To Great-Power Competition
Leo Blanken, Romulo G. Dimayuga II, and Kristen Tsolis

Commentary from NPS faculty members and a 2020 graduate of NPS.
U.S. partner militaries often find themselves in a “dead zone” between the high-tech systems supplied by the United States and the budgets, capacity for sustainment, and actual needs of the end-user. What is the solution? We propose marrying grassroots innovation and existing security force assistance efforts to generate solutions for partner force capability gaps.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

GSA kicks starts 2021 with an acquisition potpourri
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

Due on Inauguration Day: An acquisition strategy for the Air Force’s next-gen battle management system
Valerie Insinna, C4ISRNET

DOD nudges innovative startups toward ‘trusted capital’ with new digital marketplace
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

DOD Releases Report on Defense Spending by State in Fiscal Year 2019
DoD Press Release

Commentary from US Reps. Moulton and Banks: The future of defense is in public-private partnerships
Rep. Seth Moulton and Rep. Jim Banks

 

Events

Great Power Competition in the Cognitive Age: Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USN (Ret.)
Virtual Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture at NPS
January 26, 2021  |  3:00 pm PT

Pub K’s Government Contracts Annual Review
January 25-28, 2021 

 

Congress

More Democrats Say They'll Vote 'No' on Waiver for Biden's SecDef Pick Lloyd Austin
Gina Harkins, Military.com

Commentary: Congress, It’s Time For Two-Year Budget Deal
Mackenzie Eaglen (AEI), Breaking Defense

 

Research

DoD Critical Technologies: Plans for Communicating, Assessing, and Overseeing Protection Efforts Should Be Completed
U.S. Government Accountability Office

AI and International Stability: Risks and Confidence-Building Measures
Michael Horowitz and Paul Scharre, Central for a New American Security

 

Defense and Federal Government

Norquist issues guidance on breakup of CMO office
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Biden taps Trump appointee Norquist to be his temporary Defense secretary
Lara Seligman, Politico

Uncle Sam Needs AI, ASAP: DoD Artificial Intelligence Chief
Michael Groen, Breaking Defense

National AI Initiative Office launched by White House
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

US Space Command site to be located in Huntsville, Alabama
Kim Chandler, The Associated Press

SNA NEWS: New Navy Unmanned Systems Plan Forthcoming
Mandy Mayfield, National Defense Magazine

OPM details core values behind coming security clearance reforms with new policy doctrine
Nicole Ogrysko, Federal News Network

Biden includes over $10 billion in cyber, IT funds as part of COVID-19 relief proposal
Maggie Miller, The Hill

Commentary from Former Pentagon comptroller: Observations and opportunities for America’s defense budget
Elaine McCusker, Defense News

 

Education

Navy kicks off Naval Community College pilot program for sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen
Diana Stancy Correll, Navy Times

 

Policy

Federal Acquisition Regulation: Lowest Price Technically Acceptable Source Selection Process
Federal Register

Memorandum: Disestablishment of the Chief Management Officer of the DoD and Realignment of Functions and Responsibilities
Deputy Secretary of Defense

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Understand Your Customer and What You Are Buying

Last week’s article on Forming the Acquisition Team received very positive feedback, and in fact the most comments since writing Acquisition Tips & Tools articles. Thanks for reading and reaching out!

Today’s I want to cover what happens after the acquisition team is formed: the need to understand what problem your customer needs to solve. I want to stress that the customer has an important mission, and we are all here to satisfy it in the most efficient and effective manner. That starts with more than having them fill out acquisition and contract documentation templates.

Whatever the size of the acquisition or team, let us start with:

1. Who is your customer and what is their overall mission? Talk to them and learn what they do. Get an understanding of your customer’s operating environment.

2. What are the requirements? This includes understanding the technology or the purpose of services to be provided.

The above items represent the first important steps in the sequence of best practices to better outline the scope, the expected outcomes, next steps, timeline, and roles and responsibilities of the team to execute the acquisition.

