formerfed on Monday, May 14, 2001 - 11:20 am:
Bob just posted a new decision, B-287032.3 and B-287032.4
with Systems Management and Qualimetrics. These were sustained.
It's apparent that: (a) The Air Force said one thing in stating
their requirement and meant something else, or (b) were sloppy
and didn't realize their error until too late, and didn't want
to retract. In any event, this kind of mistake shouldn't happen
on a $60 million procurement. No wonder we hear some of the best
companies don't want to do business with the government. Here's
an instance where the Air Force did something wrong (either a or
b above), and wouldn't correct the obvious problem. Instead they
made two competitors go through the time and expense of
protesting. This is a flat out waste of everyone's time and
on Monday, May 14, 2001 - 11:33 am:
The protest decisions is at
Eric Ottinger on
Monday, May 14, 2001 - 06:47 pm:
Years ago we had a situation where an egregious dereliction
turned up in the documentation during an adversary proceeding. I
went to one of our lawyers and suggested that it might be best
to fess up and clean up. The lawyer responded that the most
important thing was to win. Actually we did win.
Lawyers like to win and lawyers like to make arguments. The
worst thing about the agency’s argument is that it would be a
very bad precedent. A certification is a certification. It isn’t
demonstrated ability to obtain certifications based on previous
experience doing other things.
on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 - 02:23 am:
Read the decision. The certification requirement was a go/no
technical evaluation factor!
FF on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 - 11:07 am:
I agree that lots of lawyers like the challenge of taking cases.
Hopefully their enthusiam gets tempered along the way by
objective supervisors as well as open minded CO's and other
The problem here is the agency's position is so flat out wrong.
If they made a mistake, they should accept that and rectify
things. Instead they took a firm position and didn't budge.
Lot's of Air Force people are wrong - CO, CO's management,
lawyer, SSO, and program manager. They wasted a lot of money and
time. The least they should have done was corrected the
situation at the time the protest was filed.
I also noticed GAO did a nice job handling this decision in such
a timely manner. I didn't catch the protest date, but it must
have been around mid-January. The decision is dated April 16. I
see a hearing was also held. So, the entire process took only 90
days or so - pretty impressive.
Hastur on Tuesday, May 15, 2001 - 11:36 am:
Q1 - Does it unreasonably prejudice other parties?
(in this case the answer could only be yes)
Q2 - Is it within your power to rectify?
What a boneheaded thing to do.
ex-fed on Wednesday, May 16, 2001 - 02:37 pm:
I'll risk of offending Air Force people as I apparently
recently did Army people. "Boneheaded," limited to a failure to
admit the problem and allowing this to become a sustained
protest, doesn't go far enough.
Defective requirements have long been identified as the major
cause of government contracting problems. This is a possible
example. It is probably also a case of how pressure to go along
together in an agency discourages hard looks at weak points. An
early question should have been "Do we mean what we are putting
into solicitation words?" and a tough reality scrub.
We can't read minds from the past so, again, from the decision
alone there are some reasonable conclusions. Someone probably
wanted assurance the thing could meet AF and FAA requirements
and threw in the fatal words. I can see this requirement
originating as "Make sure it is FAA certified" in an attempt to
insure compliance with standards. Then, in a team effort, it
goes in without a hard review of exactly what is really
required. A hard requirements scrub would raise the reasonable
question of whether FAA has a list of "FAA certified" systems
and do we intend to limit ourselves to those alone. Another is
"Do we really mean "certified" when we intend "certifiable,"
"validated," "tested" or some other term?"
