Newsletters

Previous issues of ARP's Weekly Newsletter are archived here.

Click the dates below to see the full content. 

October 16, 2020                                                                                                        Issue 28

We are excited to announce this week that Naval Postgraduate School – and the Acquisition Research Program – have a new Chair of Acquisition. Welcome aboard, VADM Lewis! Read more about Lewis in our blog post. In other news, the big event this week is the Association of U.S. Army’s annual conference, where leaders talked about the future capabilities they’re planning for. We celebrate another implementation of a Section 809 Panel recommendation to simplify commercial buying (found in the newsletter’s policy section).  And this week marked the Navy’s 245th birthday. Go Navy!

 

This Week’s Top Story

IRS, Army using automation to cut hours out of the acquisition process
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

Just about a year ago, Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Dr. Michael Wooten unveiled what likely will be his signature priority—removing friction from the acquisition process.

While many in industry privately mock and question what that concept or phrase really means, it’s clear that frictionless acquisition will lean heavily on robotics process automation (RPA) and other initiatives to lessen the burden on contracting officers.

That became abundantly clear during the ACT-IAC Acquisition Excellence conference last week. Not only did Wooten continue to message this now governmentwide goal, he also offered some real life examples of what the future could look like.

One of those efforts focuses on reducing procurement administrative lead time (PALT). “We look to accelerate the use of facilitated requirements development workshops, known as SAWS,” Wooten said. “We should enhance the requirements development process with the same technologies used to finish my sentences when I send texts or emails. This is no pie-in-the-sky vision. The technology exists today. In fact, the Department of Interior is piloting this approach. Under one of its contracts, a contractor supporting the Department of Interior applies natural language processing and machine learning tools to coach Interior’s acquisition community through the acquisition process. These artificial intelligence tools collect data to identify training needs. These data support management decisions to support better performance through training or process improvements.”

Step back for a second and think about this, as a program manager is writing a requirement to buy help desk services or facilities engineering services or even something more complex like the design of the next fighter jet, and the AI and natural language processing tool brings in the clauses and requirements deemed most relevant based on scanning hundreds or thousands of previous contracts. Then the program manager just has to decide or make hopefully minor adjustments to the language.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Naval Postgraduate School Welcomes VADM (Ret.) David Lewis as New Chair of Acquisition

On October 13, 2020, Vice Admiral David H. Lewis, USN (Ret.) took the helm as the Naval Postgraduate School Chair of Acquisition. As chair, he will lead the Acquisition Research Program (ARP) in the Graduate School of Defense Management and connect NPS with leaders and policymakers in the acquisition community.

Lewis graduated from NPS in 1988 with a Master of Science in Computer Science, and we’re pleased to welcome him back to campus in this leadership role. Lewis is replacing the founding Chair of Acquisition, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.) Jim Greene, who retired this June.  Read more

 

Rethinking Government Supplier Decisions: The Economic Evaluation of Alternatives (EEoA)
Francois Melese and James Fan, Defence and Peace Economics  

This ARP-funded research from two professors in NPS’s Graduate School of Defense Management (GSDM) offers an economic model to assist public procurement officials to rank competing vendors when benefits cannot be monetized.  “As nations struggle to recover from a global pandemic, massive government spending aimed at limiting the damage has shattered fiscal balance sheets. To preserve capabilities, hard choices lie ahead that require a sober assessment of security challenges and robust methodologies to prioritize defense and other public investments. The ‘Economic Evaluation of Alternatives’ (EEoA) captures both demand side and supply side in decision making, encouraging public procurement officials to carefully consider the impact on vendor proposals of announced priorities—i.e., desired criteria, characteristics, or attributes for solicited quantities of products, services—as well as the impact of anticipated future budgets. In response to government-issued priorities, competing vendors maximize their production offers – bid proposals that consist of bundles of nonprice characteristics or attributes.

Sustaining an Intellectual Overmatch: Management Education for our Naval Warfighters
Dr. Mie Augier, Major Sean F. X. Barrett, Dr. Nick Dew, and Dr. Gail Fann Thomas  |  Center for International Maritime Security

Professors in GSDM make the case that “management education, with its interdisciplinary and integrative focus, is an essential tool for developing future naval warfighters who have the skills to draw out peak performance from personnel and maximize the effectiveness of a wide range of naval organizations. […] Management education is centrally concerned with anticipating and adapting to change. It develops proactive problem-solving skills.” The authors call on the Navy to “focus on developing warfighters with skills in thinking through ambiguous and changing situations.”

Artificial Intelligence Leaders Discuss AI for National Security in NPS’ Latest Guest Lecture (article and video)
MC2 Tom Tonthat, Naval Postgraduate School

With NPS faculty and students currently teaching and researching varied AI concepts and applications, and translating them into future naval capabilities, the university is deeply embedded in advancing the technology and the DOD’s AI workforce. With this role in mind, NPS hosted two of the JAIC’s most senior leaders, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. John N.T. “Jack” Shanahan, the inaugural and former Director, and Nand Mulchandani, the current Chief Technology Officer, to speak to students, faculty and staff about their experiences organizing efforts to develop artificial intelligence (AI) projects on a DOD scale during NPS’ latest virtual Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture (SGL), held Oct. 13.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Effectiveness over Efficiency: Preparing the US Industrial Base for Mobilization
Eric Lofgren, Acquisition Talk

3 questions with Bruce Jette, the US Army’s acquisition chief
Jen Judson, Defense News

US Navy awards multimillion-dollar contract for tactical afloat network
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

DISA touts SETI for small business contracts
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

DoD, GSA category management partnership accelerates during pandemic (video)
Government Matters

DHS’s innovation program brings in 5 more blockchain startups
Joe Warminsky, Fedscoop

Building Resiliency: Fireside Chat with Rep. Adam Smith (video)
George Mason University Government Contracting Center

 

Events

International Security at the Nuclear Nexus (Day 1)
Center for Strategic & International Studies
Oct 21, 2020  |  12:00 p.m.-5:15 p.m. EDT

CyberCon 2020
C4ISRNET
Oct 28, 2020  |  8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. EDT
 

Research

U.S. Military Investments in Autonomy and AI
Margarita Konaev, Center for Security and Emerging Technology

 

Defense and Federal Government

White House flags 20 technologies for agencies to promote and protect
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

US Air Force sends software updates to one of its oldest aircraft midair
Valerie Insinna, C4ISRNET

US Army prioritizes open architecture for future combat vehicle amid competition prep
Jen Judson, Defense News

US Army pegs 2023 as tipping point for ending old weapons
Jen Judson, Defense News

Chief of Naval Operations Outlines Future for Drones, Minicarriers (article and video of Gilday’s keynote address)
Patrick Tucker, Defense One

US Navy’s cost estimate for new frigate won’t hold water, predicts government analyst
David B. Larter, Defense News

Commentary: Esper’s Reforms: An Interim Report Card
Mackenzie Eaglen, Defense One

New enlisted marketplace, promotion board changes arriving
Kyle Rempfer, Army Times

 

Education

Air Force Academy: Enlisted faculty experiment shows promise, but more study needed
Stephen Losey, Air Force Times

 

Policy

Federal Acquisition Regulation: Revision of Definition of “Commercial Item”
Federal Register

Splitting the definition of “commercial item” into the definitions of “commercial product” and “commercial service” was a recommendation made by the independent panel created by section 809 of the NDAA for FY 2016 (Pub. L. 114-92). The panel recommended the splitting of the definition of “commercial item” to better “reflect the significant roles services and commercial services play today in the DoD procurement budget.”  This change resolves the issue the Section 809 Panel cites, which is that the “acquisition workforce has faced issues with inconsistent interpretations of policy, confusion over how to identify eligible commercial products and services”.

Emergency Acquisition Flexibilities – Special Emergency Procurement Authority and Head of the Contracting Activity Delegated Authority
Defense Pricing and Contracting

National Strategy For Critical And Emerging Technologies
Office of the White House

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Is DoD Missing Opportunities to Streamline by not Sufficiently Emphasizing the Use of FAR 13.500, Simplified Procedures for Certain Commercial Items?

Recently the Federal Register issued notification that DoD, GSA, and NASA were issuing a final rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) acquisition-related thresholds for inflation. One of the items increased the ceiling for simplified procedures for certain commercial items (FAR 13.500) from $7 million to $7.5 million. For acquisitions described at 13.500(c) (Support of a contingency operation), the ceiling is increasing from $13.5 million to $15 million.

The proposed implementation of Simplified Procedures for Certain Commercial Items was first published in the Federal Register in 1996 as a Test Case: “The intent of this proposed rule is to ensure the benefits of this new authority can be fully realized by giving contracting officers a clear understanding of the procedural discretion and flexibility they have, so that acquisitions of commercial items conducted under these regulations may be solicited, offered, evaluated, and awarded in a simplified manner that maximizes efficiency and economy and minimizes burden and administrative costs for both the Government and its suppliers.”

Use of FAR 13.500 Simplified Procedures for Certain Commercial Items is not being sufficiently emphasized by DoD. Contracting Officers may be uncomfortable with the flexibility it provides or may simply find greater comfort with the more structured procedures on Parts 14 and 15. As DoD continues to take greater advantage of the commercial marketplace, it must take a more aggressive approach to using streamlined acquisition procedures when acquiring commercial products and services.

  • What DoD can do now:
  • Provide formal guidance, push increase use of, and reinforce this flexibility.
  • Increase awareness of the speed and benefits, and that it can be used for services.
  • Provide a list of minimum contract folder documentation and require Head of Contracting Activity (HCA) approval of additional file documentation.
  • Establish aggressive PALT standards. 

The above procedural formality will provide acquisition teams sound conceptual grounding and confidence that they are safe to use and be creative.

I am in no way advocating this is a one-size-fits all, but it is a valuable tool that needs to be advocated by leadership as another tool in the toolbox. We all know that acquisition improvement is done by people in the trenches, every day. Let’s give them some help.

Below are a few informative articles:

  1. Section 809 Panel Recommendation 28: Simplify the selection of sources for commercial products and services.
  2. 13 Reasons Why SAP is Simpler by Don Mansfield, WIFCON (July 30, 2020).  My favorite of the 13 is #12: Documentation Should Be Kept to a Minimum.

 

October 9, 2020                                                                                         Issue 27

Another piece of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework is live, with the release of DODI 5000.87: “Operation of the Software Acquisition Pathway”. This new policy is charting a course for the much-touted and long overdue software color of money, which is already being piloted. The Department of Defense has also released its Data Strategy, a new Personnel Strategy, and Battle Force 2045, the plan for the future Navy. Busy week for policymakers and policywatchers!

In ARP news, we share a video with students’ initial reactions to the Hacking for Defense course concepts and lean startup methodology as they might apply to the federal government. And we’ve finally reached the end of our panels and papers from the 2020 acquisition research symposium.

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #26: Dimensions of Financial Management

Assessing the Reliability of the Future Years Defense Program and Building a Forecast
Gregory Sanders (Center for Strategic and International Studies), Andrew Hunter (Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group, Center for Strategic and International Studies)

  • Micro-abstract: This project works to make the FYDP more accessible and more easily evaluated. It posits two hypotheses using Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget request data: first, that FYDP projections could estimate actual 2019 spending more reliably than the President’s Budget alone, and second, that the reliability of projections would vary between services.  Read the paper and presentation.

A Critical Look at "Use or Lose"
Philip Candreva (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract: By considering the laws, administrative rules, organizational structures, and institutional norms driving use or lose behavior, this paper paints a more complete picture of the phenomenon. Read the paper.

The Value of Intellectual Property in Government Procurement Auctions: The Case of Military Trucks in the U.S. after the Cold War​
James Hasik (George Mason University)

  • Micro-abstract: Securing advantageous pricing over the long-term through data rights requires a credible threat to move away from sole-source, follow-on awards.  Read the paper.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Faster is possible: DoD Publishes New Software Acquisition Policy
Sean Brady, Defense Acquisition University

On October 2nd, Ms. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, issued DODI 5000.87, the Department of Defense policy for “Operation of the Software Acquisition Pathway”. Improved software acquisition is critical for our ability to deliver capabilities to the Warfighter and succeed in an era of Great Power Competition.

This new pathway enables the Department of Defense to acquire software with modern software development practices and deliver performance at the speed of relevance in support of the National Defense Strategy. It promotes and streamlines adoption of Agile, Lean, DevSecOps, and human-centered design practices within defense acquisition. It implements the key recommendations of the Defense Innovation Board’s Software Acquisition Practices study, the Defense Science Board report on Software Acquisition, and Congressional direction in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act.

