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  • Vern Edwards

    Warning To Proposal Writers (and Agency Evaluators)

    By Vern Edwards

    All proposal managers and writers should read a recent GAO bid protest decision: CR/SWS LLC, GAO B-414766.2, Sept. 13, 2017. In that case the agency was buying a commercial item--integrated solid waste management services at an Air Force base. The solicitation required offerors to submit a “technical proposal” that was to consist entirely of a “Mission Essential Contractor Services Plan” (MECSP). The proposal preparation instructions said:  That’s it. There were no supplemental instructions and no formatting or page limitations. The solicitation said that the agency would evaluate proposals and select a contractor in a series of steps. The first step would be to evaluate the technical proposal (the Mission Essential Contractor Services Plan) for acceptability on a pass or fail basis. It said: and  The solicitation defined acceptable and unacceptable as follows:   The solicitation said that only those offerors whose technical proposals (the Plan) were determined to be acceptable would move on to the next phase of the evaluation, which would entail a past performance/price tradeoff analysis and decision. The solicitation said that the agency planned to award without discussions. Here is the text of DFARS 252.237-7024:  Note that despite the capital letter at the beginning of each subparagraph, paragraph (b) is one long sentence.  (Whether such a requirement was properly imposed in an acquisition of commercial item solid waste management services is a matter that I will not address in this blogpost.) The agency rated both the successful offeror’s and the protester’s plans to be acceptable. The successful offeror’s plan was less than two pages long. The protester’s plan was 14 pages long. The successful offeror won based on its lower price and past performance rating of “satisfactory confidence”. The protester, which had a higher price but a better past performance rating, complained that the successful offeror’s plan did not address all the topics required by DFARS 252.237.7024 paragraphs (b)(2)(ii) and (b)(2)(iii), “time lapses” and “training issues”. The GAO agreed, sustained the protest, and recommended that the agency either reject the successful offeror’s proposal or conduct discussions, solicit revised proposals, and make a new source selection decision. It also recommended that the agency reimburse the protester’s costs of filing and pursuing the protest. Yes, the agency was dumb. It did not take its own proposal preparation requirement seriously or plan its evaluation carefully. But that’s not the point of this blog post. The point of this blog post is that proposal managers and writers better pay close attention when reading and complying with proposal preparation instructions. They better dissect each and every sentence and phrase and identify each and every submission requirement. Details matter. Now, look back at DFARS 252.237.7024 paragraph (b)(2), which specifies the topics that a Mission Essential Contractor Services Plan must “address”. How many are there? At first glance, there are five, specified in subparagraphs (i) through (v). But, in fact, there are many more than five. Here is my phrase-by-phrase analysis of what DFARS 252.237.7024, paragraph (b)(2), requires offerors to “address”; 1.    challenges associated with maintaining essential contractor services during an extended event;  2.    time lapse associated with: 2.1. the initiation of the acquisition of essential personnel 2.2. the initiation of the acquisition of essential resources 2.3. the actual availability of essential personnel on site; 2.4. the actual availability of essential resources on site;  3.    components for: 3.1. identification of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 3.2. identification of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 3.3. training of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 3.4. training of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 3.5. preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 3.6. preparedness of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 4.    processes for: 4.1. identification of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 4.2. identification of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 4.3. training of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 4.4. training of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 4.5. preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 4.6. preparedness of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 5.    requirements for: 5.1. identification of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 5.2. identification of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 5.3. training of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 5.4. training of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 5.5. preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities 5.6. preparedness of personnel who are capable of performing work from home 6.    any established alert procedures for mobilizing identified “essential contractor service” personnel 7.    any established notification procedures for mobilizing identified “essential contractor service” personnel 8.    approach for: 8.1. communicating expectations to contractor employees regarding their roles during a crisis.  8.2. communicating expectations to contractor employees regarding their responsibilities during a crisis.  By my count there are 27 planning topics to be addressed, not just five. (By the way, what’s in a “plan”? Some persons would think that a plan specifies who, what, when, where, and how.) My kind of analysis might accomplish three things. First, it will ensure that your proposal addresses each and every proposal preparation requirement. Agency personnel are not always aware of just what their proposal preparation instructions require of offerors. Read the convoluted instructions in some of the RFPs floating around out there. Read the sentences. There can be a lot of hidden eddies in bureaucratic stream-of-consciousness writing, as the Air Force learned in CR/SWS LLC. Second, it might alert complacent agency evaluators as to what they should be looking for in all proposals. This will give you a leg up if the competition has not been as thorough as you. Third, if you lose, it might give your attorney a basis for assessing whether the agency adhered to its evaluation criteria and ammunition for a protest, as it did in CR/SWS LLC. The protester was more conscientious than both its competitor and the agency, and so it won. Did the Department of Defense really intend for offerors to plan mission-essential contractor services in great detail? Was it practical to ask offerors to do so before contract award, i.e., before they understood what performance would actually be like on the Air Force base? What did the agency really want and expect from offerors? Who knows? It did not matter. Neither the agency nor the successful offeror took the proposal preparation instructions seriously, and it cost them. As for you agency personnel--you better think when you write proposal preparation instructions, and you better read what you’ve written when you plan your evaluations, and you better take what you’ve written seriously. And you better supplement and explain lousy boilerplate instructions like those in DFARS 252.237-7024. I assume that the Air Force will do as the GAO recommended: conduct discussions, seek proposal revisions, and make a new source selection decision. I wonder if it will supplement and clarify DFARS 252.237-7024. I wonder how comprehensive and how long the offerors’ Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plans will be in the second go-round.
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  1. My Cubs couldn’t pull off the World Series repeat, losing badly to the Dodgers last night in the National League Championship Series.  And you know what?  I’m okay with it.  We Cubs fans are a different breed: after 108 years, many of us  thought we’d never see a title.  So after the amazing championship last year, all of 2017 felt like playing with house money.  Yankees fans might be grumbling that it’s been a whopping eight years since their last title, but Cubs fans like me will always have 2016.

    Enough baseball–time to move on to what’s really important on your Friday, the SmallGovCon Week In Review!  This week, we bring you articles ranging from government employees taking illegal gratuities, a sharp decrease in the number of successful small business contractors, investigators find major problems with many of the Census Bureau’s sole source contracts, and more.