The attractive proposal received turned out to be one not
exactly "FAA certified." The selection officials then apparently
found that really wasn't what they meant to say and relaxed that
absolute requirement. At considerable cost they got slapped
This decision has been mentioned In another thread about
responsibility issues. All other arguments aside, the
interesting question to me is about how well the requirements
were scrubbed before and during the preparation to advertise. In
particular, why was a crucial, essentially "go/no go",
requirement not given a rigorous scrub. A requirement elevated
to pass/fail must be clearly understood by everyone in the
process along with exactly what makes "pass" and what makes
"fail." This must be done before venturing off to seek a
If the answer to that requirements challenge had been something
like "Yes, we do mean 'certified,' FAA Circular 6000.15C is to
be incorporated for reference for this vital requirement and the
foreign certifications we can accept are..." it would be
unusually obtuse panel members and contractors not getting the
point. A panel choosing a non-certified system would truly be a
runaway panel most likely checked quickly.
If the answer had been "No, not precisely "certified," we can
accept (precise definition).." then the playing field might have
included the proposal selected.
Every requirements document can benefit by a hard scrub. Each
should undergo tough Red team review. There should be solid
defense and clarification of exact wording wherever real
questions arise. Only then should the thing go out.
A record of the review will then stand as a source for answering
contractor questions, guidance to the selection panels and
substantial footing for evaluating agency position if protest
defense becomes necessary. It may be a minor failing to let some
"requirement" of minor nature slip through. It is another
entirely to let one be elevated to pass/fail prominence without
clear, defensible understanding of precisely what it means and
how it is to be applied. If there is one consistent lesson in
sustained protests it seems to be that an agency that has not
decided which horse to ride through the entire process is at
risk. Here, riding the "FAA certified" horse only part way had
on Thursday, May 17, 2001 - 04:08 am:
Good observation, ex fed. But scrubbing the spec won't be
enough if the CO doesn't understand the rules. He or she must
recognize that failure to conform to the requirement makes the
proposal unacceptable and ineligible for award. In the case in
question the technical evaluators scored the proposal
blue/exceptional on the very factor on which the GAO found it to
be unacceptable. That's why the CO must review each proposal and
make what another contributor called a "determination of
acceptability" before making an award, no matter how the
technical or management panel score the proposal. You can't
expect non-procurement types to understand the GAO's rules.
ex-fed on Thursday, May 17, 2001 - 09:31 am:
I agree the CO probably should have caught this at the gate.
I disagree on one of your comments though. A non-procurement
panel may not be expected to know and understand GAO's rules but
they'd better understand the requirements they are responsible
for evaluating. If one is "certification" they must know what
The interesting issue to me here is whether certification was
ever a valid requirement. If the evaluators and I presume a
selection authority familiar with the need and requirement
ignored it at this late stage I have to wonder. Then the Air
Force took this to defending a protest essentially on a "we
didn't really mean it" defense.
Apparently "FAA certification" had weak support in the end. That
indicates to me that an ill developed "want" became a pass fail
requirement. What an excellent way to get wound round all sorts
on Thursday, May 17, 2001 - 09:42 am:
I agree with you about the tech panel knowing what they mean
by their own use of the term "certification."
ex-fed on Thursday, May 17, 2001 - 06:24 pm:
The fact they were not and the CO let it pass is a reason I
believe it was a poorly chosen requirement description in the
first place. The CO pass could be incompetence, bad slip, or
(more likely in my view) had reason to believe actual
certification wasn't the real requirement despite the words.
That in itself is a slip, but one an otherwise expert CO might
I don't know the details of the process or systems. I did notice
comments in the decision related to certification of systems
as deployed indicating a system in the warehouse might never
I suspect the real requirement was along the lines of "complying
to standards leading to deployed certification" rather than the
bald "certified" used. That is a subtle, but very different
proposition. The idea a system already certified as deployed is
a lower risk is not bad. One might even want to lower risk and
consider only those systems actively operating as certified.
Don't pile "innovative" into the formula, but it lowers risk
perhaps. I have a pretty good feeling the requirements people
didn't quite think this thing out, state their real requirement
clearly and got tangled badly as a result.
on Friday, May 18, 2001 - 03:20 am:
Here's what I think happened. USAF wanted a system that had been
proven to work. They didn't want to buy an unproven prototype.
