The Coalition for Government Procurement

 

Yesterday GSA issued a notice to its Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contractors entitled “Improving Product Number Data Quality on GSA Schedules.” The notice states the GSA is seeking “to improve product data quality on MAS through submission of all awarded base products and associated descriptive data on GSA Advantage.” According to the notice, GSA is asking MAS contractors “to improve the integrity of your schedule offerings by submitting Universal Product Codes (UPC) and Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) for each awarded contract item.”

The notice further directs MAS contractors to upload all base product contract line items with UPCs and MPNs to GSA Advantage via SIP within 90 days.  The notice also includes a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs).  The FAQs confirm the requirement to upload to GSA Advantage all base products with the corresponding UPC or MPN.

Interestingly, the notice cites compliance with clause I-FSS-600 Contract Price Lists (Oct 2013) and clause 552.238-71 Submission and Distribution of Authorized FSS Schedule Price Lists as one of the goals of this initiative.  However, neither of the clauses requires submission of a UPC or MPN.  For example, subparagraph (b)(3) of Clause I-FSS-600 lists over  26 data elements that MAS contractors must include in their price lists.  UPC and MPN are not among those specific data elements.  Clause 552.238-71 sets forth the requirement for submission and distribution of the price list but does not specifically identify/list the data elements to be included in the price list.  That these clauses are silent regarding the submission of the UPC and MPN raises questions whether the notice is consistent with the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Generally, the Paperwork Reduction Act requires that where the government is seeking to collect data from the public, it must provide the public with notice and an opportunity to comment on the paperwork burden associated with the proposed new data reporting requirement.   The notice and opportunity to comment for procurement data collection requirements is done through the Federal Register.  The Paperwork Reduction Act ensures that the costs/burdens on the public of any proposed data reporting requirement are appropriately and transparently considered by the government.   It is an important tool to ensure accountability when the government seeks to impose new reporting burdens.

In this case GSA should address why it is not following the process called for by the Paperwork Reduction Act, as the burden on the public (MAS contractors) will be significant.  Indeed, given the millions of potential variations in models, parts, specifications and products, many MAS contractors will find compliance with the notice impossible, or at the very least cost prohibitive.  The Coalition has already heard from MAS contractors indicating that the notice will require significant changes to their electronic systems.  Here again is a situation where GSA is adding additional contract reporting requirements that increase operational costs for contractors without any real assessment of the burdens.

Moreover, although FAS has sought some feedback regarding the notice, to date there has been no real direct, fulsome dialogue with MAS contractors regarding the new requirements.  Perhaps the notice is intended to begin that dialogue.  However, the notice does not make that clear.  Rather it directs submission of the information to the extent it is available.   At the same time, FAS Commissioner Tom Sharpe has reached out to the Coalition seeking a dialogue regarding the notice.  To that end, the Coalition will be hosting a meeting with the FAS Commissioner and our members focusing on the notice and its impact.

As soon as we have worked out the logistics we will let you know the time and place of the meeting.

Roger Waldron

President

Last week GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) Office of Schedule Programs issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking feedback on “GSA Proposed Change to Add a Cloud Computing Special Item Number (SIN) on IT Schedule 70.”  The RFI indicates that the purpose of the new Cloud Computing SIN “would be to improve the way GSA offers cloud computing services through IT Schedule 70, increase visibility and access of cloud computing services to customer agencies, and to provide industry partners the opportunity to differentiate their cloud computing services from other IT related products and services. “ The RFI notes that the proposed change supports “OMB’s “Cloud First” policy by enabling agencies to take advantage of cloud computing benefits to maximize capacity utilization, improve IT flexibility and responsiveness and minimize cost.”

The goals of the RFI are to:

(1) Gain feedback from industry and any other relevant stakeholders on a proposed new Cloud Computing Services SIN; and

(2) Better understand how industry partners are selling cloud computing services today on IT Schedule 70, to support a decision on creating a Cloud Computing Services SIN.