    • A 40-month prison sentence was handed down to the former comptroller of the Norfolk Ship Support Activity for conspiring with others to essentially force a government prime contractor to use a specified subcontractor. [United States Department of Justice]
    • Federal agencies met the governmentwide small business goal for the fourth straight year in fiscal 2016, but the number of small  business prime contractors has gone down by 25% since 2010. [Federal News Radio]
    • After helping to steer millions of dollars in contracts to a North Carolina defense contractor, a former employee of the Navy has now been sentenced to three years and four months in prison for his role in the scheme. [The Virginia Pilot]
    • Listen to Larry Allen on Federal Drive with Tom Temin as he discusses what GSA has in store for contractors this year. [Federal News Radio]
    • A whistleblower suit has led to a False Claims Act settlement of $2.6 million to resolve civil allegations that the company submitted false claims for payment to the DoD for unqualified security guards. [wtop]
    • Government investigators found problems with 90% of the no-bid contracts awarded by the Census Bureau, resulting in overpayment to contractors by about $9 million. [New York Post]
    • Congressional members have submitted a request for information on data security vetting for government contracts. [Homeland Preparedness News]
    • GSA Administrator nominee Emily Murphy wants the GSA to make it easier for new companies to do business with the government so competition remains robust. [Federal News Radio]
    • The Indian Health Service agency has come under fire for awarding a contract to a company that had previously paid $10 million to settle allegations of submitting false claims to the government. [Bristol Herald Courier]

    View the full article

  2. Much has been said on the security breach that exposed up to 145 million Americans’ most sensitive information. Not only had Equifax,  some say negligently, exposed half of America’s social security numbers, credit card information, and just about anything else needed to steal an identity, but the company thoroughly botched the cleanup by directing customers to a dubiously credentialed website and made a not-so-subtle attempt to induce its customers to waive any right to sue. The remarkable nature of the incident even received a 15-minute break down by HBO’s John Oliver, which is by far the most entertaining way to catch up on the breach if you have been in hiding for the last month.

    The IRS award of a seven million dollar contract to Equifax, made shortly after the security hack, seemed to put a cherry on top of a perfect media outrage story. And rage they did. After Politico “discovered” the “sole-source award” by the IRS to Equifax, every major media outlet from Fox News to CNN ran stories mocking the agency’s poor decision. Senators from both sides of the aisle openly scolded the IRS for handing Equifax government funds without even allowing other companies to compete for the contract. Through a grin, Mr. Oliver told his crowd of the award, made on the very same day the former CEO was being chewed up in an open Senate hearing. How could something like this happen? Simply put, because a law aimed at preventing fraud and abuse required the IRS to give Equifax the contract, without any competition.

    Federal contractors are well aware of what is called a “statutory stay.” When the government wants to buy goods or services, most of the time it must follow very strict and complicated rules. One such rule requires the government agency to give a debriefing to disappointed contractors when their bid was passed over in favor of another’s. For a variety of reasons, the contractor may believe the government made a mistake in its decision or perhaps something more sinister is to blame for the loss. If the contractor “protests” the decision within five days of the debriefing, the contract at issue is automatically frozen while the Government Accountability Office takes a look under 31 U.S.C. § 3553. The reason behind the law is fairly plain – i.e., to avoid a situation where a company begins performing for the government, and racking up costs, only to have that contract overturned at a much later date.

    So about this infamous IRS “award” to Equifax; it was made after the IRS chose a different company to perform on a contract where Equifax was the incumbent. Equifax protested, activated the automatic stay described above, and the IRS was forced to grant a short extension to Equifax’s previous contract while the protest was decided. Notably, the short extension was publicly made, because “a sole source order is required to cover the timeframe needed to resolve the protest on contract TIRNO-17-Z-00024. This is considered a critical service that cannot lapse.” The protest was quickly denied, and now a new company will take over performing services to the IRS.

    Notably, the IRS decision to take the contract away from Equifax was made long before the media “put pressure on the IRS,” or before both sides of the aisle joined together in decrying the purported incompetent waste of government funds. While the vagaries of government procurement procedure may not be as shocking as the story told by the major outlets, and it is certainly not nearly as funny as the John Oliver segment, it is however the real explanation to the latest chapter of the Equifax security breach.

    The post The Misplaced Rage Regarding Equifax’s Post Data Breach “Contract Award” appeared first on Centre Law & Consulting.


    View the full article

  3. After the proposal due date, the rule is that late changes or revisions are not accepted, with certain narrow exceptions spelled out in regulation. However, GAO has carved out its own exception when key personnel become unavailable. Such was the case when the YWCA protested a recent Labor Department award. GAO held that after proposal submission, an agency cannot accept a replacement for a key person who becomes unavailable without opening discussions with all offerors in the competitive range. The case highlights some of issues that arise for offerors when personnel changes occur after proposals are submitted.

    Read the full article at Petrillo & Powell's Patterns of Procurement.

  4. All proposal managers and writers should read a recent GAO bid protest decision: CR/SWS LLC, GAO B-414766.2, Sept. 13, 2017. In that case the agency was buying a commercial item--integrated solid waste management services at an Air Force base.

    The solicitation required offerors to submit a “technical proposal” that was to consist entirely of a “Mission Essential Contractor Services Plan” (MECSP). The proposal preparation instructions said: 

    Quote

    Develop and submit a Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plan required IAW DFARS Provision 252.237-7024, Notice of Continuation of Essential Contractor Services.

    That’s it. There were no supplemental instructions and no formatting or page limitations.

    The solicitation said that the agency would evaluate proposals and select a contractor in a series of steps. The first step would be to evaluate the technical proposal (the Mission Essential Contractor Services Plan) for acceptability on a pass or fail basis. It said:

    Quote

    Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plan

    Description: The Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plan must meet the requirements established in DFARS Provision 252.237-7024, Notice of Continuation of Essential Contractor Services.

    and

    Quote

    This requirement is met when the offeror’s proposal contains a Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plan that meets the requirements established in DFARS Provision 252.237-7024.

    Measure of Merit: This requirement is met when the offeror’s proposal contains a Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plan that meets the requirements established in DFARS Provision 252.237-7024.

     The solicitation defined acceptable and unacceptable as follows: 

    Quote

    Acceptable: Proposal clearly meets the minimum requirements of the solicitation.

    Unacceptable: Proposal does not clearly meet the minimum requirements of the solicitation.

     The solicitation said that only those offerors whose technical proposals (the Plan) were determined to be acceptable would move on to the next phase of the evaluation, which would entail a past performance/price tradeoff analysis and decision. The solicitation said that the agency planned to award without discussions.

    Here is the text of DFARS 252.237-7024: 

    Quote

    NOTICE OF CONTINUATION OF ESSENTIAL CONTRACTOR SERVICES (OCT 2010) 

          (a)  Definitions.  “Essential contractor service” and “mission-essential functions” have the meanings given in the clause at 252.237-7023, Continuation of Essential Contractor Services, in this solicitation. 

          (b)  The offeror shall provide with its offer a written plan describing how it will continue to perform the essential contractor services listed in attachment _______, Mission Essential Contractor Services, dated ________, during periods of crisis.  The offeror shall– 

                  (1)  Identify provisions made for the acquisition of essential personnel and resources, if necessary, for continuity of operations for up to 30 days or until normal operations can be resumed; 

                  (2)  Address in the plan, at a minimum— 

                        (i)  Challenges associated with maintaining essential contractor services during an extended event, such as a pandemic that occurs in repeated waves; 

                        (ii)  The time lapse associated with the initiation of the acquisition of essential personnel and resources and their actual availability on site; 

                        (iii)  The components, processes, and requirements for the identification, training, and preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities or performing work from home; 

                        (iv)  Any established alert and notification procedures for mobilizing identified “essential contractor service” personnel; and 

                        (v)  The approach for communicating expectations to contractor employees regarding their roles and responsibilities during a crisis. 