The problem was: How to write a specification that would be
airtight in that regard, so that an offeror with an unproven
system couldn't win a protest if USAF didn't select its proposal
The spec writers seized upon the "FAA certification"
requirement, probably without fully understanding the meaning of
the term or being familiar with FAA's certification policies and
procedures. This is a common, "lazy-man's" approach to spec
writing. It is similar to writing spec phrases like "consistent
with industry practice" when, in fact, the spec writer doesn't
have any specific practice in mind.
When the evaluators saw the winner's system they liked it and
became convinced that it met their needs. They hadn't thought of
FAA certification in the formal terms that the GAO described,
and so they felt comfortable enough to make the award. That's
when the protests were filed and the spec writer's words came
back to bite.
As you said, the CO should have scrubbed the spec before the
release of the RFP and demanded to know more about the FAA
certification. He or she should have been aware of the GAO's
rule that the winning proposal must conform to all material
terms of the RFP, sought to understand all of the terms of the
spec., and checked each proposal upon receipt for compliance
before sending it to the evaluators. It could have easily been
done with a prepared checklist and needn't have taken much time.
The CO could have sought the assistance of the spec writer for
A word to the wise...
formerfed on Friday, May 18, 2001 - 08:20 am:
You probably are right with your scenario. If so, that is a poor
way to conduct a $60 million acquisition. My larger problem is
why didn't the Air Force properly fix things once all this
issues became evident? I'm sure the protestors articulated their
concerns to the Air Force before protesting. If not, the Air
Force certainly knew shortly afterwards. But they continued all
the way through to sustaining by GAO. It doesn't take much
experience in this field to know you can't win a protest where
the solicitation says one thing in a definite manner, and you
award for something else. So it looks like "lazy-mans" spec
writing, evaluators who don't bother to read in detail, lack of
any process to scrub specs before issuing, and a CO and
evaluation team who aren't knowledgeable in contract law and GAO
I also wonder what the acquisition management at the Air Force
is doing. If you ran an AF contracting office and a protest
resulted, wouldn't you want to know what the protest was about?
After hearing the basis, wouldn't you come to the same
conclusion as GAO and want to fix things right away to minimize
on Friday, May 18, 2001 - 11:35 am:
You want to really get mad about a protest? Read
Special Operations Group, Inc., B-287013; B-287013.2, March 30,
ex-fed on Friday, May 18, 2001 - 11:51 am:
Anon 5/19 and formerfed: Amen, and "ain't it the truth."
Multiple failures all along the line in fairly simple,
straightforward matters. Snap, pop, crackle. Aircraft's wings
fall off. Promotions all around?
Oh yes, while a fair amount of blame may lie with the CO for not
catching and enforcing, my best guess is the real fault lies up
the management chain. The CO, indeed almost no one, can do these
nasty, questioning things without the fatal tag of "not a team
player" being applied. Better to join the flock of sheep
gamboling to CG's "slaughter" than that!
Perhaps we've all forgotten quality has a price that is often
hurt toes all over.
ex-fed on Friday, May 18, 2001 - 12:01 pm:
B-287013 if you want to risk getting irritated.
Ex-fed and Anon,
Wow, that does get the emotions going. I also thought of several
1) What kind of 1102 training program does State have?
2) What are the criteria for obtaining a CO warrant there?
3) What were the performance ratings for the Contract Specialist
and CO for that period? Knowing the ways things work, they
probably got some kind of monetary award and promotions during
Maybe because it's Friday afternoon and I had a tough week, but
this decision almost makes me sick to think that the federal
procurement workforce consists of people like this. If that
isn't enough, where are the reviews and control in State? I
certainly hope they don't allow staff that exhibits this level
of poor judgement to act independently. Finally, as I asked
about the other decision, why did State's management and legal
advisors permit the protest to get that far?
I got so mad, I left out some of the really dumb things - the
technical evaluator telling GAO at the hearing that experience
was of "minimal" importance despite this is the most important
factor, assessing one aspect of a company's response as
unsatisfactory for lack of a resume in spite of the RFP's
amendment deleting the requirement for a resume, and
establishing staggering cutoff dates for submission of
individual offer revisions.