Importantly the RFI seeks feedback from both customer agencies and industry partners.

The Coalition applauds FAS for issuing the RFI.  It is a thoughtful, positive step towards implementing efficient, effective and best value delivery of commercial cloud computing services for agency customers and the American people.  The due date for submission of comments is 4 pm, August 6th.  The RFI can be found here.

The Coalition will be submitting comments.  As a first step we are working with our IT Committee members to identify and develop consensus comments.  Over the longer term, as I previously mentioned in my June 27, 2014 FAR& Beyond Blog, the Coalition is on track to launch our Coalition Innovation Task Force (CITF).  The task force is charged with building on our earlier work setting forth a vision for transforming IT Schedule 70 into the IT Commercial Innovation Schedule.  In addition to the transformation of IT Schedule 70, the CITF will be identifying innovation opportunities across the federal enterprise.  For example, share-in-savings contracting mechanisms remain an opportunity to more cost-effective, flexible contractor support to meet mission needs.  The CITF will identify procurement practices and procedures that reduce barriers to innovation and solutions based contracting that leverages the growing convergence between information technology and services—like cloud services.  The Coalition and the CITF look forward to a robust dialogue with FAS on bringing best value innovation and solutions based contracting to customer agencies.

 

Roger Waldron

President

Utilization of small business concerns is a top priority of the current administration. A plethora of new laws, policies, and changing strategies impact this important aspect of federal contracting. The Coalition is fortunate to have a membership that includes innovative businesses of all sizes.  Important objectives of the Coalition include being an information conduit regarding matters affecting small business policies and providing a voice for our vibrant small business members.  Two years ago the Coalition launched a Small Business Committee that  serves as an open forum for members to discuss acquisition policy and compliance issues, as well as Federal contracting opportunities that are unique to small businesses. The committee creates opportunities for members to have access to federal and industry experts and to work together to understand and succeed in the federal market.   We have also sought to provide opportunities for small and large businesses to jointly leverage their capabilities to foster success in the federal market.

Continuing these important objectives, on July 23, 2014 the Coalition will host a Small Business ForumHot Topics Impacting Small Businesses and their Large Business Partners. Presenters include outstanding representatives from the Hill, government agencies, and industry.  The Keynote speaker is Emily Murphy, Senior Counsel, House Committee on Small Business.  The forum will feature a panel on Contractor Teaming Arrangements and Joint Ventures.These tools are important to all businesses, but particularly allow small businesses to develop new strategies for tackling the federal market.  Despite the potential, there are many questions about the risks and rewards of these new strategies.  From formation to payment, the Small Business Forum will provide a venue to have your questions answered by an outstanding panel with real world experience.  The panelists include:

  • Kenneth Dodds,  Director, SBA
  • Joseph Hornyak,  Partner, Holland and Knight, LLP
  • Mark Lee, Deputy Director, GSA, Office of Government-wide Policy
  • Marian Morley, Vice President Government Sales and Operations, Allsteel

Chairmen of the Coalition’s Small Business Committee will moderate this session.

  • Jim Connal, Vice President, Contracts and Compliance, Red River Computing
  • Tom Walker, Government Manager, Nucraft, Furniture

The Small Business Forum will also be a great opportunity to:

  • Catch up on initiatives such as strategic sourcing, and find out what to expect next for small businesses in the federal acquisition arena, and
  • Network with companies that offer opportunities for teaming and subcontracting relationships.  Companies already registered include some of the most successful contractors on the professional services, furniture GSA IT schedules and GWACs.

We hope that you will be able to join us for this engaging small business discussion.  For additional information, click here.

Correction:  Last week’s Flash stated that Vicksburg surrendered to the Army of the Potomac.  Actually, Vicksburg surrendered to the Army of the Tennessee.   Thanks to all those who pointed this out to me. 

Roger Waldron

President

Happy 4th of July!

July 3rd, 2014

This week the FAR & Beyond blog is dedicated to the Fourth of July.  The blog highlights a speech given by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.  We hope everyone has a wonderful July 4th weekend!