    (End of clause)

    Note that despite the capital letter at the beginning of each subparagraph, paragraph (b) is one long sentence. 

    (Whether such a requirement was properly imposed in an acquisition of commercial item solid waste management services is a matter that I will not address in this blogpost.)

    The agency rated both the successful offeror’s and the protester’s plans to be acceptable. The successful offeror’s plan was less than two pages long. The protester’s plan was 14 pages long. The successful offeror won based on its lower price and past performance rating of “satisfactory confidence”.

    The protester, which had a higher price but a better past performance rating, complained that the successful offeror’s plan did not address all the topics required by DFARS 252.237.7024 paragraphs (b)(2)(ii) and (b)(2)(iii), “time lapses” and “training issues”. The GAO agreed, sustained the protest, and recommended that the agency either reject the successful offeror’s proposal or conduct discussions, solicit revised proposals, and make a new source selection decision. It also recommended that the agency reimburse the protester’s costs of filing and pursuing the protest.

    Yes, the agency was dumb. It did not take its own proposal preparation requirement seriously or plan its evaluation carefully. But that’s not the point of this blog post. The point of this blog post is that proposal managers and writers better pay close attention when reading and complying with proposal preparation instructions. They better dissect each and every sentence and phrase and identify each and every submission requirement. Details matter.

    Now, look back at DFARS 252.237.7024 paragraph (b)(2), which specifies the topics that a Mission Essential Contractor Services Plan must “address”. How many are there? At first glance, there are five, specified in subparagraphs (i) through (v). But, in fact, there are many more than five. Here is my phrase-by-phrase analysis of what DFARS 252.237.7024, paragraph (b)(2), requires offerors to “address”;

    1.    challenges associated with maintaining essential contractor services during an extended event; 

    2.    time lapse associated with:

    2.1. the initiation of the acquisition of essential personnel

    2.2. the initiation of the acquisition of essential resources

    2.3. the actual availability of essential personnel on site;

    2.4. the actual availability of essential resources on site; 

    3.    components for:

    3.1. identification of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    3.2. identification of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    3.3. training of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    3.4. training of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    3.5. preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    3.6. preparedness of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    4.    processes for:

    4.1. identification of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    4.2. identification of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    4.3. training of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    4.4. training of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    4.5. preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    4.6. preparedness of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    5.    requirements for:

    5.1. identification of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    5.2. identification of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    5.3. training of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    5.4. training of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    5.5. preparedness of personnel who are capable of relocating to alternate facilities

    5.6. preparedness of personnel who are capable of performing work from home

    6.    any established alert procedures for mobilizing identified “essential contractor service” personnel

    7.    any established notification procedures for mobilizing identified “essential contractor service” personnel

    8.    approach for:

    8.1. communicating expectations to contractor employees regarding their roles during a crisis. 

    8.2. communicating expectations to contractor employees regarding their responsibilities during a crisis. 

    By my count there are 27 planning topics to be addressed, not just five.

    (By the way, what’s in a “plan”? Some persons would think that a plan specifies who, what, when, where, and how.)

    My kind of analysis might accomplish three things.

    • First, it will ensure that your proposal addresses each and every proposal preparation requirement. Agency personnel are not always aware of just what their proposal preparation instructions require of offerors. Read the convoluted instructions in some of the RFPs floating around out there. Read the sentences. There can be a lot of hidden eddies in bureaucratic stream-of-consciousness writing, as the Air Force learned in CR/SWS LLC.
    • Second, it might alert complacent agency evaluators as to what they should be looking for in all proposals. This will give you a leg up if the competition has not been as thorough as you.
    • Third, if you lose, it might give your attorney a basis for assessing whether the agency adhered to its evaluation criteria and ammunition for a protest, as it did in CR/SWS LLC. The protester was more conscientious than both its competitor and the agency, and so it won.

    Did the Department of Defense really intend for offerors to plan mission-essential contractor services in great detail? Was it practical to ask offerors to do so before contract award, i.e., before they understood what performance would actually be like on the Air Force base? What did the agency really want and expect from offerors? Who knows? It did not matter. Neither the agency nor the successful offeror took the proposal preparation instructions seriously, and it cost them.

    As for you agency personnel--you better think when you write proposal preparation instructions, and you better read what you’ve written when you plan your evaluations, and you better take what you’ve written seriously. And you better supplement and explain lousy boilerplate instructions like those in DFARS 252.237-7024.

    I assume that the Air Force will do as the GAO recommended: conduct discussions, seek proposal revisions, and make a new source selection decision. I wonder if it will supplement and clarify DFARS 252.237-7024. I wonder how comprehensive and how long the offerors’ Mission-Essential Contractor Services Plans will be in the second go-round.

  5. Months can expire between the conclusion of an audit and when the DCAA issues an audit report. Save yourselves needless speculation and angst! Make sure to hold an exit conference before auditors leave your premises.

    You may want to request that the auditor and the auditor’s supervisor both attend the meeting, Your designated point of contact and affected members of the management team should all attend.

    An exit conference gives you the opportunity to discuss audit findings before they become official. You can probe the accuracy of the findings and, if needed, clarify any items upon which there is disagreement. When required, follow up with documentation to support your position.

    Auditors should review their findings in order of priority. For high-priority findings, DCAA might not close the audit until you remediate the underlying issues. As a result, it is vital that you gain a thorough understanding of the finding as well as what the auditor will accept as remediation.

    Auditors might specify that lower-priority findings be fixed by the next audit. Again, you should obtain auditors view’ on what constitutes an acceptable solution to the issue.

    In some cases, auditors may say that your way of handling a procedure is acceptable, but they would prefer that you use a different approach. You must then evaluate the cost to your business of changing your approach versus the cost of having auditors challenge your business processes.

    The Preliminary Report

    After the exit interview, the auditor should prepare a preliminary report covering all of the findings resulting from the audit. This is often not completed until weeks or months after the audit.

    You should begin remediation of any findings addressed at the exit interview while awaiting the preliminary report.

    After receiving the report, you should review the findings and respond in writing to any areas of disagreement. Be prepared to back up your position with documentation.

    The Final Audit Report

    Some months after auditors have left your premises, the DCAA will satisfy its reporting requirements by issuing a final audit report. Typically, reports should include:

    • A statement that identifies the scope and objectives of the audit, including the area, system, or proposal being audited.
    • Objective audit findings.
    • Adequate support for all conclusions.
    • A description of any issues that adversely affected the audit.
    • A summary of audit results, including the auditor’s findings, recommendations for contractor compliance with applicable regulations, and overall opinions.