Really, these people should not keep their jobs. The costs to
reimburse protestors for their attorney fees should come out of
the government lawyers pay for allowing this to even go to GAO.
I knew you'd like it.
ex-fed on Friday, May 18, 2001 - 06:10 pm:
I am shocked. Amazed! It is astounding. The protested
contractor did have the guts to back away from the
proposed PM for a security escort service when he failed to show
for the kick-off meeting. What insight: "he got lost and didn't
think to call. Given the nature of the contract and the
responsibilities of the project manager, [Triumph] found his
response unacceptable and not proactive considering what was at
stake." Thank goodness for that. Maybe more secrets won't be
tossed about loading docks, highways, airports and such as a
result. Even if it made the proposal "technically unacceptable"
any other course would make me believe the contractor failed on
a basic responsibility criterion (see the other
discussion with Eric).
In light of that, I'm not sure I would agree with the decision
on this point if the letter of intent for this individual had
been presented and then the offer withdrawn by the company after
award. There is just cause, similar to "he got killed on the way
to the meeting." Anyway, it appears Triumph didn't even have its
act together enough to include a letter with the proposal.
The government act was worse. Any comment I made would be
considered rude. I will observe though that we seem to live in a
period where self esteem is a high priority for all, whether
they have done anything to earn it or do anything to maintain
it. We must all be kind and gentle regardless of provocation.
Posting as acquisition staff to the embassy in Outer Slobovia
seems a good idea.
Yes, Special Operations Group, B-287013, is an appalling tale
There are nearly 20,000 GS-1102s in the government's employ and
many thousands of them are contracting officers. Among these
there are many well-educated, well-trained, competent, and
devoted people; unfortunately, there are many poorly educated
and trained, incompetent, lazy persons, as well.
Until we have uniform, demanding standards of GS-1102 education
and training and of CO appointment, including a written and an
oral examination before independent boards of CO appointment,
there will be more stories like Special Operations Group, many,
many of them.
ex-fed on Saturday, May 19, 2001 - 01:05 pm:
Here we go again. See
Universal Yacht Services, Inc. (B-287071; B-287071.2; April
4, 2001) for another case of "failed to conform to a material
solicitation requirement" and a sustained protest.
This one is not as clearly a major blunder as far as I am
concerned. It is a case of someone getting too detailed
and mixing precise and imprecise in a requirement. The whole
thing collapsed on a very technical "9 knots in moderate weather
@ 80% rated horsepower" where the "80% rated horsepower" is the
issue. In fact, as far as I saw there is no mention of the
incumbent winner's vessel actually failing to accomplish 9
knots at 80% rated horsepower. They apparently just failed
to so state and the resulting contract failed to incorporate
that particular qualification.
Someone reasonably wanted a reserve, emergency capacity when
this vessel was making 9 knots in "moderate weather," defined as
"winds of 11 to 16 knots and seas of 3 to 5 feet." Now, consider
this. Eighty percent of rated horsepower can be determined in a
test. For practical purposes it is a hard number. That firm
benchmark is mixed in the RFP with the very soft numbers of
"winds of 11 to 16 knots and seas of 3 to 5 feet."
Will the vessel make 9 knots at 80% with a headwind of 11
knots? Maybe. In a headwind of 16 knots? Maybe not. I'll bet it
could really do really well with a stern wind of either!
What about a headwind and seas from dead ahead? Following wind
and seas? You bet. The possibilities are practically endless.
Any combination of wind and seas swinging independently around
all 360 degrees with 5 knots wind and 2 foot sea variability!
So, how do we actually confirm compliance?
I think the agency had a reasonable position on the requirement.