On July 4th, 1863, Confederate forces at Vicksburg, Mississippi surrendered to the Union Army of the Tennessee, a major military victory for the North during the Civil War. Word of Vicksburg’s surrender did not reach Washington until the day of July 7th. The news quickly spread throughout the District, and a military parade to the White House was organized by officers of the Massachusetts Thirty-Fourth Regiment, accompanied by a crowd numbering in the thousands. President Lincoln, who had refrained from publicly celebrating Independence Day on the Fourth while the fate of Vicksburg was uncertain, felt compelled to address the assembled citizens, bands and soldiers. Around 8:30 PM, Lincoln appeared at the window of the portico of the White House, and issued this speech (as reported by the Washington Evening Star, July 8, 1863):

“Fellow-citizens: I am very glad to see you to-night. But yet I will not say I thank you for this call. But I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. How long ago is it? Eighty odd years since, upon the Fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal.

That was the birthday of the United States of America. Since then the fourth day of July has had several very peculiar recognitions. The two most distinguished men who framed and supported that paper, including the particular declaration I have mentioned, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the one having framed it, and the other sustained it most ably in debate, the only two of the fifty-five or fifty-six who signed it, I believe, who were ever President of the United States, precisely fifty years after they put their hands to that paper it pleased the Almighty God to take away from this stage of action on the Fourth of July. This extraordinary coincidence we can understand to be a dispensation of the Almighty Ruler of Events.

Another of our Presidents, five years afterwards, was called from this stage of existence on the same day of the month, and now on this Fourth of July just past, when a gigantic rebellion has risen in the land, precisely at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow that principle “that all men are created equal,” we have a surrender of one of their most powerful positions and powerful armies forced upon them on that very day. And I see in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, which continued three days, so rapidly following each other as to be justly called one great battle, fought on the first, second and third of July; on the fourth the enemies of the declaration that all men are created equal had to turn tail and run.

Gentlemen, this is a glorious theme and a glorious occasion for a speech, but I am not prepared to make one worthy of the theme and worthy of the occasion. I would like to speak in all praise that is due to the the [sic] many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the Union and liberties of this country from the beginning of this war, not on occasions of success, but upon the more trying occasions of the want of success. I say I would like to speak in praise of these men, particularizing their deeds, but I am unprepared. I should dislike to mention the name of a single officer, lest in doing so I wrong some other one whose name may not occur to me.

Recent events bring up certain names, gallantly prominent, but I do not want to particularly name them at the expense of others, who are as justly entitled to our gratitude as they. I therefore do not upon this occasion name a single man. And now I have said about as much as I ought to say in this impromptu manner, and if you please, I’ll take the music.”

- President Abraham Lincoln

 

Roger Waldron

President

This week’s blog continues the discussion on Schedules Modernization.   I was interviewed this week by Federal News Radio’s Francis Rose regarding schedules modernization; to listen click here.

At the beginning of the year the FAR & Beyond blog identified Fourteen Thoughts for 2014 with each thought subsequently being addressed in at least one blog during the year.   In light of the Federal Acquisition Service’s (FAS) continuing focus on standardized labor categories as an element of Schedules Modernization, it is time to address Thought No. 6 of the Fourteen Thoughts for 2014:  “Standardized labor categories: Towards coin-operated Schedule contracts for professional services.”  

Standardized Labor Categories and Innovation

At a time when the Administration and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are seeking greater access to innovative solutions that increase Taxpayer return on investment (ROI), standardized labor categories are anti-innovation. Standardized labor categories put the lid on the private sector’s ability to deliver cutting-edge, best-in-class capabilities, services and solutions that save money for customer agencies and the American people.  Quite simply, standardized labor categories, like a coin-operated vending machine, limit choice, flexibility and competition.  Standardized labor categories do not leverage commercial business practices in delivering high value solutions to meet agency mission requirements.  Rather, standardized labor categories force firms to reengineer business practices and processes to fit the labor formula dictated by GSA creating inefficiencies in the procurement and performance of customer service requirements.