It also addresses a top priority for Gen Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to insert speed into the Pentagon and provide 21st century processes.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Video: Piloting Hacking for Defense at Naval Postgraduate School - Students on Week 1

 

 

Students in our entrepreneurship class share reflections on how the lean startup/H4D model makes them think differently about defense contracting.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DOD developing new ways to fund agile software development
Carten Cordell, Washington Business Journal

Space Force Nears Year Mark, Acquisition Remains A Quagmire
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

Army Tripled OTA Prototyping To $4.8B In Just 3 Years: GAO
Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

DHS advances AI project improving use of contractor past performance data
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

Pentagon announces $600M in 5G experiments
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Pentagon's Lord blames KC-46A's fixed-price contract structure for further programme issues
Pat Host, Janes

DOD Acquisition & Sustainment Leaders Update Reporters on Improvements to Defense Acquisition System (Video and Transcript)
U.S. Department of Defense

 

Events

Virtual Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture With Lt. Gen. Shanahan and Nand Mulchandani
Naval Postgraduate School
Oct 13, 2020  |  10:00 a.m. PT

Space and Missile Systems Command: Space - Ask Me Anything Session
National Security Innovation Network
Oct 13, 2020  |  12:00-1:30 p.m. ET

2020 Annual Meeting & Exposition
Association of the United States Army
Oct 13-16, 2020

Sharpening America's Innovative Edge
Center for Strategic & International Studies
Oct 16, 2020  |  11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m. 

Research

Harnessing Military Talent to Compete in the 21st Century
Emma Moore, Center for a New American Security

Overview of Department of Defense Use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
John R. Hoehn, Jill C. Gallagher, Kelley M. Sayler  |  Congressional Research Service

Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure
John F. Sargent Jr., Congressional Research Service

 

Defense and Federal Government

DOD Issues New Data Strategy
U. S. Department of Defense Press Release

Commentary: It’s Time For The Pentagon To Take Data Principles More Seriously
Robert Work And Tara Murphy Dougherty, War on the Rocks

7 Things to Know About the Pentagon's New Plan for a 500-Ship Navy Fleet
Gina Harkins, Military.com

SECNAV Teases New Budget Overhaul, Strategies Set to Reshape Naval Operations
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

Pentagon Publishes Digital-Age Personnel Strategy
Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Magazine

Irregular warfare strategies must move beyond special forces, Pentagon says
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

NIST ready to test approach to make FedRAMP faster, less burdensome
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

State Department is looking for tools to manage its global supply chain risk
Billy Mitchell, Fedscoop

US Army discontinues Rapid Equipping Force
Jen Judson, Defense News

 

Education

Air Force to launch space fundamentals course in January
Christen McCurdy, UPI

 

Policy

DoD Instruction 5000.87: Operation of the Software Acquisition Pathway
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

DoD Data Strategy
U.S. Department of Defense

Preserving Our Competitive Advantage: Personnel and Readiness Strategy for 2030
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

Information Collection; Buy American, Trade Agreements, and Duty-Free Entry
Federal Register

 

Congress

Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds
Ellen Mitchell, The Hill

Democrats face internal ‘fight’ on defense spending, says Smith
Joe Gould, Defense News

 

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

How can businesses new to federal contracting start selling to DoD?

A persistent challenge in connecting commercial suppliers with government buyers is that non-traditional contractors can’t find a way in to the bureaucracy of federal acquisitions. Is there one proper channel or entryway for communicating with the government?

Recently MITRE’s AiDA digital platform launched a resource to help address this problem. They lead the page with this tagline: “Doing business with the DoD can be difficult…but it doesn’t have to be.”

Lorna Tedder, one of the MITRE crew who designed the new website, explains how this guide can help businesses connect to DoD:  “This website helps demystify the DoD Acquisition and Contracting processes for you, especially if you’re a startup or a small business trying to figure out how to get your foot in the door. The site was designed specifically for industry and has tons of information...”.  

We need to give a compliment to MITRE's Pete Modigliani and his team for developing AiDA (pronounced "aid-ah"). AiDA, which is short for Acquisition in the Digital Age, is a valuable tool to help navigate through the complex federal acquisition system. Add it to your favorites.

The Section 809 Panel recognized there are several different approaches DoD has taken to improve two-way communication with industry, but no standard exists for industry to approach an unfamiliar DoD acquisition organization or pose a question or suggestion outside the confines of an acquisition.

The panel recommended establishing a Market Liaison at each acquisition activity to facilitate communication with industry.

What I have always advocated, and many people are unfamiliar with, are the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs). PTACs help businesses pursue and perform contracts with the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and government prime contractors. Most of the assistance the PTACs provide is free. PTACs help businesses with getting registered in systems such as the System for Award Management (SAM), identifying contract opportunities, understanding requirements, and preparing and submitting bids. The PTACs have a local presence in 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.   

October 2, 2020                                                                                                          Issue 26

Happy (Fiscal) New Year! Today we can be grateful we’ve got a continuing resolution rather than a shutdown, despite the challenges the CR brings. Our newsletter is highlighting a few top news stories this week. The Congressional task force on the Future of Defense released its report and recommendations, calling for a 21st-century approach to business processes, acquisition, technology, alliances, and innovation. Congress is also looking to expand the Buy American Act in the next NDAA. This week brings another article scrutinizing DoD for a lack of transparency in contracting related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In ARP news, we congratulate our Principal Investigator Bob Mortlock for outstanding acquisition research, and we announce the kickoff of our first Hacking for Defense class at Naval Postgraduate School. Enjoy!

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #25: Unlocking the Value of Acquisition Data

Assessing Department of Defense Use of Data Analytics and Enabling Data Management to Improve Acquisition Outcomes
Megan McKernan, Jeffrey Drezner, Ken Munson, Philip Anton, Sydne Newberry, Alexis Levedahl, Irv Blickstein, James Kallimani (RAND Corporation)

  • Micro-abstract: Our research found that the DoD is applying a breadth of data analytics across the whole acquisition life cycle, but more progress can be made. Challenges include data access disincentives, mixed data governance activity, and cybersecurity barriers to using commercial analysis software.  Read the paper and presentation.

Acquisition Data Practice in the Era of Interconnected Digital Transformation​
Richard Wang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Yang Lee (Northeastern University), Jeff Drezner (RAND Corporation)

  • Micro-abstract: In this paper, we describe a novel data practice approach for acquisition based on three fundamental concepts: practice, problem identification and solving, and organizational strategy.  Read the paper and presentation.

Application of Natural Language Processing to Defense Acquisition Executive Summary Reports​
Madison Hassler (Rotunda Solutions), Terrence Clark (OUSD A-S)

  • Micro-abstract:   Natural language processing can be used to indicate which programs are not reporting their ratings as expected in order to indicate which programs may need further investigation. Read the paper.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Stories

Future Defense Task Force: Scrap obsolete weapons and boost AI
Joe Gould, Defense News

How Operation Warp Speed's Big Vaccine Contracts Could Stay Secret
Sydney Lupkin, NPR

Commentary: ‘Buy American’ reforms strike the right balance
Rep. Donald Norcross, Rep. John Garamendi, Rep. Jackie Speier, Bob Martinez, and George Williams

Awaiting JEDI, Pentagon finds ‘new homes’ for missions that need cloud now
Billy Mitchell, Fedscoop

 

ARP and NPS News

Congratulations to Bob Mortlock for winning 1st place in the 2020 Edward Hirsch Acquisition and Writing Competition.  As the 1st place winner, Bob receives the Jacques S. Gansler Research Award for his paper titled “Camouflage Combat Uniform”. 
See the full list of winners.

Classroom Innovation: Introducing NPS Student-Officers to Hacking 4 Defense
Michelle V. J. Johnson, ARP Blog

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Palantir wants to be the ‘central operating system for all US defense programs’
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

SpaceX’s GPS contract modified to allow reuse of Falcon 9 boosters
Sandra Erwin, Space News

Air Force continues push on virtual training with new contracts
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Marines’ Land Systems Acquisition Portfolio Highlights Importance of Naval Integration, Littoral Operations
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

DoD Ponders 581-Ship Fleet, As Navy Shipyard Problems Persist
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

 

Events

AFFIRM/USCC 7TH Annual Cybersecurity Summit | Digital Defense:  The Evolving Threat Landscape
Oct 8, 2020  |  9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. ET

Virtual Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture With Lt. Gen. Shanahan and Nand Mulchandani
Naval Postgraduate School
Oct 13, 2020  |  10:00 a.m. PT

Cyberweek
Cyberscoop
Oct 19-23, 2020

 

Research

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service

Agile Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Agile Adoption and Implementation
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Information Technology: Selected Federal Agencies Need to Take Additional Actions to Reduce Contract Duplication
U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

Pentagon transitioning its COVID-19 acquisition task force to permanent office
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

 

Defense and Federal Government

Trump signs continuing resolution, averting government shutdown
Nicole Ogrysko, Federal News Network

DoD seeks legislative help for ICBM replacement construction costs
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

USS Vinson Flies F-35s & Quietly Readies For New Refueling Drone
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

Switzerland approved for potential F-35, F-18, Patriot buys worth billions
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Federal Government to Conclude Fiscal 2020 With Record Spending
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

 

Education

As Air Force’s Digital U grows its ranks, it looks to refine course work
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

TECOM: Modernizing Training, Education Will Be a Focus for Marines In FY 2022
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

U.S. Space Force May Become a Possibility for a Few Naval Academy Graduates
Richard R. Burgess, Seapower

 

Policy

Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement: Inflation Adjustment of Acquisition-Related Thresholds (DFARS Case 2019-D036)
Federal Register

 

Congress

13 lawmakers: Don’t kill the Pentagon’s chief reform job
Joe Gould, Defense News

Future of Defense Task Force Report 2020
House Armed Services Committee

New COVID bill dampens hopes for defense industry aid
Joe Gould, Defense News

Here's What’s in the $2.2 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Proposal for Veterans and the Military
Patricia Kime, Military.com

Defense Experts Throw Warning Flags As Congress Mulls Tighter Buy-American Rules
Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One

U.S. intel agencies failing to counter threat from China, says House Intelligence Committee report
Ken Dilanian, ABC News

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Market Research

After a project team develops its charter, the next effort is market research, which will serve as the foundation for learning about a new acquisition requirement. This effort is critical to learn information about the marketplace such as availability of commercial products or services, strategies of other government and commercial customers, small business capability, the likelihood of competition, and more. This information will help develop an Acquisition Strategy that is supported by research data.

An early mentor taught me to always ask ‘Who is in charge?’ If we ask who is in charge of pre-solicitation market research, the answer is the Program Office.

Market research is conducted throughout various phases of an acquisition and involves the program office and the contracting office. The program office typically starts the market research in the acquisition planning phase. The program office is primarily responsible for conducting market research in the early phases of an acquisition (see Figure 1 Market Research and the Acquisition Process on page 6 on GAO report link below).

https://www.gao.gov/assets/670/666447.pdf

I spoke to a couple program management folks who recently did market research the right way on two different acquisitions, and they are zealots to spread the word on the importance of effective market research. In fact, anyone who has done effective market research feels the same way. The problem is there are not enough zealots; we need market research to get more attention and training in the program office world.

The training needs to focus on:

  • How the pieces fit together, e.g., knowledge of the marketplace, small business capability, and developing an acquisition strategy
  • Less focus on lengthy documentation for Market Research Reports and Acquisition Strategies and more focus on the data and thinking to support strategies
  • Conducting market research is not limited to talking to familiar vendors as opposed to understanding marketplace capabilities, costs, business models, key trends, etc 
  • The format of one-on-one sessions with industry achieves an atmosphere conducive to the exchange of information and advice without the normal industry fear of compromising competitive sensitive information
  • Reinforce that you do not get "Proposals" (ROMS or estimates Yes, proposals No). You also do not "Select" companies (talk to companies or review information received Yes, selection of companies No)
  • Conduct market research before you finalize requirements (FAR 10.001)

Market Research is a valuable tool, but we need to make it a part of the Program Office culture. Let’s spread the word, train the right folks, have leadership push that we need to do effective market research and understand that you have a choice: ‘Pay now with a little extra time up front, or pay later by having a poor strategy.’

Since 1994, Congress has emphasized the need for DoD personnel to conduct and be trained on market research. For details, see Section 809 Panel Recommendation 84: Direct DoD to communicate with the marketplace concerning acquisition from development of the need/requirement through contract closeout, final payment, and disposal.