It failed to state the requirement in a manner that allowed it
to do reasonable trade offs. It mixed hard, testable numbers
with extreme variables. It had an incumbent vessel that was
apparently satisfactory and whose performance was not seen as
substandard. I would not be surprised if it didn't state this
requirement with some idea of getting at least that vessel,
despite allegations in the protest that the vessel couldn't meet
the speed/power mix.
The precise requirement was already corrupted. There was
no attempt to translate it into engineering terms suitable for a
paper analysis and independent of all those natural world
variables. It mixed them. Then it got hung out on one of the
overly precise items when the vessel that had been performing
was chosen. It would have probably been better off to require a
nominal design speed of 15 knots (or some other calculated
margin) at 80% without the nautical world factor.
I suspect the requirement's originator had some experience at
sea and had a "feel" for what was needed. The contracting
officer probably trusted the mariner, but should have asked
about mixing the very hard numbers "9" and ".80" with natural
variables. Oversight. The mariner's reasonable requirement
stated in not unreasonable nautical terms was taken to a
different, legalistic world and became an albatross around that
As something of an aside, I'm not entirely sure a reasonable
contractor would warrant a vessel to meet 9 knots at 80% rated
power in every possible combination of the natural conditions
stated, unless the vessel had a very large margin in both power
and hull configuration as both play a part in a vessel's ability
to maintain speed in all seas. They should however be perfectly
willing to state the nominal design speed/power limits of their
Lesson for all. Consider any "material solicitation requirement"
very carefully to narrowly define only what is absolutely
critical in carefully chosen and clear language. Ask yourself if
it is necessary and clear. Make sure you understand its
ramifications. Then ask someone else what they think you mean.
Red team it. If it is worth your and your potential contractor's
time and expense to consider, it is worth not letting poorly
reasoned or poorly stated requirements risk all.
In this case I don't think MSC was blundering about as badly as
some we've just seen, they just let a reasonable need and
probably a user's casual and natural language lay a trap.
on Saturday, May 19, 2001 - 03:11 pm:
Let's make it easy for you.
on Saturday, May 19, 2001 - 11:11 pm:
In the matter of the SOGI/state department case, I must come
to the defense of the contract specialist (GS-13) that worked
that contract. He had over 40 years of contracting experience
with the Air Force, Navy, VA and with defense contractors in the
private sector. He has a MBA and is one the most knowledgeable
contracting personnel I have met. Unfortunately, he was in
industry during the FARA, FASA and FAR 15 rewrite era and did
not always realize how times had changed at the GAO.
One problem at State is that the program offices run the
railroad. Everytime the specialist raised a red flag about the
solicitation and selection, the program office (COR) protested
to management and the specialist was overruled by the CO ( GS-14
branch chief)or the GS-15 division chief.
This has happened on more than just on this procurement. We have
lost several protests in the last 6 months, mostly because of
poorly constructed SOW and Acquistion plans. Most were settled
by ADR and were never published in a GAO report.
Why is it this way? Well start with the Head of the Contracting
Agency being a "acting" position for over 3 years. Try having no
management and procedures unit and thus no internal audits for
at least 5 years. Try having no new government employees for 8
years. Try having half the specialists be contract hires from
companies that I consider temp agencies. They don't even know
how to write a delivery order but get paid as GS11/12s. Try
having branch chiefs with less experience than many of the
specialists working for them and with very minimal supervisory
The contract in question was a disaster from the start, with
uncooperative program managers, the contract specialist
overloaded with other projects, the branch chief (KO)with other
bigger and more important contracts (and protests), and the
division chief insisting on trade off wording being placed in a
solictation that the specialist intended to be low
price/technically acceptable. The award was treated as an
insignificant contract that just needed awarding. You have seen
What now? The contract specialist got a GS-14 at another agency
(He worked for us for one year and said he had to get out before
State ruined his career). The requirement is being resolicited
by a specialist as her first action in formal contracting (good
move there). The program manager has a new patsy to lead down
the protest path. And finally, to stem the tide of protests, the
division chief issued a policy that discussions must be in
writing only and debriefings must be face to face only. (does
this make sense?)