Economies of Skills, Flexibility and Innovation

Innovation in government procurement begins with a focus on leveraging economies of skill.  Schedule contracts for professional services and information technology (IT) must be structured to leverage economies of skill.  That means contracts must provide flexibility at the task order level for contractors to structure complex solutions to meet complex customer agency requirements.  Standardized labor categories for commercial services simply do not provide the necessary flexibility.

GSA’s Professional Services schedules and IT Schedule 70 have a wonderful opportunity to leverage economies of skill through innovation in schedule contract structures and pricing models.  The Coalition applauds any effort to incorporate ODC capabilities into schedule contracts.  Likewise, the Coalition believes it is time to explore the establishment of an unpriced schedule for IT and professional services, as recommended by the SARA Panel in 2007.  The government has yet to take full advantage of the ongoing convergence of IT and services in the commercial marketplace.  Cloud, software as a service (SAAS), as well as complex, integrated IT service solutions are driving innovation in the market.  Flexibility in pricing and task order structure are keys to leveraging economies of skill for these new, cutting edge services, thereby increasing Taxpayer ROI.

The Coalition Innovation Task Force

The GSA Schedule program is in a unique position, with its statutory authority and access to the commercial marketplace, to drive access to commercial innovation in service delivery.  In response to this unique opportunity, the Coalition provided GSA and OMB with a white paper on transforming IT Schedule 70 into the Commercial IT Innovation Schedule.  As a next step, the Coalition will establish a “Coalition Innovation Task Force (CITF)”.  The task force will develop and recommend alternatives that deliver innovative solutions to meet federal agency needs.  The goal of the CITF is to harness a broad spectrum of ideas and experience to promote flexible, creative, and dare I say, innovative contracting structures.  The ultimate objective is to promote effective, efficient and exceptional solutions for government and its industry partners.  How can schedule contracts be restructured to leverage customer-focused supply management and service delivery?   How can the government leverage “share in savings” mechanisms to support agency missions?  How can cloud offerings be optimized via the Schedules program?  The CITF will tackle these questions and more.

In the coming weeks you will hear more about this initiative. We look forward to inviting the participation and thought leadership of government and industry in this important effort.

Roger Waldron

President

On June 12th Tom Sharpe, Commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), posted a new blog entitled “Modernizing GSA’s Schedules Program for Today’s Marketplace.”

As you may recall, earlier this year GSA published its Strategic Plan for the next four years.  The plan did not set forth a strategic vision for the MAS program—a troubling statement about the future of FAS given that the MAS program accounts for at least 75 percent of the dollar volume of all customer agency purchases made through FAS programs. As such, it is gratifying to see a renewed focus on the MAS program as evidenced by Commissioner Sharpe’s June 12 blog.  It is also gratifying to see FAS seeking to address Other Direct Costs and exploring the creation of an unpriced IT and professional services schedule that has the potential to better leverage the convergence of technology and services and “as a service offerings” like cloud.   It is also a positive step that FAS will be doing a “white space” look at the MAS program.  The Coalition looks forward to continuing the dialogue on the future of the MAS program as outlined in our Innovation Paper and our MAS Pricing White Paper.

At the same time, several of the “modernization” initiatives set forth in the June 12th blog raise significant questions about whether the future MAS will be an open, dynamic and innovative market for customer agencies and commercial firms seeking to do business with the federal government.   Here is a summary and comment on the initiatives outlined in the June 12th  blog:

Standardized Part Numbers and Special Item Numbers

First, FAS will seek to standardize part numbers or special item numbers to reduce price variability at the contract level and enable customers to make better price comparisons at the order level.