September 25, 2020                                                                                                   Issue 25

This week, the House passed its continuing resolution bill; the Senate takes it up next week; and congressional business has slowed amid tensions over appointing the next Supreme Court justice. FY2021 may be off to a rocky start. The Air Force has detailed the impact a continuing resolution will have on Air Force and Space Force acquisitions and personnel. In other news, DoD is getting heat for how it has disbursed CARES Act funds. And it’s looking like the Future Navy Force Study will recommend substantial growth in numbers and capabilities, adding over 100 unmanned ships to the originally predicted target of 355 ships. Happy Friday, and cheers to the end of FY2020!

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #24: Industrial Base in the Era of Rapid Acquisition

Industrial Mobilization: Surge Capabilities, Wartime Risk, and System Brittleness
Mark Cancian (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

  • Micro-abstract: These findings indicate that existing surge capacities for major defense acquisition programs fall short of what will be needed for a long-duration great power conflict.  Read the paper and presentation.        

The Effect of Defense-Sponsored Innovation Programs on the Military’s Industrial Base​
Amanda Bresler (PW Communications), Alex Bresler (PW Communications)

  • Micro-abstract: By analyzing publicly-available DoD contract award data from 2010 through 2019 and government records for thousands of participants in DoD innovation initiatives, this paper demonstrates that the majority of companies that participated in innovation initiatives over the last decade had existing ties to the defense market. Read the paper and presentation.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Here’s How a Three-Month CR—or Longer—Would Affect the Air Force
Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Magazine

As Congress looks to delay passage of a new federal funding package until after the November election, the Air Force is warning that even a three-month gap would harm national defense.

“[Continuing resolutions] immediately disrupt major exercises and training events, affect readiness and maintenance, curtail hiring and recruitment actions, and adversely impact contracting negotiations,” Air Force spokesman Capt. Jacob N. Bailey said in a Sept. 24 email.

A stopgap spending bill would also slow the service’s adoption of technology it wants to compete with other advanced militaries like those of Russia and China.

As the start of fiscal 2021 looms on Oct. 1, the wheels are already turning to get a continuing resolution in place to avoid a government shutdown. CRs have been invoked nearly every year for the past few decades, causing heartburn across the federal workforce.

House lawmakers on Sept. 22 passed a bill to keep the federal government open through Dec. 11. The Senate could hold a vote on that legislation next week, according to Politico. Congress may decide later to extend the funding freeze into 2021, and pass appropriations at the beginning of a possible second term for President Donald J. Trump or to kick off a first term for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

The Department of the Air Force wants about $169 billion in fiscal 2021, split between $153.6 billion for the Air Force and $15.4 billion for the Space Force. Under a CR, though, federal agencies must stretch their 2020 dollars until they run out. Congress can also make exceptions to let certain programs move forward.

A yearlong continuing resolution would block 48 new programs from starting, cut short production increases to seven aircraft and weapons, stop 19 military construction projects, stifle the service’s response and recovery efforts for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and limit the Air Force’s plan to grow its workforce by 1,500 people.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Measuring Service Contract Performance
Andrew P. Hunter and Gregory Sanders, Center for Strategic & International Studies

This research on the complexity of DoD’s services contracting began with the support of an ARP-administered grant. We’re pleased to see the final paper getting published at CSIS. Note there will be a live panel discussion (listed in our Events section) informed by these findings on October 1.

 

OFPP Administrator Michael Wooten’s Past Life as a Scholar and NPS Student
Michelle V. J. Johnson, ARP Blog

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DOD’s push for innovative, agile purchasing codified in adaptive acquisition policy
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Space Force, DoD agencies, NRO try to get on the same page on future acquisitions
Sandra Erwin, Space News

CMMC rule change is through the interagency review process
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

DOD floats plan to build its own 5G network
Lauren C. Williams, Fedscoop

DoD to Award Grants to Bolster National Security Industrial Base
Matthew Nelson, ExecutiveGov

AIA’s Fanning: Civil aviation’s nosedive endangers Pentagon supplies
Joe Gould, Defense News

Picking 1st ABMS Capabilities A Top Issue At Air Force Corona
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

U.S. eyes December agreement on F-35 jets with UAE
Mike Stone, Reuters

VIEWPOINT: Acquisition Reform Requires Cultural Change
John Kovach and Artie Mabbett, National Defense

 

Events

GovDATAx 2020 | Leveraging Data for the Public Good
FedInsider
Sep 29-30, 2020  |  1:00 p.m. ET

Modernization and Policy Priorities for 2030 with Michele Flournoy
Defense News
Sep 30, 2020  | 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. ET

Note that Flournoy has been speculated to be Biden’s pick for Secretary of Defense, should he win November’s election.

Hearing: Supply Chain Integrity – with Ellen Lord
Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support
Oct 1, 2020  |  9:15 a.m. ET

Department of Defense’s Service Industrial Base
Center for Strategic & International Studies
Oct 1, 2020  |  2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET

Government Contracting in a Changed World
George Mason University Center for Government Contracting and Defense Acquisition University
October 6, 2020  |  8:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. ET

 

Research

VA ACQUISITION MANAGEMENT: COVID-19 Response Strains Supply Chain While Modernization Delays Continue
U.S. Government Accountability Office

MITRE Establishes Center for Data-Driven Policy
MITRE Press Release

CNAS Launches Major Effort on U.S. National Technology Strategy
Center for a New American Security

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor
Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torbati, The Washington Post

Gearing up for great power competition also helped the Air Force prepare for COVID-19
Jared Serbu, Federal News Network

Pentagon rewriting pandemic playbook after study faults Covid-19 response
Lara Seligman, Politico

Ellen Lord Discusses Impact of COVID-19 on Federal Modernization
Sarah Sybert, ExecutiveGov 

 

Defense and Federal Government

The Pentagon is eyeing a 500-ship Navy, documents reveal
David B. Lartner and Aaron Mehta

‘Reshape from within’: How Berger plans to transform the Corps without a budget increase
Philip Athey, Marine Times

CIA launches federal lab to support innovative intelligence breakthroughs
Billy Mitchell, FedScoop

Navy Using New Working Groups to Problem Solve Sustainment Issues
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News

Hyten to issue new joint requirements on handling data
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Brown Talks Force Structure, NGAD Records, and the Looming CR
John A. Tirpak, Air Force Magazine

 

Education

Pentagon awards $50M to historically black colleges for scientific research
Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner

 

Policy

Conformance of the Cost Accounting Standards to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for Capitalization of Tangible Assets and Accounting for Acquisition Costs of Material
Federal Register

FAR Class Deviation - Enhancing Competition at the Order level for Certain Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity Multiple-Award Contracts
U.S. General Services Administration

Memorandum for the Acquisition Workforce on AFWERX
Will Roper

 

Congress

House Passes Short-Term Spending Bill to Keep Government Funded Through Dec. 11
Kristina Peterson and Lindsay Wise, The Wall Street Journal

Funding patch would avert shutdown through Dec. 11, fund Navy’s Columbia program
Joe Gould, Defense News

Senate to push funding bill vote up against shutdown deadline
Jordain Carney, The Hill

Select Committee Passes Final Round of Recommendations to Make Congress Work Better for the American People
Select Committee for the Modernization of Congress Press Release

Thornberry on overseas priorities, funding and advice to his successor
Joe Gould, Defense News

HASC Schedule: September 28 – October 2
House Armed Services Committee

 

Section 809 Panel in the News

Former Mitre Exec [and Section 809 Commissioner] William LaPlante Named Draper President, CEO
Jane Edwards, GovCon Wire

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

The Federal Acquisition Regulation Promotes Innovation. Really.

As I reviewed the recent changes to the fundamental document for Defense Acquisition System the DoDD 5000.01, it made me think about the fundamental principles for the federal acquisition system and how often it has helped teams. 

The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is not as prohibitive as many believe. If something is not specifically addressed by the FAR, it does not automatically mean it is prohibited. Quite the opposite.

In exercising initiative, Government members of the Acquisition Team may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interests 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. (FAR 1.102(d))

In this manner, the FAR actually advocates for procurement innovation — stressing it as a “guiding principle” for government procurement. These words have “reached a near-legendary status in the contracting community.” Dr. Steve Kelman, who “played a fairly important role in getting this language into the regulations,” explains in a 2014 column that this language was added in the early 1990s when “there were demands to essentially jettison the FAR entirely and replace it with 10 pages or so of guidance.” Instead, his team drafted FAR 1.102(d) to empower the acquisition team to venture outside the regulations when called for.

Some acquisition professionals may wonder how they are supposed to know what’s been prohibited when there are so many places to look. The answer is that no single person can know it all, but a collaborative Multi-functional Integrated Project Team (IPT) can. IPTs have been common since the 1990s, with each member of the IPT bringing their own expertise on relevant laws, regulations, and policies. Members include the program management office, logisticians, cyber, engineers, contracting, legal, and program analysts.

FAR 1.102(d) specifically states that “The role of each member of the Acquisition Team is to exercise personal initiative and sound business judgment in providing the best value product or service to meet the customer’s needs.”

Keep in mind these critical points from FAR 1.102:

  • Innovation is procurement policy.
  • Both the government and the contractor share responsibility for innovation.
  • The correct question to ask in carrying out the FAR’s innovation policy is: “Where does it say we can’t do it?” Note: When it says we can’t do that and the prohibition is not based in law, don’t forget FAR Deviation 1.401.
  • The contracting officer should take the lead in innovation.

 

Please take a few minutes to read and truly understand the FAR Statement of guiding principles for the Federal Acquisition System.  Over my career, documents like this have greatly helped to influence the course of an acquisition outcome. After all, it is hard for the frozen middle and naysayers to argue when clear operating principles are coming from top leadership.

FAR 1.102 Statement of guiding principles for the Federal Acquisition System

      (a) The vision for the Federal Acquisition System is to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the customer, while maintaining the public’s trust and fulfilling public policy objectives. Participants in the acquisition process should work together as a team and should be empowered to make decisions within their area of responsibility.

      (b) The Federal Acquisition System will-

           (1) Satisfy the customer in terms of cost, quality, and timeliness of the delivered product or service by, for example-

                (i) Maximizing the use of commercial products and services;

                (ii) Using contractors who have a track record of successful past performance or who demonstrate a current superior ability to perform; and

                (iii) Promoting competition;

           (2) Minimize administrative operating costs;

           (3) Conduct business with integrity, fairness, and openness; and

           (4) Fulfill public policy objectives.

      (c) The Acquisition Team consists of all participants in Government acquisition including not only representatives of the technical, supply, and procurement communities but also the customers they serve, and the contractors who provide the products and services.

      (d) The role of each member of the Acquisition Team is to exercise personal initiative and sound business judgment in providing the best value product or service to meet the customer’s needs. In exercising initiative, Government members of the Acquisition Team may assume if a specific strategy, practice, policy or procedure is in the best interests 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.

September 18, 2020                                                                                                   Issue 24

This week brings plenty of news from the Air Force Association’s Virtual Air, Space and Cyber conference that resonate across the DoD, from General Raymond’s description of a lean Space Force organization with organic coding expertise to the announcement of the first flight of the secretive next-generation fighter jet to Will Roper’s retro-future vision of digital acquisition, design, and manufacturing. (His keynote speech and strategic document, “Take the Red Pill,” use the 1999 move The Matrix to illustrate both the need for a transformational shift in thinking and the symbiotic relationship between the digital and physical worlds of defense acquisition.)  

In Congress, there’s more evidence that we’re looking at several months of continuing resolutions, especially if there’s a change in the presidential administration. Secretary Esper finally confirms the future naval force should have 355 ships, manned and unmanned; but to get there, Congress needs to provide “adequate, sustained, predictable, and timely budgets.”  And we continue to celebrate ARP researchers and faculty, highlighting a CSIS report exploring the relationship between production and R&D costs that began with an ARP grant as well as an article by NPS professor Dan Finkenstadt offering suggestions for how to improve the Strategic National Stockpile. Plus more! Happy reading, and happy Friday.

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #23: Software Development and Sustainment

Factors Limiting the Speed of Software Acquisition​
David Tate and John Bailey (Institute for Defense Analyses)

  • Micro-abstract: The factors limiting the speed of software acquisition and enhancement fall into seven principal categories, which we rank in rough order of importance.  Read the Paper and Presentation.