I am trying to get promoted to a level (below GS-14 don't count
at State)where I can make a difference. Otherwise, it's off to
USA jobs. Fortunately for me, the education requirements have
eliminated much of my competition for promotion.
Ramon Jackson on Sunday, May 20, 2001 - 12:25 am:
Thanks for outlining so much of what is wrong with contracting
at the moment. None are served well by such conflict of interest
-- a term here I think appropriate here because self interested
careerism is conflicting with professionalism and service to the
taxpayers on a grand scale.
To a greater degree than in the past it appears contracting
offices are competing to please those internal customers --
often at the expense of all and most especially the taxpayer.
We don't let prosecutors defend the accused, judges prosecute,
police judge. We have balance of powers almost enshrined in this
country's vital processes. We've destroyed what little
separation of powers once lay in the contracting field in the
name of streamlining, but mostly for "touchy, feely" reasons.
That goes well beyond minor, routine "supply" type actions and
into major actions requiring thought and care.
I still think my much maligned "separation of powers" for
requirements, contracting and program management is needed for
exactly the reasons you outline. A bit of adversity kills off
the weak -- including weak requirements and contracting ideas.
Sustained protests are fairly rare, but they are costly and
hurt. Many more contracts limp along with repeated rethinking
because the original thinking was flawed and rammed through by
the power plays you describe.
Make no mistake. Reform was long overdue. There were plenty of
useless organs to cut out. Maybe someone cut too far and carved
out that contracting equivalent of the brain function that we
call concience; that thing arguing against ill conceived wants.
on Sunday, May 20, 2001 - 02:30 am:
While lots of training and talk is given to contracting
officers becoming line vs staff, I don't see it happening on a
wide spread basis. I see PM making decisions and then
contracting trying to make it legal. Most of our simplified Acqs
already have the 3 quotes attached to them.
Now here is one of my views of acquisition as one who has only
been in the field 3 years and can still see the forest for the
I am an 1102 and don't want to belittle my career field but why
do we want the Contracting Officer to be the "business manager"?
The KO doesn't run the business. The program manger does. He is
the one who needs an MBA. Why do I say this?
The program manager gets the budget and decides how to spend it.
They organize their program.
They decide to fight for government employees or contract it all
They hire specialists knowledgable in the product or service
being procured. Contracting personnel have too broad range of
purchases to specialize.
They have a budget for these specialists to do market research
by going to trade shows and taking site visits to factories.
Most contracting offices do not.
They decide if they will allow contracting to give them advice
They decide which company they like the best and are most
comfortable with in the technical eval.
They approve the final source selection after price factors are
applied. As well they should since it is their failure risk and
They pay the protest costs when a protest is lost.
The contracting officer should be a highly trained specialist in
the FAR, Contract law, GAO decisions and other federal
laws/regulations. The PM would employ him (either full time or
as a consultant) as his advisor in performing the acquisition.
An exam would be nice too. In fact, what I've described is
really the legal advisor. Maybe the KO should be a lawyer.
The PM would be responsible for a successful acquisition as part
of his entire program. I don't see the KO as ever being more
than part of the PM's staff.
If the contracting officer is going to be the business manager
and a line manager vs a staff position, then he must control the
Ramon Jackson on Sunday, May 20, 2001 - 12:48 pm:
Good points. Who protects the public? Another of my fun ideas
was that of "artificial wolves" serving this purpose. I think
I'd be willing to give up the separation of powers and go with
the PM with CO/KO as just part of the team with artificial
wolves lurking to protect the public interest. It is all about
that old question of "who watches the watchers?" that is
actually quite important.
Artificial wolves were my solution during an argument long ago
to the special governemnt problem. I sometimes wonder about the
effectivity of "the bottom line" in business, but it does serve
to cull those repeatedly making bad business decisions. A
government manager or PM can in theory continue to do so with
continued appropriations as long as Congress has some incentive
to appropriate. That, as we know, can be completely divorced
from realistic business reasons.