As a threshold matter, there has been little if any real dialogue between FAS and its contractors on the logistics of standardizing part numbers across the hundreds of thousands, if not tens of millions, of products and the variations of these products currently on MAS contracts.   FAS has not reached out to its contractor community to seek insight into how standardization will impact contractor costs, record keeping, systems changes, commercial practices or customer requirements.  Rather, according to the June 12th blog, FAS will be issuing a mass modification in June seeking standardization of part numbers.  Given the significant impact on MAS customers and contractors, the lack of dialogue on this issue is disappointing.

Standardized Labor Categories

Second, FAS will be working with stakeholders and service contractors to figure out the best approach to standardize labor categories for services.

Simply put, standardized labor categories are not only inconsistent with the commercial nature of the MAS program, they represent LPTA by other means.   Standardized labor categories will limit the ability of commercial firms to offer innovative solutions and pricing to meet customer needs.   As a result, standardized labor categories will drive best in class, innovative commercial firms from the MAS program.  Standardized labor categories are anti-innovation at a time when the federal government is seeking to embrace innovation.

Transactional Data

Third, in order for government to reduce what it is paying for products and services FAS will be collecting transactional data on products and services and providing it to customer agencies.  As envisioned by FAS, this transactional data will help agencies make informed buying decision decisions and negotiate better prices.

Price alone is incomplete data.  Terms and conditions, volume commitments, spending patterns, and performance requirements (SOW) all impact pricing.  Focusing on price alone will not assist agencies in making sound procurement decisions.  Not only is the quality of the data a concern, so is the quantity.  Given the millions of transactions under the MAS program how will agencies make sense of the pricing data?  If sound data is to be provided to customer agencies, it must include all the key elements impacting price.  The sheer volume of sound data is likely to overwhelm the customer.  Moreover, the variations in data collection requirements across government increases the complexity, cost and burden associated with this effort.

The costs of data collection and reporting on MAS contractors must be considered—costs that will inevitably be passed on to customer agencies.  Are such costs worth it?  Transactional data may provide some benefit during the market research phase but does that benefit outweigh the costs associated with collecting the data?   Are resources better focused in other areas/initiatives—like improving requirements development and streamlining the acquisition process?  The key to best value outcomes and pricing is not transactional data; rather it is sound requirements and volume commitments for agency specific requirements.

The current “modernization” of the MAS program is built on the assumption that the federal government is a single buyer, or rather, should act as a single buyer.  It is a faulty assumption.  The federal government contains many entities with varying missions, cultures, organizational structures, budget profiles, spending patterns, operational and technical requirements.  Not all agency missions are the same.   As such, the closer a procurement is to the requirements holder the more likely a sound, best value outcome.  That is why the Coalition has supported use of agency specific BPAs that set forth sound requirements and volume commitments.

Diversity is inherent in the federal market.  There are literally thousands of buyers with requirements and sellers ready to meet those requirements.  At its best GSA can provide an open, dynamic, innovative and competitive marketplace where customer agencies and commercial firms can transact business.  GSA’s time and talent should be focused on enhancing access to the diversity, dynamism and innovation of the commercial marketplace for MAS customer agencies.

Look for more commentary on Modernizing the Schedules program in future FAR & Beyond blog posts.

Roger Waldron

President

The National Dialogue on Improving Federal Procurement (aka the “Open Dialogue”).  An opportunity to jump start acquisition reform?? 

In April 2014, the National Dialogue was launched by the Chief Acquisition Officer (CAO) Council in conjunction with the FAR Council, the Chief Information Officers Council, the General Services Administration and OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy.  With the use of social media, the National Dialogue collected feedback from the public about the rules, requirements and procedures that create barriers to the Federal market and ideas about how to improve the system.  The website, “Open Dialogue on Improving Federal Procurement” can be found here.  According to the website, the intent of the dialogue was to provide an opportunity for the public to discuss potential improvements to the Federal contracting process—think of it as a social media Myth-Busters effort!  The dialogue was divided into three campaigns:

  •  Campaign 1: Reporting and compliance requirements
  •  Campaign 2: Procurement Rules and practices
  •  Campaign 3: Participation by small and minority business, new entrants, and non-traditional government contractors

For each of these campaigns, the public was invited to provide insight, ideas and feedback on potential improvements that could be accomplished through executive action (regulatory, administrative or management) as well as through legislation.  The public recommendations for improvements were posted under each campaign with the corresponding opportunity to vote/endorse individual recommendations.