Using Texture Vector Analysis to Measure Computer and Device File Similarity​
Bruce Allen (Naval Postgraduate School), Neil Rowe (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract: It is useful to study file similarity between executable files to verify valid updates, identify potential copyright infringement, identify malware, and detect other abuse of purchased software. An alternative to relying on simplistic methods of file comparison, such as comparing their hash codes to see if they are identical, is to identify the “texture” of files and then assess its similarity between files.  Read the Paper and Presentation.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Take the Red Pill: The New Digital Acquisition Reality
Will Roper

Should you continue reading, your defense acquisition training – no matter what lifecycle facet, function, or operational domain – becomes a dream from which to wake up…to something new. Digital Engineering and Management, combined with Agile Software and Open Architecture, truly is the “red pill” for traditional defense acquisition. I am excited to share more about this trinity of digital design technologies, why their Wonderland excites me, and how they foretell a faster, agiler, and more competitive weapons-buying process our nation needs to succeed long term.

This Red Pill guide for Air Force and Space Force Digital Acquisition is designed to “disrupt your input/output carrier signal” of analog thinking. It will illuminate terms and provide insights, best practices, and litmus tests for success (as best we know them) from some commercial industry and bellwether Air Force programs. But digital transformation, writ large, is still in flux. Only 44 “lighthouses” of excellence are recognized worldwide in commercial industries like automotive and microelectronics; only 3 defense programs – the T-7A RedHawk, Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), and Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) – are radically digital; and only 1 program, NGAD, is positioned to transform its lifecycle through a fully digital acquisition.

So digital acquisition is still very new. Your journey will increase our Department’s collective knowledge until past practices are shed, and we become truly digital Forces.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Why the U.S. Still Has a Severe Shortage of Medical Supplies
Daniel Joseph Finkenstadt, Robert Handfield, and Peter Guinto  |  Harvard Business Review

Professor Finkenstadt leads the enterprise sourcing program at NPS’s Graduate School of Defense Management. This article argues that “a slew of glaring supply-chain deficiencies have yet to be fixed. Our team, which was involved in efforts by the federal government’s Supply Chain Task Force to understand and address the problems, found that the deficiencies are very solvable — if the federal government gives the Strategic National Stockpile agency greater clout, provides it with access to better information and technology, and beefs up its expertise.”

 

Is the Ratio of Investment between Research and Development to Production in Major Defense Acquisition Programs Experiencing Fundamental Change?
Rhys McCormick, Gregory Sanders, Andrew P. Hunter | Center for Strategic & International Studies

This ARP-sponsored research charts the history of DoD and Service-level investment in R&D as compared to production costs. “For firms like Boeing and others in the defense marketplace, the business model has been to conduct development and early production at a monetary loss before turning a profit as production ramps up. However, if a fundamental change in the relationship between development and production is underway, these business models may no longer be sustainable.”

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Space dominance requires taking technology and policy risks
Gen. Jay Raymond

Air Force seeks a radical shift in how jets, missiles and satellites are designed
Aaron Gregg and Paul Sonne, The Washington Post

How and When GSA’s New Central Contracting Portal Will Lose the ‘Beta’
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

Hon. James Geurts: Innovation in the Navy | Future of the Joint Force #16 (podcast)
Future of Work Pioneers

Army Futures Command picks Austin Community College for software factory
Jen Judson, C4ISRNET

The 4 federal shared services marketplaces are shaping up
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

CMMC board ousts chairman and other top member
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Army to award contract for GPS alternative by end of September
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Why the Pentagon’s JEDI Saga Is Far From Over
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

18F Says 6 Core Concepts Can Reduce Risk in Federal Tech Projects
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

 

Events

Software Armories (Exploring problems the DoD faces with software development)
C4ISRNET Removing Stovepipes Webcast Series
Sep 22, 2020  |  11:00 a.m. ET

Office of Management & Budget, An Insider’s Guide
National Academy of Public Administration
September 30, 2020  |  10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. ET

Government Contracting in a Changed World
George Mason University Center for Government Contracting and Defense Acquisition University
October 6, 2020  |  8:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. ET

 

Research

The Federal Acquisition Service’s Reporting of Small Business Procurements Contained Significant Inaccuracies
Office of Inspector General, U.S. General Services Administration

 

COVID-19 and Defense Innovation

The Defense Digital Service played a novel role in securing the Navy’s COVID-19 relief missions
Billy Mitchell, Fedscoop

How the Military Is Supporting the Historic Race for a COVID Vaccine
Patricia Kime, Military.com

Pentagon AI tool for battling coronavirus hold lessons for war
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

 

Defense and Federal Government

Pentagon business reforms in limbo (video)
Jinitzail Hernandez, Roll Call

Commentary: The Next National Defense Strategy Will Be Shaped by Post-BCA Budget Instability
Diem Salmon, Center for a New American Security

Pentagon Chief Unveils New Navy Force Level Plans
Jon Harper, National Defense

Secretary of Defense Speech at RAND (As Delivered)
U.S. Department of Defense

Chinese hackers use open-source tools against U.S. networks
Zach Dorfman, Axios Codebook

The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Driven by ‘a tectonic shift in warfare’ Raymond describes Space Force’s achievements and future
Charles Pope, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

CSAF Brown Mulls Streamlining Of Air Force Commands; Barrett Announces ‘e’ Aircraft
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

Here’s when the US Navy thinks the carrier Ford will be ready to deploy
David B. Larter, Defense News

Marines Placing Small UAVs into Ground Combat Element, As Aviators Still Refining Large UAS Requirement
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News

 

Education

The College Money Crisis
David Leonhardt, The New York Times

 

Policy

Federal Acquisition Regulations: FAR Case 2017-014, Use of Acquisition 360 To Encourage Vendor Feedback
Federal Register

 

Congress

Defense industry worries Congress will punt budget deal into 2021
Joe Gould, Defense News

Hurd, Kelly Bill Protecting American and Government Information from Hacking Passes
Press Release from Rep. Will Hurd

‘Incremental changes’ not enough for AI workforce development, commission tells Congress
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Bill tasking agencies with publishing budget requests passes House
Eric White, Federal News Network

HASC Schedule: September 21 – 25
House Armed Services Committee

Upcoming SASC Hearings
Senate Armed Services Committee

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Who You Gonna Call to Fix DoD-Industry Communication?

In Recommendation #84, the Section 809 Panel requested Congress direct DoD to communicate better with the marketplace. But Congress may not be the right friend to phone on this challenge.

First, let’s acknowledge that DoD is already moving in the right direction. In recent years, DoD culture and behavior regarding communication with the marketplace has changed for the better. Innovative acquisition teams understand that the rewards of industry engagement outweigh the perceived risks. But we need to continue this positive momentum.

Who can we call to institutionalize this mindset across DoD? Let’s start by calling Myth-Busters! The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has a series of memos called ‘Myth-Busting,’ in which they counter common misconceptions with facts. Here are a few examples related to industry engagement from Myth-Busting Memo #4:

Misconception - "A protest is something to be avoided at all costs - even if it means the government limits conversations with industry."

  • Fact - Restricting communication won't prevent a protest, and limiting communication might actually increase the chance of a protest - in addition to depriving the government of potentially useful information.

Misconception - "We can't meet one-on-one with a potential offeror."

  • Fact - Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.

The OMB Myth-Busting memos are an example of a great initiative that hasn’t gone far enough at DoD. We don’t need Congress to change the protest-averse culture that has created arm's-length communications. DoD needs to give the acquisition team the confidence and experience to do things differently by taking the following steps:

  • Share examples of successful communication with the marketplace (there are some great examples happening during these virtual times). These should include:
    • Industry Day and Reverse Industry Day examples
    • Incremental draft documents that allow industry to better understand and comment and allow the government to put together a better solicitation
    • Pre-solicitation and pre-proposal conference examples
  • Work with OFPP or create a DoD version of a Myth-Busting #5, with roadshows and training.
  • Immediately update training on the importance of doing real market research, including success stories, and have the audience come primarily from Program Management Offices (PMO).
  • Train PMO and contracting personnel on how to prepare a Request for Information (RFI).
  • Emphasize the importance of continued communication with the winning contractor during contract administration phase.

There are clearly benefits to foster and encourage open communication between the marketplace and the government during an acquisition process, and the openness conducted prior to award will build a foundation of trust and common understanding that is critical to a successful partnership after award.

September 11, 2020                                                                                             Issue 23

Congress is back in session, but defense legislation is on hold for now. We’re looking at a continuing resolution until at least October, and the NDAA won’t be passed until after election day. DOD issued more new policy – the latest is the revised DODD 5000.01, which we gloss for you in our latest blog post. Larry Asch shares his thoughts on debriefings and protests, with the JEDI contract fresh in mind. And it’s the 19th anniversary of 9/11. The USS Constitution will fire gun salutes for each airplane lost, streamed live at 0830 on the @usnavy Facebook page, for those looking to take a few minutes out of their day.

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #22: Acquisition Dimensions of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Acquisition Framework Based on Risk Management: Economics Perspective
Goksel Kucukkaya, Omer Keskin, Omer Poyraz, C. Ariel Pinto, Abdulrahman Alfaqiri (Old Dominion University), Ali Can Kucukozyigit (Arizona State University), Unal Tatar (SUNY Albany)

  • Micro-abstract: Analyzing the attack surface of a system or an enterprise in cyberspace, prioritizing assets according to their business values, and quantifying cybersecurity risk in monetary values would help to make better decisions while choosing a risk management strategy.  Read the paper.    

Cloud Increases the Role of Acquisition in Cybersecurity
Charles Wallen, Carol Woody, John Klein, Christopher Alberts (Software Engineering Institute)

  • Micro-abstract: Major decisions that impact the availability, testability, and auditability of systems are established in the contracting phase with the cloud provider. While it may be easy to confirm that operational and cost objectives are being met, commercial cloud environments require new ways of confirming that cybersecurity risks are being managed.  Read the paper.

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

  • Micro-abstract: This paper presents a process for supply chain data analytics for acquisition decision-makers, addressing data collection, assessment, and reporting.  Read the paper.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Defense Acquisition System Directive Goes Into Effect
U.S. Department of Defense

On Sep. 8, 2020, Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist signed into effect DoD Directive 5000.01, The Defense Acquisition System. In support of the National Defense Strategy, the Defense Acquisition System develops a more lethal force based on U.S. technological innovation and a culture of performance that yields a decisive and sustained U.S. military advantage.

DoDD 5000.01 is the overarching directive that describes the principles governing the acquisition process and emphasizes six main tenets of acquisition implemented via the Adaptive Acquisition Framework. Representing one of the most transformational changes to acquisition policy in decades, the DoDD 5000.01 re-write was part of a comprehensive redesign of the DoD 5000 Series acquisition policies, which were streamlined and modernized to empower program managers, facilitate flexibility and enhance our ability to deliver capability at the speed of relevance.

 

ARP and NPS News

Can a New Directive Move the Defense Acquisition System into the 21st Century?
Michelle Johnson, ARP Blog

AI To Fly In Dogfight Tests By 2024: SecDef
Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Breaking Defense

Coverage of the Secretary’s comments on AI include this acknowledgement of NPS efforts:

“The JAIC, working with the Defense Acquisition University and the Naval Postgraduate School, will launch an intensive six-week pilot course next month to train over 80 defense acquisition professionals of all ranks and grades…. With the support of Congress, the department plans to request additional funding for the Services to grow this effort over time.”