We have GAO and IGs, but in reality they have small teeth. Some
agencies have really poor records on business decisions,
individuals within them repeatedly violate spirit of rules and
law as well as common sense. They sometimes just get promoted
Perhaps, in absence of "the bottom line" wolf that pulls down
the weak in the private sector (we really don't want to
liquidate DoD, FAA, and such), we can create artificial wolves.
Maybe we actually need roving packs of auditor IGs with very
sharp teeth. They descend on agencies, find these weakling
organizations and individuals and do their work as wolves do.
Alternately, where they find excellence, they reward. Perhaps a
joint Executive, Judicial, and Legislative task force . . .
That could make for rapid reform and interesting times. It would
certainly not "touchy, feely" or "kinder and gentler." It
probably would increase efficiency and "make government more
like business" as we hear is strongly desired.
formerfed on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 08:09 am:
From Anon 5/19 of 11:11 (don't you sleep or have fun on Sat
It's obvious State has serious problems. One of the most
apparent is lack of training. A Contract Specialist with over 40
years experience but isn't up to speed on FASA, FARA and FAR 15
rewrite! But not too much blame can be directed to lack of
training. Good people somehow learn outside the classroom on
Anon 5/20 and Ramon - we want the Contracting Officer to be a
"business manager" because that's our jobs - bring something to
the acquisition process that everyone, including the program
manager, sees as value. Our job also includes conducting
acquisitions consistent with laws, regulations and policies that
we must follow. I've yet to meet a PM that has breaking laws as
an objective. Rather what they want are acquisitions that
support accomplishing their mission. However, what they are
sometimes faced with is COs who can't optimally do that for lack
of knowledge, ability, or motivation.
If we are truly "business managers" and show PMs we know how to
get the job done, they beat a path to our doors. On the the
hand, if we demonstrate our incompetence, they find ways to work
around us. And grades don't matter. I know one GS-13 Contract
Specialist who is viewed as so much of an asset, Program Offices
call on this person to attend meetings constantly. Even when the
meetings don't involve procurement matters, they value the COs
judgement and business insight. The Co regular attends senior
staff meetings that have close to a dozen SES members.
So, yes, State sounds awful. The Department's Procurement
Executive needs to do something in terms of changing the
workplace culture. And they need to do some proper recruiting
for the right kind of CO's - people that communicate well, know
how to solve problems, can function in group/team settings, and
can offer more than just quoting regulations.
on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 09:05 am:
Someone should forward this thread to State's Senior Proc
Exec. Give us his/her email address and I'll do it. He/she ought
to see what the world thinks about them.
on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 09:31 am:
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. Lloyd W. Pratsch
Room 603, SA-6
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
PHONE: (703) 516-1680
FAX: (703) 875-6155
C MERCY on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 09:31 am:
There is at least one guy at State who reads this...I am sure
he has seen the thread.
anon8 on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 11:16 am:
It doesn't seem to me that training in "contracts" subjects
is the issue. It seems to me that employing plain common sense
and being able to understand common English is the problem in
some of these examples (if you SAY you require the PM to be an
employee, then you REQUIRE it). The other problem is a lack of
communication with technical users (exactly WHAT do you mean by
"FAA certified" and why do you want it?). I'll note that NEITHER
a degree in English nor one in any of the technical fields is
currently acceptable as a qualification to be an 1102. Yet the
basic problem seems to be an utter lack of understanding what
one has said -- a language problem if ever there were one. The
issue of a higher "officer" overriding what the contract
specialist wants to do is an old one -- sometimes it's the right
thing to do and sometimes it's utterly boneheaded. But again,
understanding requirements doesn't seem to be a high priority on
Anon2U on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 11:17 pm:
How do the coworkers feel about the GS-13 who is always at
meetings? Who does the actual work? I don't go to meetings
(other than directly related to my solicitations/contracts)and I
work 10 to 15 hours of overtime every two weeks trying to keep
up, with the emphesis on trying. If he is a supervisor. OK. Or
maybe the workload is easier there. Ok.
on Monday, May 21, 2001 - 11:48 pm:
Don't just pick on State. Things are bad at many other
agencies too. I am aware of at least one other agency that
sounds just as bad or worse. With things so bad in so many
places, one must question the whole system to some degree.