    Review this report with your management team carefully and develop a plan to address remaining audit findings as required. If you successfully managed the audit process, you can breathe a sigh of relief and return to managing your business.

    What if I Disagree with the Audit Report?

    DCAA auditors are only human. They can make mistakes or issue findings with which you disagree.

    You do have rights of appeal under the Contract Disputes Act. Moreover, your contracting officer can reject DCAA recommendations, although this is increasingly rare.

    Litigation can be expensive, however. Unless their errors present a threat to your payments or continued operation as a government contractor, it may be to your advantage to change your systems to comply with their findings. This is a decision that you should make with competent legal counsel.

    If you have questions about DCAA or DCMA audits and your business, please call or email Robert E. Jones at (614) 556-4415 or robert@leftbrainpro.com.

    The post Surviving the DCAA Exit Conference and Audit Remediation appeared first on Left Brain Professionals.


    leftbrainpro.com

  6. In the 1973 futuristic mystery thriller Soylent Green there’s an exchange between Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) and Hatcher (Brock Peters):

     

    Det. Thorn: Ocean's dying, plankton's dying . . . it's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for food. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!

     

    Hatcher: I promise, Tiger. I promise. I'll tell the Exchange.

     

    Det. Thorn: You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You've gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people! We've gotta stop them somehow!

    Acquisition Reform is like Soylent Green, it’s people. I don’t mean the Congresscritters, like Representative Thornberry and Senator McCain, and their Committees. I don’t mean the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, whoever he or she may turn out to be. I don’t mean the acquisition and procurement policy wonks in the Pentagon and elsewhere.

    This past week (i.e., 14 – 20 May 2017) was a big week for the professional acquisition reformers:

     

    The Advisory Panel on Streamlining and Codifying Acquisition Regulations issued the “Section 809 Panel Interim Report” (May 2017). Read the 60 page report, and formulate your own opinion if it will fix the problems in Government acquisition. Frankly, I think it will take more than getting rid of the $1 coin requirement, but I could be wrong.

     

    Representative William McClellan "Mac" Thornberry introduced H.R. 2511 “To amend Title 10, United States Code, to streamline the acquisition system, invest early in acquisition programs, improve the acquisition workforce, and improve transparency in the acquisition system.” The short title on that would be ‘‘Defense Acquisition Streamlining and Transparency Act’’. (sic) Read the 80 page resolution, and formulate your own opinion if it will fix the problems in Government acquisition. [If we have Representative Thornberry, can Senator McCain be far behind? (Or, is that FAR behind?)]

     

    A (moderately) reliable source has told me that the Department of Defense will be leaving Better Buying Power behind, now that Mssrs. Carter and Kendall are gone. But, wait, acquisition reform has not been abandoned. Apparently, it will go on, but now as “Continued Acquisition Reform.” Presumably that will be abbreviated as “CAR.” Continued Acquisition Reform should not be confused with Continuous Acquisition Reform nor Continued Acquisition Reform, nor Continuous Process Improvement, for that matter, those would all be bygone days.

    The professional acquisition reformers have time and again passed legislation and issued regulations to “fix” the acquisition process.  This fiscal year (2017) Title VIII (i.e., Acquisition Policy, Acquisition Management, and Related Matters) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) had 88 sections. The year before, 77 items. And, yet, Representative Thornberry and Senator McCain believe there is a need for a lot more acquisition reform legislation this year. Title VIII has included over 500 sections over the last ten years, but we still need more. What we have at issue here is what is referred to as the Law of the Instrument. Although he was not the first to recognize the Law, Abraham Maslow is probably the one best remembered for articulating it, "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail." For those of us on the receiving end of the Congressional output that would be, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a legislation, to treat everything as if it were a bill." I suspect, although I cannot be positive, that most, if not all, of the folks doing the legislating have never had to use the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to buy anything. If they had, they would not be nearly so cavalier in tossing around statements about how bad the acquisition process is, and how more legislation is the answer.

    Will such legislation solve the acquisition problem? According to the Honorable Frank Kendall the answer is a resounding “NO.”

     

    Quote

    Frank Kendall, then undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics (USD(AT&L)), condemned, or “slammed,” or “blasted,” such legislation.

    Frank Kendall, who has served as the Pentagon's top weapons buyer since October 2011, blasted Congress's acquisition reform efforts, which he said almost inevitably create more bureaucracy and regulation.

    Kendall called legislative action “an imperfect tool to improve acquisition results.”

    “It is not a good instrument to achieve the results that I think the Hill is after, but they keep trying,” he said. “To be honest, I believe that as often as not, what they do does not help. In some cases, it has the opposite effect.”

    Bloomberg Federal Contracts Report, “Outgoing DOD Weapons Buyer Slams Congress’ Acquisition

    But, in all fairness, it’s not just them. Since we last had a reissuance of the FAR in March 2005, the FAR Council has brought us 95 Federal Acquisition Circulars (FACs) to update and expand the FAR. Since we last has a reissuance of the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) in January 2008, the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council has brought us 211 Defense FAR Supplement Publication Notices (DPNs). With all of that, there are still dozens of open FAR and DFARS cases yet to be heaped on our plate. Although legislation may have been a major root cause of much that change activity, we can probably offer some of our “thanks” to the President, OMB, OFPP, GAO, Boards of Contract Appeals and Courts. Admittedly, now and again, a good idea actually gets slipped into the regulations. [Note: The number of FACs and DPNs issued in 2017 was artificially suppressed as a result of Executive Order 13771 – Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs. The two councils (i.e., FAR Council, Defense Acquisition Regulations Council (DAR Council) and the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council (CAA Council)) withheld publication of a large number of cases while policies and procedures were “sorted out.”]

    [Note: Refer to Augustine’s Laws, Law Number XLIX: Regulations grow at the same rate as weeds.]

    And, if that were not enough, we have institutional acquisition reform (e.g., policy letters, memoranda, directives, instructions, guidebooks, handbooks, manuals). Everyone seems to want to get into the act in one way or another. It is interesting to note, however, that the “perpetrators” of this institutional acquisition reform do not see it in the same light as acquisition reform legislation.

    But, I recognize the lesson that King Canute was trying to teach when, in the apocryphal anecdote, he had his throne taken to the sea and ordered the tides not to come in. They did anyway. Legislators will legislate, it’s what they do. Regulators will regulate, it’s what they do. Policy makers will policymake, it’s what they do. None of them will willingly give up their rice bowls.

    Let’s get back to Soylent Green.

     
    Quote

    “Acquisition improvement is going to have to come from within. It is not going to be engineered by Hill staffers writing laws for us,” Kendall said. “It's going to be done by people in the trenches every day, dealing with industry, trying to get incentives right, trying to get the performance right, trying to set up business deals and enforce them, set reasonable requirements in our contracts.”