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Navy Awards Study Contracts On Large Unmanned Ship – As Congress Watches Closely
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

Northrop wins US Air Force’s contest for next-gen ICBMs
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

DISA releases draft solicitation for $11.7 billion IT contract
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Navy Announcing $10 Million in New Small Business Funding Opportunities
Warren Duffie, Office of Naval Research

‘Smart’ Bullet Downs Cruise Missile in 2nd ABMS Test
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

Policy issues, supply chain throwing wrench in federal year-end spending
Tom Temin, Federal News Network

Pentagon Acquisition Chief Hints Section 889 Supply Chain Waiver May Be Extended
Mila Jasper, Nextgov

Interim rule sets process to exclude, remove risky technology from supply chain
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

 

Events

2020 Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference
United States Air Force Association
September 14-16, 2020

The Next 5 Years of Defense Innovation with VCJCS, Gen John Hyten
Defense Innovation Unit
Sep 21, 2020  |  12:00 p.m. PT

Program Executive Officer, Unmanned Aviation & Strike Weapons (PEO(U&W)) Virtual Industry Day – 2020
Sep 29-30, 2020  |  10:00 a.m. -3:00 p.m. ET

DoD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Virtual Symposium
DoD Small Business and Technology Partnerships
October 7, 2020

 

Research

Defense Science and Technology: Opportunities to Better Integrate Industry Independent Research and Development into DOD Planning
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Congressional Brain Drain: Legislative Capacity in the 21st Century
Alexander C. Furnas and Timothy M. LaPira, New America

Federalism: Opportunities Exist to Improve Coordination and Consultation with State and Local Governments
U. S. Government Accountability Office

Information Technology: Key Attributes of Essential Federal Mission-Critical Acquisitions
U. S. Government Accountability Office

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

COVID-19 NEWS: Defense Contractors Will Have to Wait Months for Reimbursements
Jon Harper, National Defense

VA open to alternatives to Palantir for coronavirus tracking
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

 

Defense and Federal Government

DOD’s forthcoming data strategy focused on joint warfighting approach
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

White House issues new cybersecurity policy for space systems
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

U.S. Military Is Offered New Bases in the Pacific
Gordon Lubold, The Wall Street Journal

Semiconductors and Modern Defense Spending
James Andrew Lewis, Center for Strategic & International Studies

Secretary of Defense Remarks for DOD Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition
U.S. Department of Defense

Navy Developing Unmanned Systems Network Key to New Campaign Plan
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News

US Army launching new PNT Modernization Office and Open Innovation Lab
Nathan Strout, C4SIRNET

US Navy’s long-delayed plan for its future force is nearing the finish line … sort of
David B. Larter, Defense News

 

Education

To Succeed in Its Cybersecurity Mission, the Defense Department Must Partner With Academia (For Real)
Monica M. Ruiz, Jacquelyn G. Schneider, Eli Sugarman  |  Lawfare

 

Policy

DoD Directive 5000.01: The Defense Acquisition System

U. S. Department of Defense

Space Policy Directive-5: Cybersecurity Principles for Space Systems
National Space Council

DoD Directive 3610.01: Electromagnetic Spectrum Enterprise Policy
U. S. Department of Defense

 

Congress

GOP’s ‘targeted’ stimulus doesn’t include defense dollars
Joe Gould, Defense News

Budget dysfunction threatens delays to US Navy’s Columbia program
David B. Larter and Joe Gould

White House asks for flexibility in Space Force funding in stopgap spending measure
Rebecca Kheel, The Hill

Mnuchin, Pelosi reach informal deal to avoid government shutdown
Scott Wong, The Hill

Don't expect finished defense bill soon, Thornberry says
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

 

Section 809 Panel in the News

Sheryl Hanchar, Charlie Williams Join CMMC-AB Board; Ty Scheiber Quoted
GovCon Wire

Congratulations to Charlie Williams, former commissioner at the Section 809 Panel, for his appointment to the board of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification Accreditation Body.

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Debriefings and Protests

In my first big debrief as a Contracting Officer, I went to our seasoned lawyer (Tom Carroll) and said, “how do we make the unsuccessful offeror feel good?” He said, “Give them the award! But since you can’t do that, remember the unsuccessful offeror is deeply disappointed and the purpose of the debriefing is to instill in the unsuccessful offeror greater confidence that the acquisition process was executed fairly, thoroughly, and in accordance with the rules.”

Tom, our program’s attorney, advised the team that the success of the acquisition and the mitigation of protests is a direct result of the entire process being as transparent as possible. This can be accomplished by taking such steps as keeping industry advised of schedule, incrementally sharing draft documents, producing quality documents, thoroughly answering industry’s questions, and conducting all interchanges prior to award. These processes will build a foundation of trust and common understanding between industry and the government. Thoughtful management of the entire acquisition process combined with a comprehensive oral debrief can reduce misunderstandings and mitigate protests.

His last bit of advice was that you as the contracting officer are in charge! Whenever possible, do debriefs orally, provide as much information as practicable to explain the rationale for contract award, how proposals were evaluated in accordance with the solicitation, and the good and bad aspects of the offeror’s proposal so they can prepare better proposals in the future. Use your experts in the debriefing, prepare and hold a dry run, and set out ground rules for conduct of the debrief. The order of precedence for conduct of debriefings was oral face-to-face, telephonic, and last written only. 

The Section 809 Panel Recommendation #69 has recommended the transparency discussed above and the importance of effective debriefings:

Recommendation #69: Provide as part of a debriefing, in all procurements where a debriefing is required, a redacted source selection decision document and the technical evaluation of the vendor receiving the debriefing.

Excerpt below:

“Despite the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Myth-busting 3 memo, which explains how meaningful debriefings can mitigate the risk of protest, many DoD contracting agencies do not consider debriefings as a means of avoiding protests. This perception results in debriefings that many industry and private bar stakeholders described as adversarial, incomplete, and insufficient for informing unsuccessful offerors of the government’s rationale for making an award. The presumption across much of DoD appears to be that the more information that is provided at a debriefing, the more likely a disappointed offeror will use the information to file a protest.”

I think anyone who read the DoD IG Report on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud Procurement was surprised that an oral face to face debriefing was not done. It is fantastic reading and I would guess this time around (Corrective action award made 4 September) things may be different. A quick search with Ctrl+F for “debrief” gives 148 hits. It is worth the read.

September 4, 2020                                                                                                     Issue 22

This week, DOD released its annual report on China, noting the advances this adversary has made in military hardware and software. The new Air Force Chief of Staff has some thoughts about how not to lose the nation’s competitive advantage; refocusing capabilities and eliminating old programs creates a conflict with congressional desire to keep them alive—something the Navy is also navigating in determining the right balance between manned and unmanned vessels. The JEDI contract moves closer to being finalized, with the latest Oracle protest decision. And we have plenty of stories about how DoD is using AI in acquisition, rust prevention, dogfights, and more. Happy Labor Day weekend!

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #21: Acquisition Strategies for the Future

Studying the Formulation of Incremental Development Approaches​
Robert Mortlock (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract: A questionnaire asks acquisition professionals to develop an acquisition strategy for the Joint Common Missile program based on approved requirements, a technology risk assessment, and planned funding.  The work highlights that once the program’s cost and schedule parameters are planned, the program’s only risk mitigation strategy is to delay desired capability to later increments.    Read the paper and presentation

Army Modernization: Steps Needed to Ensure Army Futures Command Fully Applies Leading Practices (GAO-19-132)​
J. Kristopher Keener (U.S. GAO)

  • Micro-abstract: This report assesses (1) the status of the Army’s near- and long-term modernization efforts and (2) the extent to which the Army has applied leading practices to these efforts.  Read the paper and presentation.       

The Cultural Change Required for Rapid Defense Acquisitions
Chad Millette (Air Force Institute of Technology)

  • Micro-abstract: A study of 18 rapid acquisition case studies written by Air War College and Air Command and Staff College students identified common characteristics of organizations that perform rapid acquisitions.  Read the paper and presentation.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

New and old aircraft programs could get axed as top US Air Force general seeks ‘ruthless prioritization’ of capabilities
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

With stagnant budgets on the horizon, the U.S. Air Force is hurtling toward “the most difficult force structure decisions in generations” and must cancel programs and sacrifice some of its existing aircraft inventory to prepare for a potential fight against Russia or China, the service’s top general said Monday.

A future war with either country could entail combat losses on par with those of a major conflict like World War II, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown wrote in a paper titled “Accelerate Change or Lose,” which outlines his vision as the service’s new top uniformed leader. Brown became chief of staff of the Air Force on Aug. 6.

Although the Defense Department has focused on war with an advanced, near-peer nation since 2016, Brown raised concerns that the Air Force’s sense of urgency is not strong enough and warned of potential mission failure unless the service accelerates the pace of change.

A “ruthless prioritization” of the service’s requirements is in order, he said.

“We must reframe platform-centric debates to focus instead on capabilities to execute the mission relative to our adversaries,” he wrote. “Programs that once held promise, but are no longer affordable or will not deliver needed capabilities on competition-relevant timelines, must be divested or terminated. Cost, schedule, and performance metrics alone are no longer sufficient metrics of acquisition success.”

Read more.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Oracle Loses Another JEDI Appeal
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

Pentagon’s central AI office wants to standardize its acquisition process
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Up for grabs: A $12 billion, 10-Year Defense Department IT contract (Contracting News)
Peter Musurlian, Federal News Network

Navy Trying to Aid, Solicit Help from Small Businesses
Connie Lee, National Defense

SSA should clarify roles of contracting officials on agile projects, GAO says
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

All Others Bring Data: DAU Develops Data Analytics for DoD Managers Credential
Abel Trevino, Defense Acquisition University

US Space Force schedules pitch day for spring 2021
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Pentagon will begin new reviews of industry’s independent R&D
Tony Bertuca, Inside Defense

 

Events

Billington Cybersecurity Summit
Sep 8-9, 2020

JIFX 20-4
Joint Interagency Field Experimentation Program at NPS
Sep 14-18, 2020

How Agencies May Buy and Migrate to Cloud Computing
U.S. General Services Administration
Sep 16, 2020  |  12:00-1:00 p.m. ET

DoD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Virtual Symposium
DoD Small Business and Technology Partnerships
October 7, 2020

 

Research

Prototyping Using Other Transactions: Case Studies for the Acquisition Community
Lauren A. Mayer, Mark V. Arena, Frank Camm, Jonathan P. Wong, Gabriel Lesnick, Sarah Soliman, Edward Fernandez, Phillip Carter, Gordon T. Lee  |  RAND Corporation

Key Governance Issues in Space
Kaitlyn Johnson, Aerospace Security (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

 

Defense and Federal Government

China Is Ahead in Ship, Missile & Air Defense Tech: DoD Report
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

China moves toward new ‘intelligentized’ approach to warfare, says Pentagon
Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET

Two hypersonic weapons complete new developmental milestone
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

OMB Issues Interim Rule for Banning IT Products From Federal Systems
Mariam Baksh, Nextgov

NDIA Policy Points: Enhance Shipbuilding by Funding Unmanned Vessels
Daniel Tiznado, National Defense

A Dogfight Renews Concerns About AI's Lethal Potential
Will Knight, Wired

Navy Turns To AI To Save Billions In Fight Against Rust
Kelsey Atherton, Breaking Defense

Building the Federal Foundation for Data – A Story of Progress over Three Decades
Dan Chenok, IBM Center for The Business of Government

Top Defense Department research office names new director
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Lauren Knausenberger named Air Force deputy CIO
Billy Mitchell, Fedscoop

Cyber talent program places its first class of new feds
Jessie Bur, Federal Times

 

Policy

MEMORANDUM M-20-32: Improving Vulnerability Identification, Management, and Remediation
Office of Management and Budget

Accelerate Change or Lose
General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force Chief of Staff  

Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China: 2020 Annual Report to Congress
Office of the Secretary of Defense

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Since publishing its Volume 3 Report in 2019, the Section 809 Panel has seen plenty of activity at the congressional level on Recommendation #43, “Revise acquisition regulations to enable more flexible and effective procurement of consumption-based solutions.“

This activity includes:

  • The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 Conference Report included the following Directive Report Language (DRL) regarding Recommendation #43: "The conferees direct the Deputy Secretary of Defense in conjunction with the Chief Management Officer, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, to report to the congressional defense committees by March 15, 2020, on the feasibility of using consumption-based solutions as a procurement option to include recommended definitions, processes, contract types, and funding approaches."
  • The Senate version of the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2021 includes “SEC. 884. Pilot Program Exploring the use of Consumption-Based Solutions to Address Software-Intensive Warfighting Capability.” Recommendation #43 forms the basis for SEC. 884 and is explicitly referenced and quoted.
  • National Academy of Public Administration Testimony Before the Budget Committee, U.S. House of Representatives, July 15, 2020: “Recommendation 43 specifically addresses the procurement of consumption based services such as cloud computing and gets directly to the core of the challenge: The FAR unrealistically categorizes all purchases as either supplies or services. This distinction, established decades ago, is too rigid to effectively procure modern technology solutions with evolving delivery models. Solutions include hardware, software, and labor/services that together provide a seamless capability. Acquisition professionals struggle to determine whether certain solutions should be procured as a supply or a service, often leading to contracts that are neither optimized nor appropriate for the solution being acquired.”

What is a Consumption-Based Solution?

Any combination of hardware/equipment, software, and labor/services that together provide a seamless capability that is metered and billed based on actual usage and predetermined pricing per resource unit and that includes the ability to rapidly scale capacity up or down.

Why did the 809 Panel tackle this topic?

The FAR unrealistically categorizes all purchases as either supplies or services, a decades old distinction that is too rigid to effectively procure modern technology solutions with evolving delivery models.

  • IT was previously considered an investment; now it can be bought as a utility.
  • Like everyone else, the government will be buying more consumption-based solutions in the future.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS) is now the norm; we used to only buy software as a supply.
  • The acquisition team needs a tool to buy services in harmony with the commercial marketplace.