On larger acquisitions the Integrated Project Team (IPT) will write a project charter that documents the acquisition and includes sections such as mission, goals, team members and their roles, and schedule. Whether you have a project charter or a smaller acquisition with less formal documentation, the key is to clearly understand the customer’s needs, and make sure all are aligned. Whether you are technical or not, understand who your customer is and the nature of the product or service your acquisition will provide.

Recommendations:

  • Continued reinforcement of better customer support techniques
  • Interactions such as ‘a day in the life of the customer’ sessions
  • Training sessions to obtain a better understanding of who your customer is and what they buy

To better support your customer, you need to better understand who they are and their mission. We need to change the mentality from “them” to “us.” All members of the team need a basic understanding of the buy. Take the time to understand the technology or services you are buying.

This article may seem like no kidding Larry, but we must inculcate a customer-oriented culture that starts with understanding who they are and what they buy.

January 8, 2021                                                                                                          Issue 37

Happy New Year! You all know the big news this week in federal government. We include one article highlighting the impacts of Wednesday’s events from a national security perspective, thanks to the team at Defense News. My best wishes to all those experiencing the sweeping range of emotions this week has brought. We’re in this together.  

In acquisition news: The NDAA passed, and with it comes a number of changes to cybersecurity governance, the removal of the DOD CMO office, and other provisions glossed in this week’s Wifcon overview. We have lots of space stories, including a rundown of the big 2020 headlines. Likewise, Dave Nyczepir gives a 2020 rundown for the AI headlines. Enjoy, and cheers to the end of this week.

 

This Week’s Top Story

US Defense Department’s reform office shuts down
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

With Congress overriding President Donald Trump’s veto of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon’s chief management officer job has officially been eliminated.

While the NDAA language calls for the roles and responsibilities of the office to be divested to other parts of the defense department over the next year, the CMO role itself was eliminated immediately when the NDAA became law over the weekend, confirmed Lisa Hershman, the CMO, to Defense News.

Hershman, an industry executive who entered the Pentagon early in the Trump administration, will be staying on as a senior advisor to acting secretary of defense Chris Miller.

The decision to eliminate the CMO’s office came roughly four years after lawmakers created the role and made it third-in-line at the department, with the goal of having a single point person for reform efforts inside the world’s largest bureaucracy.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Call for Applications: Master of Science in Program Management

Applications are due March 29 for the distance-learning offering of NPS’s degree in program management. This defense-focused curriculum is taught by experts in the field and builds critical thinking skills using case studies, team exercises, hands-on applications, active participation and other similar activities.

USMC Service Contracts: Analysis of Procurement Requests Within PR Builder
Capt. Samuel Perrine and Capt. John Murphy, USMC

This ARP-supported thesis from December 2020 builds on a previous ARP thesis by Korey Letterle and Paul Kantner (2019), which developed a new metric: Purchase Request Acquisition Lead Time (PRALT) for services and products. This study applies PRALT metrics to examine service contracts under the simplified acquisition threshold. The main findings: service contracts are used responsibly and do not contribute to a hollowing out of USMC managerial capability. But PR Builder, the web-based system that manages purchase requests, is an impediment to the process. Murphy and Perrine recommend more training at Supply School on core competencies required for PR creation and entry into PR Builder.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

SpaceX wins $150 million launch contract
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Did The Space Force Just Ruin OTAs For Everyone?
Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr. and Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

GAO sees fewer, more successful bid protests in 2020
Sara Wilson, FedScoop

Commentary: Embrace new ways to buy software or the Pentagon will fall behind
Bryan Clark and Dan Patt, C4ISRNET

 

Congress

Congress overrides Trump veto of defense bill
Matthew Daly, The Associated Press

NDAA Enacts 25 Recommendations from the Bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission
Sen. Angus King Press Release

Twentieth Annual Analysis of the National Defense Authorization Act
Vern Edwards, WIFCON

Austin's nomination hearing slated for Jan. 19
Tony Bertuca, Inside Defense

Biden won’t have his defense secretary in place on Day One
Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta, Defense News