    Bloomberg Federal Contracts Report, “Outgoing DOD Weapons Buyer Slams Congress’ Acquisition Fixes,” Andrew Clevenger, January 17, 2017

     

    Better Buying Power (BBP)? The Honorable Mssrs. Carter and Kendall were responsible for BBBP, in all its iterations. Did that rise up from the trenches? Or, was it handed (or pushed) down from above? Isn’t this a bit like the pot calling the kettle black? If you will permit the adding of a single letter to a line of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, "The laddy doth protest too much, methinks."

    [Note: Refer to Augustine’s Laws, Law Number L: The average regulation has a life span one-fifth as long as a chimpanzee's and one-tenth as long as a human's, but four times as long as the official's who created it.]

    Well, whichever way you look at it (i.e., upside, downside, sidewise) it is all more work for the acquisition professionals that must do the daily work of buying supplies and services for the Government. If you want to have an idea of how all of this acquisition reform weighs us down, then take a look at William Blake’s illustration “Christian Reading in His Book” for John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim's Progress. It will depend on how many pixels the image you find has, but it looks to me that he is reading the FAR.

    Who are the Soylent Green? Not the policymakers, but the people in the trenches, doing the hard work of acquisition on a daily basis, day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out. The contract specialist, contract negotiator, contract administrator, cost or price analyst, purchasing agent or procurement analyst just trying to get the job done. These are, for the most, part the unsung heroes and heroines of acquisition reform. These are the ones who, through innovation and personal initiative reform that acquisition process, one acquisition at a time. And, if we are lucky, or clever, are able to pass successes along to others.

    As acquisition professionals, we must pass on our successes, and failures, to others, so that they may join in the fruits of success, and avoid the pitfalls of failure. You cannot count on “Lessons Learned,” alone. How often do lessons learned go unread and unlearned? You cannot count on “Best Practices,” alone. How often do best practices, go unread and unpracticed? Share with others. Share quickly. Share often. Share wherever you can.

    A final thought.

    Quote

    So what is to be done? By and large the answer to that question is well understood—in fact, many friends of mine such as former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard; the head of the Skunk Works Kelly Johnson; Air Force General Bennie Schriever; Admiral Wayne Meyer and Army General Bob Baer, among others, were providing the answer decades ago. What is required is simply Management 101. That is, decide what is needed; create a plan to provide it, including assigning authority and responsibility; supply commensurate resources in the form of people, money, technology, time and infrastructure; provide qualified leadership; execute the plan; and monitor results and strenuously enforce accountability. Ironically, little of this requires legislation—but it does require massive amounts of will . . . from all levels of government. Unfortunately, many of the problems are cultural—and it is difficult to legislate culture. But there is much that could be done.

    Views from the Honorable Norman R. Augustine

    The Acquisition Conundrum

    DEFENSE ACQUISITION REFORM: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? A Compendium of Views by Leading Experts, STAFF REPORT PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS UNITED STATES SENATE (October 2, 2014)

    The absolute final thought. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I don’t care about King Canute: Don’t legislate. Don’t regulate. Just leave us alone to do our work as best we can.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  7. Of all areas in contracting, the one often taken most for granted, yet of vital importance, is that of the prime contractor/subcontractor relationship. We all know how much the requirements, contractual specifications, terms and conditions, and funding on a prime contract flow down the supply chain, but this flowdown doesn’t just happen. Although some may argue it’s as easy as placing clauses into a subcontract, it more complex than that. Subcontracting can exponentially increase the complexity of whatever product or service is to be delivered to the ultimate customer. 

    For all the attention placed on the customer and prime contract, all these same complex issues, and more, are placed on firms managing both ends of the subsequent subcontracting relationships at each successive tier. These firms may be competitors with each other in some respects, yet working for one another in other respects. Prime and subcontractors must develop tools and systems for tracking performance, compliance, and results—not only of themselves, but of each other. Creating these processes, systems, and documents defines their relationship and responsibilities. Determining the terms and conditions of what the prime needs—including what, how, where, and when—must be precisely articulated to ensure the sub delivers exactly what the prime customer asked for (as defined in the prime’s solicitation, the sub’s proposal, and subsequent (proper) communications). 

    Within both federal and commercial contracting, competitive pressures and expectations continue to dramatically increase. In most cases, everyone has increasing alternatives to go elsewhere if needed to get their requirements met. The prime customer, as we know, is obligated to flow down certain expectations, and to manage the increased pressures “downhill.” Within federal contracting, increased oversight and review of the managing of subcontracts or purchasing has increased from the contracting office to the Defense Contract Management Agency.

    As in all things, this comes down to people. While many of these activities lend themselves to automation, much also requires the ever-growing need for professionals with interpersonal skills—particularly relationship building. Hard and so-called “soft” skills (or competencies) such as contract management, pricing, written and verbal communication, knowledge of technology, research, finance, marketing, or general business acumen—as well as adaptability to change—are competencies no firm can short-change in the people that ensure this is done internally, or in representing itself to the outside business world.

    Subcontracting, supply chain, or purchasing managers; buyers, contract specialists, pricing specialists, estimators, or category managers—whatever the title, they are interrelated within the same overall profession. Whether on the buying or selling side, the prime or the subcontractor, the top-tier or several layers down the supply chain, this is as important a relationship and imperative a technical expertise as ever there was in how our economy is driven. 

    Within small businesses, it can be well argued that these activities are everyone’s responsibility. Whether it’s someone working in finance, information technology, law, or business development; even the CEO needs to understand and perform parts or all of these subcontract management functions.

    So what are you waiting for? The business that you may help thrive or just survive may be your own. Good Luck!

    Michael P. Fischetti

    Executive Director

    National Contract Management Association

    NCMA invites you and your colleagues to attend SubCon Training Workshops—NCMA’s new training event for subcontracting professionals—March 30–31, 2017, in Dulles, VA; offering four workshops, each with six sessions to choose from. Participants can choose their own schedule or come for two full days of training and networking. Learn more at www.ncmahq.org/subcon17

     

  8. In early 1977, Gordon Wade Rule (Rule) sat in a chair in a corner of a conference room at the Naval Material Command reading a document that I had prepared about his negotiations on the CGN-41, a nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser.  Days earlier, I was among a group that was briefed by a staff member of Admiral Hyman Rickover (Rickover), the Director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.  Although, the briefing was supposed to be about the CGN-41 negotiation, we were treated to a 3-hour lecture on how the Navy's shipbuilders were trying to "pin the rose" on Rickover. In this case, pinning the rose had nothing to do with the shipbuilders asking the Admiral to a prom.