I spoke with Nick Tsiopanas (lead 809 Panel author and NPS SME Advisor for Recommendation #43) about other activity from DoD and the Services. There was interest from some potential adopters after he briefed consumption-based solutions at the 2019 National Contract Management Association (NCMA) Government Contract Management Symposium. One Head of Contracting Activity (HCA) encouraged their contracting personnel to consider use if they were buying services. There were additional inquiries by other potential adopters after the 2020 NCMA World Congress.

Recommendation #43 is an informative read and addresses the problem of buying today’s solutions with yesterday’s rules. It includes exempting purchases of consumption-based solutions from traditional service contracting rules and creates a new contract type optimized for these types of purchases. This recommendation provides a standardized approach to buying cloud-based, telecommunications-related, and other solutions that tend to be sold via consumption-based models.

Consumption-based purchasing is here, and has been here for commercial industry for some time now. Congress is interested in implementing new policy, and there are changes DoD can make now. It is time to revise DoD-specific regulations, policies, and guidance regarding service contracting, and to encourage and expedite the use of consumption-based solutions.

August 28, 2020                                                                                                          Issue 22

This week, we’re continuing to see reports on consolidation of federal IT acquisition and cloud capabilities. The defense budget team at CSIS has released their report analyzing the FY2021 President’s Budget and the DOD FYDP, showing declines overall and in procurement, as well as other priority shifts. Several articles examine the state of professional military education, as well as the technology through which learning is happening. And our top story is a summary of a particularly interesting research report from the ARP repository, suggesting a modeling technique that can assist with retention strategies for the acquisition workforce. 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

 

Panel #19: Cost Estimating in Defense Acquisition

There is Cost Growth and then there is Cost Growth; Do They Have the Same Causes?
David McNicol (Institute for Defense Analyses)

  • Micro-abstract:  Do we have a theory of cost growth that can, without contortions or ad hoc assumptions, explain the full range of cost growth that we observe, from the negative to the extremely large?  Read the presentation.

Strategic Cost Estimation: Understanding Resource Tradeoffs in China's Defense Modernization Efforts
John Bianchi (Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

  • Micro-abstract: This research enables the analysis of alternative future PLA modernization trajectories, which will support the development of robust and adaptable U.S. strategies, operational concepts, modernization plans, and basing and posture arrangements.   Read the paper and presentation.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Will They Stay or Will They Go? Using Data Analysis to Predict–and Improve–Acquisition Workforce Retention

How can the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of the Navy (DoN) grow and shape the civilian acquisition workforce to deliver world-class warfighting capabilities for the U.S. military? This question has plagued DoD, DoN, and the federal government for decades. Two Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) faculty members are developing a data-driven approach that will allow DoD leadership and human resources managers to forecast an acquisition professional's choice to stay in the workforce or to leave based on his or her socio-demographic, academic, and professional background. This approach will enable leadership to make strategic, informed policy decisions about recruiting, retention, and incentives that cultivate an efficient, diverse, and motivated workforce for the long run.

NPS faculty members Tom Ahn and Amilcar Menichini are developing a Dynamic Retention Model, which uses a powerful mathematical technique called dynamic programming. In their 2019 report “Retention Analysis Modeling for the Acquisition Workforce,” Ahn and Menichini explain how this tool can predict where DoD and DoN can most effectively focus energy and resources to retain and develop members of the acquisition workforce not only for the immediate future, but also for decades ahead. This study addresses a known problem in the defense acquisition workforce – a high percentage of employees (over 50%) are currently within 10 years of retirement age, and there are not enough younger workers to balance this seniority and fill the gaps that will come with the upcoming surge in retirement.

Using data from Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), the authors tracked over 13,000 DoD acquisition professionals across four decades. They find two factors that have substantial impact on retention: prior military experience and education level. If an acquisition professional comes to the workforce from military service, they are more likely to remain. Their conclusion: “leadership should augment recruiting from active duty to seamlessly transition them into the civilian workforce.” Additionally, more education equals longer careers. This is especially true for employees who earn master’s degrees mid-career; this group has the longest career. Here, the key takeaways are that leadership “should be ambitious in recruiting advanced degree holders” and "invest in the workforce by encouraging/subsidizing education without worrying about brain drain.”

Read more.

 

NPS News

Astronaut, Aquanaut Shares Unconventional Leadership Journey During NPS Virtual Lecture
Nathan K. Serpico, Naval Postgraduate School

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Launch of IT vendor management office part of next phase of category management
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

DISA to launch $11B, single-award Defense Enclaves Services IT contract in September
Jackson Barnett, FedScoop

The next steps in schedules consolidation – towards frictionless, best value acquisition
Roger Waldron, Federal News Network

US Army buys two new supercomputers to meet data analytics demand
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Microsoft plans cloud contract push with foreign governments after $10 billion JEDI win
Jordan Novet, CNBC

Shipbuilders approve 3-year pact, ending months-long strike at Bath Iron Works
David Sharp, The Associated Press

U.S. military allies seek to block new ‘Buy American’ initiatives
Tony Bertuca, Inside Defense

US Space Force schedules pitch day for spring 2021
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Armaments consortium launches new path to field high-tech prototypes
Joe Gould, Defense News

 

Events

Incorporating Logistics into Wargames with Dr. Hank Donnelly
George Washington University Wargaming Society
September 1, 2020  |  6:00-8:00 p.m. ET

Rethinking U.S. Industrial Policy and Innovation Strategy
Center for Strategic and International Studies
September 2, 2020  |  9:00-9:45 a.m. ET

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

Here’s What Might Not Survive COVID Budget Cuts
Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One

 

Research

Analysis of the FY 2021 Defense Budget
Todd Harrison and Seamus P. Daniels, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Defense360

Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda for 2021
National Academy of Public Administration

 

Defense and Federal Government

Esper Discusses Moves Needed to Counter China's Malign Strategy
Jim Garamone, DoD News

Milley To OK New Unified Command Plan; Defines SPACECOM’s Roles
Theresa Hitchens, Breaking Defense

Pentagon’s new space organizations take shape as leadership comes onboard
Valerie Insinna, Defense News

Rolls-Royce backs hypersonic-power specialist Reaction Engines with new investment
Andrew Chuter, Defense News

Don’t Just Copy and Paste: A Better Model for Managing Military Technologists
Jim Perkins, Richard Kuzma, and James Long. War on the Rocks.

Lack of U.S. Warship Repair Capacity Worrying Navy
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

All of the DOD can now use Microsoft’s secret cloud
Billy Mitchell, FedScoop

Drone maker General Atomics lays off hundreds
Joe Gould and Valerie Insinna, Defense News

OMB launches data reskilling pilot
Mark Rockwell, FCW

 

Education

Soldier-Scholar (Pick One): Anti-Intellectualism in the American Military
James Joyner, War on the Rocks

Airmen, Sailors, and the Schoolhouse (PODCAST)
Mark Conversino, Joan Johnson-Freese, and Ryan Evans. War on the Rocks

Coming soon: A one-stop-shop for information about DOD’s online courses
Jackson Barnett, FedScoop

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

I recently read an excellent Report, “Modernizing and Reinvigorating the Public Workforce: An Agenda for 2021,” by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA). The report included recommendations for developing a modern federal civil service to include hiring reform. Numerous of NAPA’s recommendations complement Section 809 Panel recommendations on the acquisition workforce, but the one that caught my eye was “Reduce the number of security clearance requirements.”

 “Federal agencies and contractors have recognized for years that the security clearance process is one of the worst bottlenecks in the hiring process. Changes have been made to the process, background investigations have been moved to OPM, then moved out of OPM to the Department of Defense, all in the name of simplifying the process. The most fundamental change the next Administration should make is to reduce the number of positions that require a security clearance. Many positions that never have access to classified information require Secret or Top Secret clearances or equivalent. Employees who have access to employee data solely for processing personnel actions are often subjected to lengthy background investigations. The appearance is that the default decision is to require a clearance if there is any doubt at all. The result is a backlog of background investigations, millions of dollars spent investigating current and potential employees, and delays in the hiring process that can last a year or more. A combination of a reduced number of clearances and new processes such as continuous evaluation of employees, could make the clearance process a minor delay, rather than the showstopper it often becomes.”

As NAPA points out, there is a need to reduce and change the process of application of security clearances in the hiring process of government personnel. The Section 809 Panel applied the same rationale to defense contractors. Rather than play it safe and require a clearance for every defense contractor, Recommendation #77 argues that role-based planning would allow contracts to provide support based on job roles: some employees on the contract might need security clearances; others may not. Most government contractors work on unclassified programs and do not require national security clearances. Unnecessary requirements for cleared personnel place a substantial burden on contractor companies and disincentivize hiring new, innovative employees from the commercial marketplace.

Actions that we can take now include:

  • Ensure all security clearance requirements follow the need-to-know principle of the National Industrial Security Program
  • Use role-based planning to prevent unnecessary application of security clearance and investigation requirements to contracts (DD 254)
  • Include personnel clearance planning in programs of instruction for DoD acquisition professionals and personnel generating contract investigation and clearance requirements

As NAPA, Section 809 Panel and others have pointed out, we need a process to reduce the number of unnecessary clearances both in government hiring and defense contractors. For unclassified DoD contracts, the apparent fallback position of requiring all cleared personnel is a costly burden to the government and the contractor. Doing so incentivizes contractors to provide cleared personnel, which can cause DoD to settle for an expedient solution instead of hiring quality personnel, while highly qualified applicants move to nondefense opportunities. DoD needs to attract talent from the commercial marketplace where most innovation and technology development now take place. The personnel who work in this marketplace generally do not have security clearances, and many are not willing to subject themselves to either the inconvenience associated with the process or the protracted delay waiting for the results of an investigation and adjudication. It stands to reason that an individual with in-demand skills would prefer a more streamlined hiring process without such dependencies.

August 21, 2020                                                                                                          Issue 21

Our lead story is that FPDS, the workhorse database for federal contracting, will soon be retiring. Farewell, old friend! The Defense News Top 100 list is out, and coverage of this year’s ranking of global defense contractors adds to the many articles this week about China’s complicated role in the supply chain. Ellen Lord gave a press conference on Thursday, covering software acquisition and development, supply chain changes, and COVID-19 efforts. And speculation remains about the prospect and impacts of a continuing resolution. That’s what you need to know this week. Happy Friday!

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #18: Cost and Pricing in the 21st Century

Understanding and Modeling the Life-Cycle Cost Tradeoffs Associated with the Procurement of Open Systems
Peter Sandborn (University of Maryland), Shao-Peng Chen (University of Maryland), William Lucyshyn (University of Maryland)

  • Micro-abstract: This paper develops a multivariate model that quantifies the relationship between system openness and life-cycle cost. A case study that evaluates the utility of the second phase of the Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (A-RCI) Sonar System’s evolution to an open system is discussed.  Read the paper.

The Last Frontier of Acquisition Reform: The Budget Process​
Eric Lofgren (Mercatus Center)

  • Micro-abstract: This paper proposes a 21st century agenda for budget reform, including specific examples of how Army appropriations can be gradually reclassified.  Read the paper.

Budget Forecasting for US Marine Corps Corrective Maintenance Costs
Eddine Dahel (Naval Postgraduate School)

  • Micro-abstract: By combining and analyzing data from a variety of independent sources, including financial, maintenance, and transportation data, two classes of models were developed to assist maintenance budget planners develop accurate forecasts of corrective maintenance costs. Read the paper.

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

FPDS Reports Will Officially Move to beta.SAM by Mid-October
Aaron Boyd, Nextgov

As of October 17, federal vendors, contracting researchers and watchers and any other interested party, will no longer be able to run or access contract award data reports through the Federal Procurement Data System at FPDS.gov.

On that date, the General Services Administration expects to have completed the full migration of FDPS’s reporting functions—administrative, static, standard and ad hoc reports—to the beta.SAM.gov website under the Data Bank page.

“At that time, beta.SAM.gov will be the only place to create and run contract data reports and the reports module in FPDS.gov will be retired,” according to an update in GSA’s new beta.SAM.gov newsletter.