I think we are pushed to do everything fast while new laws and
regs added that complicate things and slow things down. Yes,
there are also new procedures to speed things up too. But when
inexperience personnel attempt these, sustained protests are the
Speed causes many people to shortcut and they can get away with
it 95% of the time. The other times GAO makes them sound bad.
Should I worry too much about the one time I have to reopen
discussions if I get the other 30 actions awarded fast? It seems
in todays workplace, fast procurement lead times and number of
actions completed are more acceptable (and rewarded) than
working more diligently and completing less actions and special
Experienced personnel are not evenly distributed and many will
not mentor new personnel. Therefore, many agencies have a real
training gap. Its one thing to go to training and another to
apply the learning correctly. I was told once that Contracting
is more an art than a science. We now rely on the GAO to be the
formerfed on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 07:17 am:
In the larger scheme, attending these meetings evens out. By
becoming part of the planning process, the Contract Specialist I
mentioned influences outcomes in a positive way. When actual
procurement actions do materialize, everyone is in agreement on
roles, responsibilities and time frames. Things happen quickly
and there isn't much "explain this to me" or "you can't do it
that way". Also that agency's management often asks why the
procurement office isn't staffed better to provide more of that
kind of support, and helped get more 1102 positions.
As I mentioned, when program offices and customers see the
benefits we can provide, they beat a path to our doors. The
tough part of getting ourselves into that kind of position where
we become assets.
Unfortunately, not all 1102s are like the GS-13 I described.
Yes, there is occasionally jealously among co-workers when that
individual gets recognition or refers to top agency officials on
a first name basis. The part most everyone eventually realizes
is that individual made that position by doing something no one
else was doing. By the way, that's the kind of support we all
should be doing.
ex-fed on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 10:17 am:
The individual attending those meetings is vital if they are
serving the purpose of asking those crucial questions. It is
much easier to question a course of action politely in the early
stages, get people thinking on the issue and working solutions
than it is to change direction of a fatal course late in the
game. Often by then minds are made up, ego is committed and
funding may be at risk.
"Is 'FAA certification' exactly what you require and, if so, do
we have the FAA certification list in hand?" at first mention
during an IPT type environment might have changed those fatal
words without anyone getting upset. Bouncing it back months
later starts the ego game playing.
That person attending meetings, if they are doing this type
work, is doing more to streamline acquisition than several other
people frantically pushing papers and questions about in late
stages. Those people are trying to drain the field bailing with
buckets. The other is maintaining the levee.
C MERCY on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 03:46 pm:
I appreciate what you are saying but its too simple an example.
What if that same interrogation had continued....Why do you
require OEMcerts? Why do you require OEM spares? Why is COBOL
necessary? Why do they need to have worked on other State
contracts? Why is the sky blue?
Limited to the FAA cert issue the protest ,and its subsequent
handling by State, becomes insensate. And on this point I tend
to agree with everyone else who has read this beauty. Another
factor which I believe exacts a toll few may realize is the
acquisition metrics;performance measurements. Even if the KO
knew what to do ...perhaps issue an amendment to the RFP
deleting the requirement,allow new submissions and
re-evaluate...how much time against metrics would it have cost.
I do not say this is right but it is a cost these days when
alacrity is the measure.
on Tuesday, May 22, 2001 - 09:24 pm:
It was the Air Force who had FAA cert problems. State
incorrectly evaluated as LPTA when tradeoffs were called for and
allowed an ineligible contractor to stay in the competition and
awarded it to them. Just wanted to get the comedy of errors
C MERCY on Wednesday, May 23, 2001 - 08:47 am:
You are quite correct. Thanks.