    When I began writing this blog entry, I had planned to include only the work I had done decades ago for the Chairman, House Committee on Armed Services.  That work involved Rule's negotiation of Modification 31 to the contract that included the CGN-41, the eventual USS Arkansas. I wanted you to figure out if the modification that Rule signed was done in a manner that would allow it to survive a court test.  It took 2 courts to decide that question so it wasn't as easy as it sounded.  Unfortunately I read too much surrounding material and I realized that I was taking Rule's actions out of the context in which they happened back in the 1970s.  So, I added a bit more information.  You will see Rule as the contracting officer, Rickover as a program officer interfering with the contracting officer, Senator William Proxmire apparently acting for Rickover and himself, and Deputy Secretary of Defense William P. Clements, Jr. (Clements) trying to resolve the shipbuilding claims problem in any manner he could.  You cannot choose sides on this one.  All characters, including government agencies and shipbuilders, were trying to manipulate and influence anyone that became involved with the CGN-41.  It seemed as if sides were drawn by identifying the enemy of an individual's enemy.  

    A Brief Introduction to the Shipbuilding Claims Era

    In the early 1970s, cost overruns and shipbuilders' claims had become a major problem.  By 1976, it had reached epidemic proportions with $1.9 billion in shipbuilder claims.  The shipbuilders, the Navy, the Department of Justice, and Rickover were in a war.  In the case of the CGN-41, Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company was the industry player.  

    Clements wanted to settle the ship claims problem with the use of P. L. 85-804.  A June 21, 1976, Business Week article explains his early effort.  The excerpt below is a quote from the article entitled:  The Shipbuilders Balk at 40 Cents on the Dollar.  The article explained that Clements had planned to settle $1.9 billion of shipbuilding claims against the Navy for "between $500 million and $700 million" but that plan fell fiat with the Navy's shipbuilders.  He explained that "the shipyards are giving me trouble."  The article further described:

    Quote

    On Apr. 30 Clements informed both the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees of his unusual plan to clear up long-pending claims, which he said are largely responsible for the "acrimonious and adversarial environment that now marks Navy-shipbuilders business relations." He promised the legislators a progress report on June 10. At the same time, he predicted privately that he would have the claims situation wrapped up by that date.

    The settlements would be under terms of Public Law 85-804, enacted by Congress in the early 1960s to enable the Defense Dept. to modify contracts when it is in the interest of national defense. The law was amended in 1973 to require that Congress be notified prior to use of the law for any modification exceeding $25 million and be given 60 days to disapprove.

    Clements intended to use this program to bypass traditional, drawn-out appeals board procedures and to wipe the slate clean of the massive extra dollar amounts demanded by shipbuilders to compensate them for such things as Navy-ordered design changes, late delivery of government-furnished equipment, and higher-than-anticipated inflation rates. But at midweek Clements was far short of his goal. The two shipyards with the bulk of the outstanding claims were reluctant to accept his offer of roughly 40¢ on the dollar in immediate cash.

    A lot of money. Tenneco Inc.'s Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. filed the largest of the outstanding claims-some $894 million. After meeting Wednesday morning with Clements, Newport News President John P. Diesel said: "We have failed. We can't get together on money, and the Navy has not done a damn thing about changing contracting procedures."

    After failing to reach a settlement himself, Clements called Navy management to his office for a meeting of the status of shipbuilding claims.  Nothing had been accomplished by them either.  He then focused on the CGN-41.  The work on this ship had been stopped by Newport News because of issues it was having with the Navy.  The contract was in court and work had started again under the condition that the Navy negotiated in good faith with Newport News to resolve the issues.  The court's time limit for good faith negotiations was running out and something had to be done.  Since the CGN-41 contract was in court, the Department of Justice was required to play a part in the review of any settlement proposed to the court.  

    This is where our story begins.  I have added the dates on which the actions occurred so that you can follow.  All facts are based on documents that I had reviewed in the 1970s or documents that I recently reviewed.  I needed to limit the length of this entry so I added enough information to give you a flavor of the times.  Sometime in the future, I may write a larger article.  Rule was appointed as a special contracting officer on the CGN-41 to resolve the issues that the Navy and the Secretary of Defense could not accomplish.  Undoubtedly he knew he was heading into a mighty storm that might harm him.  

    Contract Modification P00031 To CGN-41:  Chronology of Events

    July 13, 1976:  Clements held a meeting to discuss Navy shipbuilding claims.  Among those in attendance were:

    • Deputy Secretary of Defense (Clements)
    • Consultant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense
    • Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Logistics) (ASN (I & L))
    • Chief of the Naval Material Command (NAVMAT)
    • Vice-Chief of the Naval Material Command  (NAVSEA)
    • General Counsel of the Navy, and 
    • Gordon Rule, Director, Procurement Control and Clearance Division, Naval Material Command. (Rule)

    In regard to the Newport News claims, a member of the meeting quoted Clements as saying that he was "irrevocably committed to solving this problem; unlike Admiral Rickover."  Clements then asked the Navy officials why they had not reformed the contract, indicating that if they would not, he would.  He then stated that he wanted to see four changes incorporated in the CGN-41 contract:  (1)  a new escalation clause; (2) a new "changes" clause; (3) a new ceiling price; and (4) a new delivery date.  (emphasis added)

    During the meeting it was agreed that Rule would become negotiator for the CGN-41.  He was to report directly to the Chief, NAVMAT and the Vice Chief, NAVMAT was to meet with Clements each day at 9:15 a.m to report on the progress of the negotiation.

    July 14, 1976:  Rule telephoned Newport News to explain that he had been assigned principal negotiator on the CGN-41 and requested a meeting.

    July 15, 1976:  Newport News was contacted by a consultant to Clements who explained Rule's authority. Rule and Newport News held their first meeting.

    July 16, 1976:  The Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Logistics) wrote to the Chief, NAVMAT informing him that the Chief would be responsible for the direct discussions between Rule and Newport News.  Rule would be the principal negotiator and Rule would be assisted by NAVSEA and the Navy General Counsel, as required.

    July 16, 1976:  Rule sent a memo to Clements describing his first meeting with Newport News.  As a note, he mentioned that he intentionally did not contact the Navy's Supervisor of Shipbuiliding, Conversion and Repair (SUPSHIPS), Newport News.

    July 19, 1976:   Rule sent a memo to the Deputy Commander for Contracts, NAVSEA asking for brief descriptions of what the Navy considered as key issues for negotiation and the Navy's negotiating position so he could develop his own negotiation position.

    July 28, 1976:  The Vice Chief, NAVMAT and a consultant to Clements held discussions with Newport News.  Areas discussed were: when the CGN 41 problems would be solved, ceiling price, and escalation provisions.

    August 10, 1976:  Rule telephoned Newport News and requested a meeting in Washington on August 12,1976.

    August 12, 1976:  During a meeting in Washington between Rule and Newport News, Newport News left a general outline for negotiations.