FedRAMP Authorization Act passes House for the third time in a year
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

 

Research

Information Technology: DOD Software Development Approaches and Cybersecurity Practices May Impact Cost and Schedule
U. S. Government Accountability Office

 

Defense and Federal Government

2020 in review: AI and quantum see more White House attention
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

The 6 big military space stories of 2020
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

J6 Says JADC2 Is A Strategy; Service Posture Reviews Coming
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

New Navy, Marine Corps Strategic Blueprint for the Arctic
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

Bonhomme Richard will be turned into scrap
Geoff Ziezulewicz, Navy Times

Capitol in chaos: what the national security community needs to know
Defense News staff

 

Policy

Executive Order Addressing the Threat Posed By Applications and Other Software Developed or Controlled By Chinese Companies
The White House

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Back to Basics: Forming the Acquisition Team

We are going to focus our 2021 Tips & Tools around reinforcing fundamentals and best practices. Let’s start with a new acquisition and getting the team in place to start acquisition planning.

All acquisitions require planning no matter what the dollar value and complexity. Most Program Management Office (PMO) leaders and Contracting Officers will first ask the customer, “Is the requirement funded?” Once they know there is or will be money, they need to assemble a multidisciplinary team to get out of the gate and drive acquisition planning. It has been my experience that getting out of the gate on a new effort is hard; it takes a big push to get into it, starting with a Team Charter (next week’s article).

The FAR defines acquisition planning as the process by which the efforts of all personnel responsible for an acquisition are coordinated and integrated through a comprehensive plan for fulfilling the agency need in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. It includes developing the overall strategy for managing the acquisition.

The first and foremost task is to determine who oversees acquisition planning. “The program manager, or other official responsible for the program, has overall responsibility for acquisition planning.” (DFARS 207.103 (g)).  Whether the acquisition is worth $100K or $1B, some level of an acquisition team is required. See FAR 1.102-3, Acquisition Team: “teamwork, unity of purpose, and open communication among the members of the Team in sharing the vision and achieving the goal of the System are encouraged. Individual team members will participate in the acquisition process at the appropriate time.”

To succeed in effective acquisition planning, the PMO team needs much more than technical knowledge. Its members must also know how to work as a team. Acquisition is a collective responsibility that involves multidisciplinary representatives such as customer/requirements owners, budget, technical, contracting, logistics, small business specialists, legal, internal review boards, and program offices.

It is important that the members of the team understand what their roles and responsibilities are, schedule expectations of when team members are needed, and timely and accurate quality deliverables. The PMO is critical to track the team’s individual, as well as collective, work products so there is no “throwing acquisition planning documents over the wall.” We have found that a two-hour session to review a document on the screen and make real time changes is a best practice rather than sending it to the Contracting Officer who sends it to Legal Counsel, who then sends comments back to the Contracting Officer, who finally sends them to the team. How novel to have all team members review for ~two hours in a collaborative manner.

Everyone supports the notions of teams and teamwork. But we can be better at teaching the basics of what it means to work as a team: determine who is in charge, identify skills to help team members develop common goals and shared procedures, and provide strategies to help teams function in a multidisciplinary environment.

Recommend:

  • In every acquisition planning, make clear who is in charge and who is tracking quality and timeliness of acquisition documents, have an executable schedule, and resist the urge to throw documents or tasks over the wall.
  • Train the acquisition workforce in team performance and organizational approaches to team building. This training program would provide team building and strategies for integrating the team.
  • DoD should repeal the requirement for Services Acquisition Workshops (SAW). Quality must come from within, and having an outside team go through how to implement a services acquisition adds limited to no value. If not repealed, this requirement should be revised to bring in a team that has lived the dream of a recent acquisition and can share lessons learned – the good, bad, and ugly from their acquisition. This kind of expertise from acquisition practitioners is much more effective than a schoolhouse workshop.
2020 previous newsletters

View previous newsletters from 2020 here