In May, OMB posted the final results of the National Dialogue on Federal procurement.  The Coalition for Government Procurement’s (“the Coalition’s”) reform recommendations topped the list of ideas to improve the Federal acquisition system and increase access to the Federal market.  The following Coalition recommendations made the final top 10 list in the National Dialogue, based on the number of votes received:

  • Reduce Extensive Data Collection Requirements
  • Remove the Price Reductions Clause and Reform Pricing for the Multiple Award Schedules
  • Address Burdensome Ordering Procedures for Blanket Purchasing Agreements (BPAs)
  • Reduce Contract Duplication
  • Increase Clarity of Intellectual Property (IP) Rights- GSA Schedules
  • Implement Other Direct Costs-GSA Schedules
  • Reduce Restrictive Experience Requirements- GSA Schedules

The results of the National Dialogue are a strong statement for improving the GSA Schedules program.  Collectively these recommendations would transform the GSA Schedules program into an innovation portal for government customers and commercial firms; a streamlined, efficient and effective marketplace where customer agencies could access the latest commercial technologies, services and products.  The Coalition’s reform recommendations will reduce barriers to entry into the Federal market thereby increasing competition, reducing cost, and promoting access to commercial innovation for government customers.

Significantly, the Coalition’s recommendations can all be accomplished through executive action.  OMB and the CAO Council are expected to review the results of the National Dialogue and determine the next steps to remove barriers and burdens in Federal procurement.  The Coalition looks forward to the implementation of the top recommendations received in the dialogue, which will lead to a more efficient and effective acquisition system for agencies and the American taxpayer.

Roger Waldron

President

At least 10 firms filed Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protests this week against the six month extension of the strategic sourcing Office Supply (OS2) Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs).   GSA had extended the OS2 BPAs for a six month term beyond the original five year period.  The intent of the extension was to provide BPA coverage until the OS3 IDIQ contracts are awarded this fall.  Under the bid protest rules, OS2 BPA performance must be suspended pending resolution of the bid protests unless the government makes a written determination to continue performance.  As a result, there is currently no Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) vehicle in place for office supplies.  Office supplies are available through the GSA Schedules program.

The office supply strategic sourcing initiative is the canary in the coal mine.  It highlights the distortion of the federal market place being wrought by FSSIPerhaps it is time for a “pause and reflect” regarding the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) cross-cutting, top down, centralized approach to strategic sourcing.  With that in mind, some reflections on the federal market and strategic sourcing:

  • Effective accomplishment of critical agency missions must be the government’s first priority.
  • One size does not fit all.  Department and agencies have varying missions.  The variety of roles and functions across government translate into different mission support needs, funding profiles, technical requirements, governing regulations and cultures.  There are good reasons why agencies buy differently—their organizational circumstances are unique to their mission.
  • Strategic acquisitions must consider total cost.  Award price alone is incomplete data.  Price as a primary measure of success ignores the costs associated with creating and managing the FSSI infrastructure across the federal enterprise.   It also ignores contract terms that drive pricing.
  • Clear requirements and volume commitments are the keys to increasing best value outcomes for customer agencies.   The closer the procurement is to the requirements, the better chance for a sound outcome.  That is why the Coalition has consistently supported the use of agency specific BPAs as a strategic acquisition approach.  Agency specific BPAs provide a sound platform for volume commitments and clear statements of work.
  • The federal market is large and significant, however, the federal government is not always the “largest buyer”.  In reality, for traditional commercial firms the federal government may account for only a fraction of a percent of total sales.  As such, the Government can increase efficiency and reduce costs by reducing the number of Government unique requirements in its FSSI.
  • Reducing the contractor base can cause real harm to the long term health of the federal market.  For example, FSSI has closed the office supply market to small businesses.  Large businesses are not immune.  For example, the current strategy for the follow on OS3 procurement is to award to only one large business.  It is not in the interests of a strong, vibrant supply chain to limit the federal office supply market to one large business and a limited number of small businesses.
  • There are some commercial markets where centralized strategic sourcing may make sense.  GSA has had success with its overnight delivery strategic sourcing initiative.  Similarly, GSA’s FSSI Wireless BPAs have seen positive results.  What do these programs have in common?  First, each has a limited number of competitors in the commercial market.  Second, all the key competitors received an award and the subsequent opportunity to compete for task orders.   Third, GSA has developed a set of best practices and tools to assist agencies in managing requirements. GSA is on the right track in areas where it is developing best practices guides and providing acquisition support for customers of it GSA Schedules and GWAC programs.