    August 12 and 13, 1976:  The Vice Chief, NAVMAT asked Rule about the August 12 meeting so he could inform Clements.  Rule explained that Newport News had delivered a proposal and he did not approve of it.

    August 17, 1976:  Rule telephoned Newport News and requested a negotiating session to be held on August 20, 1976.

    August 19, 1976:  The Deputy Chief of Naval Material (Procurement and Production) issued Rule an appointment as Contracting Officer with "unlimited authority with respect to negotiations with Newport News."

    August 20, 1976:  Negotiations were held between Rule and Newport News.

    August 23, 1976:  The Vice Chief, NAVMAT and Rule met with Clements to brief him on the August 20th negotiations.  According to Rule, Clements' comment on the negotiations was "fine."  After the meeting with Clements, Rule received a note from the Chief, NAVMAT to meet him in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Logistics).  Among those attending were:

    • Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Logistics),
    • Chief, NAVMAT, 
    • Vice Chief, NAVMAT,
    • Rule, Director, Procurement Control and Clearance Division, Naval Material Command,
    • Commander, NAVSEA,
    • Deputy Commander for Contracts, NAVSEA,

    At this meeting, the Chief, NAVMAT ordered Rule to describe the results of the August 20 negotiations.

    August 24, 1976:  Rickover wrote to the Chief, NAVMAT that he had heard a rumor of a settlement on the CGN-41 between Rule and Newport News.  Rickover commented point-by-point about the rumored settlement and said such a settlement "would show that the Government will not require Newport News to honor its contracts."  Rickover recommended that any

    Quote

    settlement be referred formally to the Naval Sea Systems Command for review and comment by knowledgeable personnel directly responsible for the work in question. In this regard I [Rickover] will be glad to provide assistance based on my own knowledge of the events in question.

    August 24, 1976:  Senator William Proxmire wrote to the Attorney General, Department of Justice expressing concerns about Gordon Rule's views on the CGN-41 negotiations and telling the Attorney General:

    Quote

    I understand that the Department of Justice has sole responsibility within the Government for approving out-of-court settlements involving Government matters under litigation. I assume that the Justice Department will review any such settlements proposed by the Navy in the CGN-41 case. However. in view of the importance of the CGN-41 case to the overall shipbuilding claims problem, I request that you direct the Navy to keep you fully informed of any negotiations and that you review any settlement offer to ensure that it is on sound legal ground and in the public interest before the Government becomes a party to it.

    August 25, 1976:  Newport News telephoned Clements and read a prepared press release.  The consultant to Clements said he and Clements approved of the press release, an excerpt of which stated:  "The parties have agreed to sign a definitive contractual document embodying the negotiated agreement for the construction of the CGN-41."  Later that day, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installation and Logistics) telephoned Newport News, informed them that he was perturbed by the Newport News press release and stated that the Navy would issue its own press release stating that agreement had been reached in principle but that the matter was to be reviewed by higher authority.  On this same date the Navy issued a press release explaining an "agreement in principle" was being drafted for review and approval.  (Emphasis added)

    August 26, 1976:  The Chief, NAVMAT sent Rickover a response to his August 24, 2016 letter stating:  

    Quote

    From your many, years in government service I know you realize that business sensitive negotiations should not be influenced by sources outside of the designated negotiating parties, and that a broadly distributed letter from you, such as reference (a) [August 24, 1976 memo from Rickover described above], cannot help but cause perturbation in the negotiating process, disrupting the efforts of the assigned negotiator. 

    The Chief, NAVMAT further wrote:  For reasons such as this, you must stand apart from these negotiations unless the technical areas regarding naval nuclear reactors become involved.

    August 27, 1976:  Rickover responded to the Chief's, August 26, 1976 letter to him.   In response to the wide distribution he used for his letter of August 24, 1976, Rickover explained that: 

    Quote

    I felt obliged to inform them of what I had heard. I am sure you are not implying that it is improper for me to call such matters to the attention of those responsible, and point out potential problems. To remain silent would be analogous to not warning my mother that she was about to fall off a cliff.

    He used the same distribution list for this 6-page letter as he did in his August 24, 1976 letter.

    August 30, 1976:  Newport News met with Rule in Washington and delivered the first draft of Modification P00031.

    The Chief, NAVMAT sent a letter to Rule explaining that, prior to a binding agreement on the CGN-41, the elements of the agreement must be submitted to the Chief, NAVMAT for review and approval.  The review was to be conducted by the Vice Chief, NAVMAT, the Deputy Chief, NAVMAT (Procurement and Production), the NAVSEA Deputy Commander for Contracts; and the General Counsel for the Navy.  Mr. Rule was to provide the proposed contract modification, the business clearance justifications, and other supporting papers for review prior to signature by the contracting officer.

    Gordon Rule forwarded a draft memorandum to the Chief, Naval Material that summarized his negotiations with Newport News.

    August 31, 1976:  The General Counsel of the Navy noted the Rule draft memorandum and told Rule of the General Counsel's responsibility to review the summary of negotiations.  Additionally, the General Counsel requested more information to support Rules' summary.

    September 1, 1976:  Rule sent a summary of his negotiations to the Chief, NAVMAT.

    September 3 1976:  In response to the August 31, 1976 memo from the Navy General Counsel, Rule sent him additional information supporting his summary of negotiations.  He also provided a copy of the first draft of Modification P00031.

    September 14, 1976:  Members of Rule's and Newport News negotiating teams and DCAA auditors met in Washington to discuss provisions in the first draft of Modification P00031.  DCAA was asked to review certain provisions of the proposed modification.

    September 16, 1976:  The Attorney General, Department of Justice, responded to Senator Proxmire's August 24th letter by writing:

    Quote

    Your letter requests that I direct the Navy to keep me fully informed of any negotiations and that I review any settlement offer to insure that it is on sound legal ground and in the public interest. The Justice Department intends to review any proposal and/or papers before submission to the court. We would request the court to approve any settlement only if we are satisfied that it is on sound legal ground and in the public interest.

    September 20, 1976:  NAVSEA's Deputy Commander for Contracts and a member of the "review team" submitted his analysis of the first draft to the Vice Chief, NAVMAT.  This analysis was not made available to Rule.

    September 24, 1976:  DCAA submitted its analysis of certain provisions of the first draft to a member of Rule's negotiating team.

    September 27, 1976:  Newport News delivered a second draft of the modification to Rule and Rule requested DCAA to review the draft.

    [September 28, 1976:  Clements wrote a letter to the Attorney General, Department of Justice, commenting on the August 24 letter of Senator Proxmire.  In regard to Rule, he wrote:

    Quote

    Senator Proxmire in his letter suggests that Mr. Gordon Rule is not impartial and that he might not act in the Government's interest but would so act as to undermine the Government's ability to enforce contracts. This is a serious charge by the Senator and defames both the character and competence of Mr. Rule. As I have indicated, it was at my suggestion that Mr. Rule was appointed by the Navy as the senior negotiator in the CGN-41 matter. I know Mr. Rule's background and work experience during his years as a Navy procurement official, and I am familiar with his current work as the CGN-41 negotiator. I consider Senator Proxmire's remarks regarding Mr. Rule ground-less, ill-tempered and unworthy of a member of the U.S. Senate.