GSA officials urged users to test out the new Data Bank system prior to the October 17 deadline and offer feedback on how the agency can improve the site and user interface. Users are also advised to go to the reports history section on beta.SAM to check on ad hoc reports that were transferred over from FPDS.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Been There, Done That: AI Needs Data
Charles Pickar, Army ALT Magazine

This article on how to apply AI to acquisition comes from Dr. Pickar, an ARP researcher and NPS faculty member who teaches program management, acquisition and systems engineering in the Graduate School of Defense Management.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

DOD's China-tech waiver targets high-volume buys, excludes major weapons systems
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

Commerce Department Further Restricts Huawei Access to U.S. Technology and Adds Another 38 Affiliates to the Entity List
U.S. Department of Commerce

Pentagon’s acquisition chief wants microelectronics production to return to the US
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Major DAU Partnership To Bring DoD and Industry Closer Together
Kendell Penington, Defense Acquisition University

DoD’s Lord Updates CMMC Pathfinder, Database Progress
John Curran, MeriTalk

Suzette Kent presses for multi-year IT funding to boost government transformation
Billy Mitchell, Fedscoop

4 lessons from SBA’s $30M Certify platform debacle
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

SOCOM didn't consistently document whether more than $800 million in gear met key performance metrics or not
Jared Keller, Task and Purpose

Ellen M. Lord, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Briefs Media at the Pentagon (TRANSCRIPT)
U.S. Department of Defense

 

Events

“Ask Me Anything” About ABMS with Dr. Will Roper
August 25, 2020  |  2:30-4:00 p.m. ET

Online Event: Book Talk: T-Minus AI with Michael Kanaan
Center for Strategic & International Studies
August 28, 2020  |  11:00-11:45 a.m. ET

Incorporating Logistics into Wargames with Dr. Hank Donnelly
George Washington University Wargaming Society
September 1, 2020  |  6:00-8:00 p.m. ET

2020 Virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference
United States Air Force Association
September 14-16, 2020

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

Army a Potential Bill Payer for COVID-19 Costs
Jon Harper, National Defense

Lord defends request for contractor COVID-19 relief: 'I don't write blank checks'
Tony Bertuca, Inside Defense

After early surge, pandemic buying stabilizes for GWACs
Mark Rockwell, FCW

 

Research

Raising the Flag: Implications of U.S. Military Approaches to General and Flag Officer Development
Kimberly Jackson, Katherine L. Kidder, Sean Mann, William H. Waggy II, Natasha Lander, S. Rebecca Zimmerman (RAND Corporation)

Space Traffic Management: Assessment of the Feasibility, Expected Effectiveness, and Funding Implications of a Transfer of Space Traffic Management Functions
National Academy of Public Administration

Allied Economic Forum: Lessons Learned (A Highly Interdependent World)
Dylan Gerstel, Stephanie Segal, and Matthew P. Goodman, Center for Strategic & International Studies

GAO to Suggest More than 100 Ways to Secure Federal IT Supply Chains
Mila Jasper, Nextgov

 

Defense and Federal Government

‘No lines on the battlefield’: Pentagon’s new war-fighting concept takes shape
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Six considerations from the Defense News Top 100 list
Byron Callan, Defense News

Number of Foreign Companies Within Defense Supply Chain Grew Over Past Decade, Report Says
Mila Jasper, Nextgov

Army gets prototype for cyber visualization tool
Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET

Top US Navy chief talks connecting tech, recovering from accidents
David B. Larter, Defense News

New Pentagon Plan To Link CoComs, Services Faces ‘Flat’ 2022 Budget
Paul McLeary, Breaking Defense

HHS CIO Arrieta unexpectedly resigns
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

DoD OKs companies for safe drone production to wean off reliance on China
Scott Maucione, Federal News Network

Committee creating the Federal Data Service to finally meet
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

Commentary: We Need to Reorganize More than the Military
Steve Ferenzi and Keith Weber, Defense One

Commentary: Lessons on Aging [the Navy] Gracefully
Josh Portzer, Arturo Trejo, and Tommy Shannon

 

Policy

Memorandum: Class Deviation—Section 3610 Reimbursement Requests

Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

New Policy Documents Provide Power to AAF
Abel Trevino, Defense Acquisition University

Modernizing and Reinvigorating the Public Workforce: An Agenda for 2021
National Academy of Public Administration

 

Education

How DOD is updating its online education systems
Lauren C. Williams, FCW

Coronavirus Returns to USAFA as School Year Begins
Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Magazine
 

Congress

Continuing Resolution Could Hit Space Force Hard
Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

The Section 809 Panel’s Bold Recommendation on Technology Oversight

In formulating its recommendations, the Section 809 Panel had three overarching principles:

  • BOLD: Bold solutions to reverse the current course of failed tinkering and incremental approaches to reform.
  • SIMPLE: Cleaning out the regulatory underbrush so goods and services can be purchased in a timely manner without unnecessary burden.
  • EFFECTIVE: Reform for an agile, results-driven acquisition process compelled by our nation’s strategic needs.

Recommendation #44 “Exempt DoD from Clinger–Cohen Act Provisions in Title 40” met all three of these principles.

When this recommendation was released, defense journalist Jason Miller noted that “The Section 809 panel caused quite a hubbub with its recommendation to exempt the Defense Department from the Clinger-Cohen Act—the seminal technology management law from 1996.”

“So now, after two decades, compliance is so utterly complicated and cumbersome (e.g., the Department of Defense Architecture Framework) that it’s unmanageable — something 809 rightfully concluded. It’s not the law so much as the cumulative weight of the OMB and agency implementation guidance, self-perpetuating IT management practices and the ‘self-licking ice cream cone’ support contractors who make gobs of money ‘helping’ government comply.”

The article included numerous acquisition experts surprised that the Section 809 panel made such a hardline and somewhat shocking recommendation. Yet they all seemed to agree there was a problem with the relevance of Clinger-Cohen Act (CCA) to current challenges such as buying IT-as-a-service, the role of the Chief Information Officer, and how CCA was being implemented.

When a recommendation gets such interest, it must tell us we hit a nerve with the developers of CCA, the contractors who support program offices, and the frozen middle who review and audit the CCA checklists. Our recommendation may have been bold, but there is newer legislation, including FITARA and the FY18 NDAA, that give the CIO specific authority over IT programs and budgets. Additionally, cybersecurity requirements exist in numerous places, including FISMA, the FITARA scorecard, and the cybersecurity strategy required as part of the program protection plan.

Recommendation #44 documents that CCA authority and oversight is duplicative, has become a checklist audit document, and is no longer needed. It appears Recommendation #44 was too Bold for Congressional consideration for now.  Certainly all would agree we don’t need to implement the CCA as a checklist for the contract file. DoD should look at how we can streamline the process, power down approvals to reduce review times, and push with Congress to exempt DoD from the Clinger Cohen Act.

August 14, 2020                                                                                                          Issue 20

What a week! The JEDI contract may be on hold again. Implementation of contract terms banning Chinese technology in the supply chain is officially in effect, although the terms are still unclear. DOD has recently released three new policy documents in line with the Adaptive Acquisition Framework. The Space Force has released its new doctrine on space as a warfighting domain. And we happily announce a new collaboration with the American Society of Naval Engineers, represented as a special section of ARP symposium papers published in the latest issue of Naval Engineers Journal. Enjoy, and Happy Friday!

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #17: Performance of the Defense Acquisition System

Defense Acquisition Trends 2020: A Preliminary Look
Rhys McCormick (Center for Strategic and International Studies), Andrew Hunter (Center for Strategic and International Studies)

  • Micro-abstract:  This year’s study focuses on whether there is an ongoing transformation in the defense acquisition system in response to the 2018 National Defense Strategy and use of new acquisition approaches such as Middle Tier acquisition and Other Transaction Authority Agreements.   Read the Paper.              

Building a Broader Base for Evidence-Based Acquisition Policymaking
Jeff Drezner (RAND Corporation), Elizabeth Bartels (RAND Corporation), Joel Predd (The RAND Corporation)

  • Micro-abstract: This report, intended for acquisition professionals, summarizes the case for a broader evidence base for policymaking and then focuses on one specific tool that we suggest may add analytic value: policy gaming.  Read the Paper.        

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

Ban on Chinese products starts today despite confusion over acquisition rule
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

The second and more arduous deadline for agencies and vendors to ensure they are no longer using certain Chinese made telecommunications products and services is here, and few are happy about it.

Industry and agencies alike continue to sound the alarm about the potential and real impacts of the interim rule implementing part B of Section 889 of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

“There is likely going to be significant impacts that will be felt across the federal sector,” said one government official, who requested anonymity in order to talk more candidly about the interim rule. “It’s very clear that the Defense Department and other agencies fully support the intent of the rule. We all know there is a lot of information about how China transmitted data and stole intellectual property so the intent of the rule is to protect our national security is good. But there will be unintended consequences because of how the specific language was written.”

Under the interim rule, which remains open for comments through mid-September, agencies cannot award new contracts, task orders or modify existing contracts to any vendor who doesn’t self-certify that they are not using products from Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei.

Read more.

 

ARP and NPS News

Special collaboration with ASNE’s Naval Engineers Journal
ARP is thrilled to announce our collaboration with the American Society of Naval Engineers in the latest issue of Naval Engineers Journal. This prestigious journal has been in publication since 1888. The June 2020 issue showcases six technical reports from the ARP symposium on topics including systems engineering, the technology OODA loop, acquiring artificial intelligence, open systems architecture, and more. Normally this journal is behind a paywall for ASNE members only. This month, ARP friends get a full view of the whole issue, including the special ARP section.

Build Your Team’s Resilience — From Home
David Sluss and Edward Powley, Harvard Business Review
This article features research from faculty in NPS’s Graduate School of Defense Management—and it gives advice on succeeding in the new normal.

Rear Adm. Michelle Skubic Confirmed as DLA Director
Matthew Nelson, ExecutiveGov
Skubic studied acquisition and contract management as a student in the Graduate School of Defense Management at NPS. Congratulations to this alumna!

 

Acquisition and Innovation

New ‘color of money’ for DOD software gaining traction, Lord says
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Deloitte wins $106 million contract with the Pentagon’s AI hub
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Major federal procurement rule gets first try with DoD and NASA
Tom Temin, Federal News Network

The Pentagon is failing to scale emerging technology, senior leaders say
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Air Force moving Project Maven into Advanced Battle Management System portfolio
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Pentagon Requests More Time to Review JEDI Cloud Contract Bids
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

Commentary: Biotech Acquisitions a Different Ballgame for Defense Department
Eric Du, National Defense

 

Events

The DoD Budget Process: The Next Frontier of Acquisition Reform
George Mason University Center for Government Contracting
August 19, 2020  2:30 p.m. ET

“From Sea to Space and Back Again: Lessons from an Unconventional Leadership Journey” – Secretary of the Navy Guest Lecture with Dr. Kathryn Sullivan
Naval Postgraduate School
August 25, 2020  3:00 p.m. PT

2020 Defense News Conference
Keynote speakers include Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, The Hon. Ellen M. Lord, Gen. John E. Hyten, and The Hon. David Norquist
September 9-10, 2020

US Air Force STTR HBCU Virtual Collider
August 19-20, 2020 

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

DEFAERO Report Daily Podcast with Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment, Alan Shaffer
Defense & Aerospace Report

Coronavirus Impacting B-21 Bomber Program
Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense

Operation Warp Speed on Track for End-of-Year Vaccine Delivery
Jim Garamone, DoD News

Geurts: Navy Modernization At Risk Without COVID-19 Acquisition Relief Funds
Mallory Shelbourne, USNI News

 

Research

Next Generation Defense Strategy: Space
Sarah Mineiro, Center for a New American Security

 

Defense and Federal Government

VA targets October for modernized EHR launch
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

The new strategy from Navy’s cyber command
Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET

Air Force's Hypersonic Weapon Hits 'Major Milestone' in New Test
Bing Xiao, Military.com

Flournoy: Next defense secretary needs ‘big bets’ to boost ’eroding’ deterrence
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Initial efforts to merge OPM and GSA cost more money, watchdog finds
Jessie Bur, Federal Times

DEF CON Hackers Compete to Hijack a Satellite in Orbit
B. David Zarley, Freethink

Truth Dies First: Storyweapons on the InfoOps Battlefield
Renny Gleeson, The Cyber Defense Review

Griffin joins Rocket Lab board following Pentagon exit
Nathan Strout, C4ISRNET

Space Force: New Service’s Future Coming into Focus
Yasmin Tadjdeh, National Defense

New Pentagon tech chief to focus on improving project coordination
Andrew Eversden, Defense News

 

Policy

DoD Instruction 5000.85: Major Capability Acquisition
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment

DoD Instruction 5000.84: Analysis of Alternatives
Office of the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation

DoD Instruction 5000.83: Technology and Program Protection to Maintain Technological Advantage
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering

Space Capstone Publication: Spacepower
Headquarters, United States Space Force

 

Education

Air University teaches space as a warfighting domain
Phil Berube, Air University

Naval Academy to hold mix of in-person and online learning
The Associated Press, Navy Times

Military students — unsure of what to expect for online classes in the fall? You aren’t alone
Hannah Graf and Leo Shane III, Navy Times  

 

Congress

Lawmakers Want More AI for Military
Jon Harper, National Defense

Senate Confirms Air Force, Space Force Leaders
Brian W. Everstine, Air Force Magazine

What the Rest of Government Should Watch When the Defense Authorization Bill Goes to Conference
Mariam Baksh, Nextgov

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Get to know a Section 809 Recommendation. This week: the expertise behind #74, which calls for eliminating redundant acquisition documentation.