It is time for a “pause and reflect.”  Government and its private sector stakeholders have an opportunity to structure strategic acquisition reform that focuses on agency specific requirements, enhances competition, creates opportunities, supports innovation, and maintains a healthy vibrant commercial supply chain.  It is time for a Myth-Busters dialogue on FSSI with OMB and the Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council.

 

Roger Waldron

President

 

Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword: The Beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day—the day when the Allies launched Operation Overlord, the campaign to liberate Europe. Democracy, liberty and the fate of Western Civilization hung in the balance.  Here is Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have

striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The

hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. 

In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on

other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war

machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of

Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. 

 

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well

equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely. 

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of

1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats,

in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their

strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home

Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions

of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.

The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to

Victory!

 

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in

battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great

and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Please take a moment today to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice for us.  Take a moment to remember, appreciate and thank the Veterans of D-Day; the Veterans of World War II.  They saved the world.

For this week’s comment I wanted to share with you my latest blog post that was first published on the Federal Times’ Acquisition Blog (www.federaltimes.com) on May 16, 2014.

The Multiple Award Double-Standard, Part II

April’s blog focused on the Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy’s (DPAP’s) double standard regarding the treatment of orders under the GSA Schedules program versus other multiple award contracts. This month’s blog answers the question, why the double standard? Simply put, there is no reasonable basis for the disparate treatment of orders under the GSA Schedules program as compared to orders under other multiple award contracts.

First, as explained in my April blog, the regulations governing orders under the GSA Schedules program (FAR 8.404) and orders under multiple award contracts (FAR 16.505(b)(3) contain the same fundamental guidance regard the determination of fair and reasonable pricing. Moreover, there is guidance throughout FAR 8.4 requiring price analysis or determination of fair and reasonable pricing when competing and placing an order that includes a statement of work.

Second, by statute and regulation, the competition requirements (i.e. the government’s obligation to provide contractors with notice and an opportunity to compete) for task and delivery orders are essentially the same. As a threshold matter under both GSA Schedules and other multiple award contracts, statute and regulation require the ordering activity to provide notice (including description of supplies and services to be acquired and the evaluation criteria) and an opportunity to compete to all contractors capable of meeting the requirement. Further, the ordering procedures for both GSA Schedules (FAR 8.4) and other multiple award contracts (FAR 16.505) require written determinations or justification when a contracting officer does not provide the required notice. The competition requirements for multiple award contracts, including GSA Schedules, were recommended by the Acquisition Advisory Panel (AAP), established by the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003 to make recommendations on improving the procurement system. The AAP’s recommendations regarding task order competition under multiple award contracts were enacted into law as Section 863 of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act.

Third, GSA’s continuous open seasons ensure ongoing access to the commercial marketplace. Commercial firms can submit an offer for a schedule contract every business day of the year. Continuous open seasons are the answer to those critics of multiple award contracts that argue they are uncompetitive because they close federal markets to new offers. In the GSA Schedules world, the market is always open to new offers. Moreover, other multiple award contracts are increasingly adopting “on-ramps.” On-ramps are a form of continuous open season as they allow firms that are not on a multiple award contract to submit offers to join the contractor pool. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Finally, GSA Advantage!, the electronic catalog for the GSA Schedules program, and e-Buy, GSA’s electronic quote tool, support transparency of pricing, market research, and task order competition. In fact, e-Buy is identified in FAR 8.4 as the method of providing notice and an opportunity to compete to all schedule contractors consistent with the statutory competition requirements.