Recommendation 74 achieves at least two goals: it streamlines acquisition processes, and it allows contracting officers to spend more time on customer support. This recommendation was developed by contracting officers from each military service who were motivated to find solutions for duplicative requirements that routinely frustrate them and unnecessarily slow down the contracting process. Some of the changes called for in Recommendation 74 can be done today, such as combining the acquisition strategy and acquisition plan. But culture has not let this consolidation become the normal course of business.

One of the largest changes I’ve seen in my career was in the Mid-1990s when Secretary of Defense Dr. William Perry’s released the Military Specifications and Standards memorandum. This memo changed the norm from Military Specifications and Standards to use of Performance Specifications and Standards when purchasing new systems, major modifications, upgrades to current systems, and non-developmental and commercial items, for programs in any acquisition category. The reason it was effective in changing the culture was that the use of Military Specifications and Standards were now authorized as a last resort, and their use required an appropriate high level waiver, i.e., Milestone Decision Authority. For example, at the Army the approval of any acquisition that did not use Performance Specifications and Standards required a General Officer or SES equivalent. This motivated people to use Performance Specifications and Standards because it did not require a higher level approval.

DoD can help change the culture immediately by implementing a major piece of Recommendation 74 by consolidating Acquisition Strategies, Acquisition Plans, and other documentation into one document. DoD should then issue guidance that Acquisition Strategies and Acquisition Plans shall be one document and will include other higher level approval documents, such as justification for single award >$112m IDIQ contracts and justification for use of an incentive or award fee contract. Once this guidance is released, a memorandum should be issued making this consolidation a "shall" and requiring a waiver be approved by GO or SES if not used. 

August 7, 2020                                                                                                            Issue 19

In the good news category: DOD is making strides with digital transformation, cloud capabilities, and connecting information systems and people.  In the bad news category: negotiations over defense spending remain tricky, not just in the annual appropriations bills but in the latest COVID-19 stimulus package. Today’s article by Niv Elis suggests that Congress “is likely to pass a stopgap measure to keep the government funded and prevent a shutdown ahead of November’s elections.” Our news also features updates on the JEDI contract, fortuitously paired with Larry Asch’s thoughts and research on bid protests. From ARP, we bring the latest symposium panel and the next student research video, which suggests acquisition decisions might be impacted by cognitive biases.

 

ARP Research: Symposium Spotlight

Panel #16: Improving Schedule Estimates in MDAPS

Program Duration, Funding Climate, and Acquisition Policy
David McNicol (Institute for Defense Analyses)

  • Micro-abstract: Estimated program duration was found to have a weak negative association with funding climate; that is, major defense acquisition programs that pass Milestone (MS) B in a boom climate tend to be of shorter duration than those that pass MS B in a bust climate. Read the Presentation.      

Using ANOVA and Multinomial Logistic Regression to Analyze Defense Acquisition Executive Summary (DAES) and Acquisition Program Baseline (APB) Milestone Estimates to Determine Contributing Factors to Schedule Slips
Brian Joseph (OUSD(A&S)), Christopher Hastings (OUSD(A&S))

  • Micro-abstract: Our research found that significant mean rank differences exist in all categories and across all schedule slip variables and that as one-month increases occur in the four derived schedule slip variables, there are significant odds that various factor categories are likely to have contributed to that increase in schedule slip.  Read the Paper.      

It's About Time: Toward Realistic Schedule Estimates
Charles Pickar (Naval Postgraduate School), Raymond Franck (United States Air Force Academy)

  • Micro-abstract: Defense acquisition schedules have long been a difficult problem. System dynamics and considering the role and thinking of the human in project management and scheduling offer a tool to examine the execution of aerospace system developments. In this effort, we consider primarily the case of the Boeing 737MAX, which has been a fortuitous example of the risks of scheduling-by-fiat. Read the Paper.      

See more research in the full Proceedings of the 17th Annual Acquisition Research Symposium.

 

This Week’s Top Story

DoD CIO attempts to remove non-technical obstacles to digital transformation
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

For Defense Department chief information officer Dana Deasy, digital transformation was never just about the cloud.

This is why making the Air Force’s dev/sec/ops program, known as Platform One, a DoDwide enterprisewide service is an important milestone.

Deasy said Platform One will make it easier for the military services and defense agencies to modernize applications.

“My office recently designated one of the most mature dev/sec/ops platforms within the department, the Air Force Platform One, as an enterprise service which has the effect of making this capability broadly-available across the DoD. That designation also links directly into the software acquisition policy released by Acquisition and Sustainment that encourages both the uses of dev/sec/ops and adoption of existing enterprise services,” Deasy said during a briefing with reporters on July 30. “While we tend to focus on technology when we talk about software, it is important to acknowledge that progress is delivering — delivering capability more rapidly will depend as much on non-technical enablers such as changes to acquisition policy, cyber risk acceptance processes, as the technical capabilities.”

Read more.

 

ARP News

Student Research Video: Decision Biases in Acquisition Decisions within Defense Acquisition Programs

NPS student James K. Kiesling shares research conducted with his partner Diane M. Chong on the understudied role of decision biases in acquisition and program management.

 

Acquisition and Innovation

Air Force’s game-changing approach to cloud accreditation
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

US Air Force reveals Skyborg acquisition strategy
Pat Host, Janes

Pentagon CIO says the department’s cloud efforts are more than just JEDI
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Deasy: Biggest JEDI mistake was letting the narrative slip away from DOD
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

To keep weapon sales in place, US offers new options for payment
Aaron Mehta, Defense News

Changes to the CMMC Advisory Board as Congress turns up scrutiny of cyber standards
Jason Miller, Federal News Network

Why defense programs should fix cost and schedule, not technical, baselines
Eric Lofgren, Acquisition Talk

The Cancellation Heard ‘Round the Beltway: A2SB
The Pulse

GSA begins Phase 3 of Multiple Award Schedule consolidation
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

 

Events (Upcoming)

2020 Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition
Joint Artificial Intelligence Center
September 9 & 10, 2020

 

COVID-19 and Contracting

E-Marketplaces in the Time of COVID-19
Robert A. Burton, Nextgov

HHS, DOD Collaborate With Johnson & Johnson to Produce Millions of COVID-19 Investigational Vaccine Doses
U.S. Department of Defense

 

Research

Special Report: Lessons Learned for Department of Defense Acquisition Officials During Acquisition Reform
U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General

Information Technology: Federal Agencies and OMB Need to Continue to Improve Management and Cybersecurity
U.S. Government Accountability Office

Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress
Congressional Research Service

Building a Broader Evidence Base for Defense Acquisition Policymaking
Elizabeth M. Bartels, Jeffrey A. Drezner, Joel B. Predd, RAND Corporation

Defense Workforce: DOD Needs to Assess Its Use of Term and Temporary Appointments
U.S. Government Accountability Office

 

Defense and Federal Government

The Army migrated one of the world’s largest financial systems to the cloud 7 months ahead of schedule
Jackson Barnett, Fedscoop

Annual Government Spending Approaches Historic Territory
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

Air Force Research Laboratory Will Realign, Not Split
Shaun Waterman, Air Force Magazine

Two US Army projects seek to improve comms between soldiers and AI
Andrew Eversden, C4ISRNET

Stackley: Combined L3Harris Technology Will Compete to Build New Navy Distributed Battle Networks
Megan Eckstein, USNI News

FITARA grades mostly hold, improve amid agencies shift to remote work
Dave Nyczepir, Fedscoop

 

Policy

Memorandum: Air Force Guidance Establishing Representative Anthropometric Design Specifications for the Department of the United States Air Force Acquisitions Programs
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Acquisition, Technology & Logistics)

Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers
The White House

Integrating Components of the GPRA Modernization Act and Evidence Act to Improve Organizational Performance
Performance.gov

 

Education

New Community College of the Air Force degree coming for thousands of airmen
Stephen Losey, Air Force Times

 

Congress

House approves $1.3 trillion spending package for 2021
Niv Elis, The Hill

With billions of dollars at stake, let’s responsibly and deliberately spend America’s funds
Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Adam Smith

Next coronavirus relief package must include a big defense boost, GOP leaders argue
Leo Shane III, Military Times

Pentagon nominee slams the US Navy’s fleet plans as ‘not a credible document’
David B. Larter and Joe Gould, Defense News

 

Acquisition Tips and Tools, with Larry Asch

Question: Is there a fear of protests, and is it affecting our acquisition strategies and behavior?

Answer: Absolutely. It causes less innovation and leads to strategies that people think are protest bulletproof, e.g., OTA, SBIR Phase 3, and ANC 8a. I recommend you develop acquisition strategies in accordance with the science of good acquisition practices and procedures, work as a multi-functional team (including contracting and legal) and have one agenda: execute the acquisition to best meet the mission of your customer in the smartest and most efficient and effective way possible.

Some of these protest bulletproof strategies sound too good to be true—and you know what they say, “if it is too good to be true….”  Bottom line: fear of a protest should never be the reason to choose an acquisition strategy. Note that one of the findings from the 2014 ARP paper summarized below is, “The greater a contracting officer’s competence level, the lower the level fear of protest.” The contracting officer can easily be replaced with the acquisition team’s competence.

Worried about protests? Here are a few steps to mitigate the risks:

  • Treat all contractors equally – no bias toward a particular vendor.
  • Have strong multi-functional integrated product team involvement to ensure quality products.
  • Don’t throw products over the fence to contracting; work as a team to review.
  • Keep industry engaged through incremental drafts, whether sole source or competitive.
  • Do detailed market research. There is a big difference between contractor marketing and market research.
  • Plan early and often. Acquisitions take time.
  • The science of acquisition is important. If your team needs help, read the DoD Acquisition Pathways. It gives great information and steps to get your acquisition done right, e.g., DoDI 5000.74 for Services Acquisition and DoDI 5000.75 for Defense Business Systems.

Below are four additional sources on fear of protests.

  1. 23 years of data on GAO Bid Protests (Wifcon)
     
  2. GAO Bid Protests: Trends and Analysis (Congressional Research Service)

“Fear of a protest could prompt officials to try to structure a contract in a manner they deem less likely to be protested.” A majority of respondents believes that in most acquisitions:

  • Stringent rules restrict procurement package preparation to avoid protest, rather than improve acquisition.
  • Pre-proposal discussions are curtailed to avoid the appearance of improper discussions.
  • Post selection debriefings are “dumbed down” to avoid protest.
  • Both Lowest Price Technically Acceptable and Multiple Award contracts are used to avoid protests.
  • Legitimate sole source providers are re-competed to avoid protests.
  • Important requirements are not used as award criteria to avoid protests.

 

  1. What are the Effects of Protest Fear? (Thesis from students in Naval Postgraduate School’s Acquisition Research Program)

Fear of the real or perceived consequences of receiving a bid protest exists. U.S. Navy contracting officers have some concern of protests. The greatest concerns are a few instances of inappropriate uses of lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) and the reduced technical evaluation effectiveness attributed to fear of protests. Other consequences on acquisition strategies include the following:

    • The level of fear of protest has a negative effect on technical evaluation effectiveness, while a positive relationship exists between technical evaluation effectiveness and contractor performance.
    • There is a direct positive relationship between fear of protest and the source selection method appropriateness, while there is a positive correlation between the appropriateness of a source selection and contractor performance.
    • There is a direct positive relationship between fear of protest and both transaction costs and the actual procurement administrative lead time.
  1. Section 809 Panel Recommendation #67: Reduce Potential Bid Protest Processing Time by Eliminating the Opportunity to File a Protest with the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) after Filing at the Government Accountability Office and Require the COFC to Issue a Decision within 100 Days of Ordering a Procurement Be Delayed

Bid protest authority was not codified until Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) specifically provided for the Procurement Protest System now codified at 31 USC § 3551. The GAO Comptroller General is charged with “providing for the inexpensive and expeditious resolution of protests” filed at GAO and to issue final decisions within 100 days after the protest is submitted. Although bid protests originated at GAO, bidders may now file a bid protest at any or potentially all of three options: the agency, GAO, and the Court of Federal Claims.