Given the competitive features of the GSA Schedules program, that DPAP’s guidance is targeted solely at the GSA Schedules program is perplexing. More recently, in explaining the rationale behind the deviation, DPAP focused on pricing of orders below the micro-purchase threshold ($3,000). Perhaps the focus on micro-purchases reflects a realization that the GSA Schedules ordering process is as competitive, if not more competitive, than other multiple award contracts. After all, competition is not required for purchases at or below the micro-purchase threshold; the government can go directly to a single source whether it is buying open market or ordering from a pre-existing contract like the GSA Schedules.

If DPAP’s real concern is the pricing for orders below the micro-purchase threshold, than invocation of FAR 15.404-1 is a case of over regulation. The deviation creates confusion and uncertainty in the GSA Schedules marketplace. As such, the deviation will foster increased contract duplication. Unfortunately, the costs associated with increased contract duplication will far outweigh any savings achieved for GSA orders resulting from the deviation.

The facts and circumstances surrounding DPAP’s deviation raise several questions.

■ Did DPAP conduct a cost/benefit analysis before issuing the deviation?

■ Did DPAP consider the potential for increased contract duplication resulting from the deviation?

■ Did DPAP review the entirety of FAR 8.4 before issuing the deviation?

■ Did DPAP review FAR 16.505 and compare it to FAR 8.4 before issuing the deviation?

■ Will DPAP issue a deviation regarding FAR 16.505?

■ Finally, again, why the multiple award double standard?

Roger Waldron

President

Happy Memorial Day!

May 23rd, 2014

Originally published in the Friday Flash on May 25, 2012:

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer (growing up in small town in Northern Maine it usually seemed that summer didn’t begin till July 4th).  As a child I remember that in days leading up to Memorial Day, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) would stand outside the grocery store requesting donations and handing out “Buddy Poppies.”  To me, these men were a big deal, most were World War II or Korean War Veterans.  These men were considered local heroes, highly respected for their service.  One or two were World War I veterans—I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s and there were still many World War I veterans who were in their 60’s and 70’s.  On Memorial Day our town would hold a parade honoring those who had fallen in service to our nation.  All the local veterans would march in the parade, accepting donations and handing out Buddy Poppies.

So what is a “Buddy Poppy?”  The Buddy Poppy was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” honoring the fallen of the First World War.   The poem was written by Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian surgeon, who served in the War.  The poem is haunting:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks still bravely singing, fly

Scare heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

The red poppy flower became the “Flower of Remembrance” for those who served on the Allied side in the First World War.  In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold artificial poppies in America to support orphans and those left destitute by the war in Belgium and France.  Subsequently, the Franco-American Children’s League dissolved, and in the spring of 1922 the VFW began selling poppies made in France to support the orphans and destitute.  By 1924, the VFW began selling “Buddy Poppies” made by disabled veterans.

Since that time, the VFW’s National Buddy Poppy Committee has ensured that the artificial poppies are made by veterans located in VA Hospitals and facilities throughout the country.  The proceeds from the sales of a Buddy Poppies primarily go to support local veteran services.  So when you “contribute” or buy a Buddy Poppy at your local grocery store, it will support a veteran and a neighbor!   Please, when you make your grocery list for the Memorial Day barbecue, make sure you include a “Buddy Poppy.”

This Memorial Day, please make sure you take time to honor all service men and women who have fallen in defense of freedom.   God bless them and their families.  God bless and protect all those in harm’s way.  Please also remember those contractor personnel who have fallen while supporting our troops around the world.

More information regarding the history of the Buddy Poppy campaign can be found at the VA and the VFW websites.

Roger Waldron

President

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