    In regard to the Department of Justice's review of the CGN-41 negotiation, he said:  "Let me assure you that we in DoD have no intention to by-pass or withhold from your department any information which you determine that your department needs in connection with legal proceedings under the court order."

    September 28, 1976:  DCAA submitted its analysis of the second draft to Rule.  

    October 4, 1976:  NAVSEA submitted its estimate of the cost of the draft modification.  Rule rejected the NAVSEA estimate.

    October 5, 1976:  Rule submitted a memorandum to the Chief, NAVMAT for his approval.  It included the estimated dollar impact of his negotiated settlement.  For those in contracting, it would be similar to a negotiator's memorandum.  The Navy General Counsel sent its analysis of the information supplied by Rule to the Attorney General.  In the memorandum, Rule noted that a member of his negotiating team could not complete an analysis he requested because of interference from Rickover and his staff.  However, he was able to devise a workaround to complete his cost estimate of the modification for the Chief's review and approval.

    October 7, 1976:  Newport News carried a third draft of the proposed modification to Rule.  The cover letter from Newport News attached to the modification said "I have executed the enclosed modification on behalf of the company and request you immediately return a fully executed copy."

    Rule took a copy of the cover letter to the Chief and Vice Chief, NAVMAT in the afternoon.  He returned to his office and received a letter from the Chief, NAVMAT telling him that neither he nor his review group had a copy of the proposed modification that accurately reflected the results of Rule's efforts.  Final review had not been completed and the proposed modification could not be consummated before the review was done.

    According to Rule, he thought about the CGN-41 negotiation effort all afternoon after he met with the Chief and Vice-Chief, NAVMAT.  He explained in a deposition that he:

    Quote

    could see what was happening to this whole negotiated settlement. I knew the object of the negotiation. I knew why I had been picked to negotiate a settlement pursuant to the order of the court, which I had done. I could see the Rickover-Proxmire, et al., influence at work everywhere.

    And I decided those things all-those things all ran through my mind-I wasn't unmindful of the roadblocks and the lack of cooperation that I had gotten and was getting from the office of General Counsel. When my Contracting Officers statement was turned over to the Office of General Counsel for their review, they then asked me for substantiating documents. I gave them those documents . . . . They were requested by Admiral Lascara [Vice Chief, NAVMAT] to please not write anything until we can get together and discuss this: Let's at least discuss it. Rule had said one thing. Now, review it and let's get together and discuss it before you write anything. They never did. They wrote a 85-page document. They had lawyers working their butts off. They wrote an 85-page document and turned it over to the Department of Justice. And I don't know what it says today. They won't tell me. These are my own lawyers that are supposed to be helping me. They've never told me what was in there. Well, on the 7th of October when these things ran across my face, before my eyes, I said: Something's got to be done. I'm a Contracting Officer. I've got the authority. Now-I'm going to sign the goddam thing. And I signed it.

    October 8, 1976:  The Vice Chief, NAVMAT called Rule into his office at 8:22 a. m.  He gave Rule a letter dated October 7, 1976 that explained that he did not have authority to sign the modification.  Rule explained he had signed it and the Vice Chief requested Rule to give him all signed copies.  Rule refused but said he would give them to Clements.  The Vice Chief then left for his 9:15 am meeting with Clements.  Rule returned to his office dictated a transmittal letter imposing two conditions upon the modification and gave Newport News a copy.  The Vice Chief, NAVMAT called Rule into his office and told him that the Undersecretary of the Navy would keep all executed copies of the modification but Rule told him that he already had signed it.  He returned to his office, signed the transmittal sheet, and handed it to Newport News at 10 A. M.  Shortly afterward at 11:50 a. m., Rule was notified that his appointment as contracting officer was rescinded.  

    March 8, 1977:  The District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that:

    Quote

    There was a meeting of the minds of the parties on August 20, 1976; there is adequate consideration to support this compromise agreement; and failure to provide cost of pricing data does not invalidate the agreement.  We find that Deputy Secretary of Defense Clements, who initiated the negotiation efforts, has approved the compromise agreement.

    February 27, 1978:  The United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit ruled that

    Quote

    We vacate this order [District Court's above] because we conclude that the parties' negotiators did not settle the case orally and because the Attorney General, whose approval was essential, rejected the terms that were ultimately reduced to writing.

     

  9. I always thought that the FAR Matrix was a good idea that was poorly executed. To begin with, it's notorious for containing errors. Second, most of the entries in the "Principle Type and/or Purpose of Contract" columns are "A", Required when applicable, which means you have to look up the prescription anyway. Lastly, the matrix isn't going to tell you if your agency deviates from the FAR prescription, which DoD does a lot. As such, I created a matrix that I think overcomes these problems.

    A few things about the matrix:

    • It contains every provision and clause in the FAR, DFARS, and in DoD Class Deviation memoranda.
    • It doesn't have any "Principle Type and/or Purpose of Contract" columns except for a Commercial Items column.
    • It contains the actual prescription of the provision or clause. For readability, I removed the number and title of the provision or clause in the block and just wrote "use this provision..." or "use this clause..." The identifying information for the provision or clause is already contained in the row.
    • For DoD, it contains additional instructions for the use of FAR clauses that is contained in the DFARS or in a class deviation. This information appears in bold. If you work for a civilian agency, just ignore what's in bold.
    • In the "IBR" column (Incorporation by Reference), there are no "N" entries for "no", with the exception of the provisions and clauses prescribed at FAR 52.107. This may cause some people to freak out, so I'll explain. FAR 52.102(c) states:
    Quote

    Agency approved provisions and clauses prescribed in agency acquisition regulations, and provisions and clauses not authorized by Subpart 52.3 to be incorporated by reference, need not be incorporated in full text, provided the contracting officer includes in the solicitation and contract a statement that—

    (1) Identifies all provisions and clauses that require completion by the offeror or prospective contractor;

    (2) Specifies that the provisions and clauses must be completed by the offeror or prospective contractor and must be submitted with the quotation or offer; and

    (3) Identifies to the offeror or prospective contractor at least one electronic address where the full text may be accessed.

    Thus, if the FAR Matrix contained a "Y" in the IBR column, my matrix will also contain a "Y". If the FAR Matrix contained an "N" in the IBR column, or the provision or clause came from the DFARS or a DoD class deviation, then my matrix will contain a "Y*". The key at the top of the matrix contains an explanation for the "Y*" entry. If you're wondering how to incorporate a provision or clause that contains fill-in material or something the offeror must complete, see FAR 52.102(a) and FAR 52.104(d).

    You can see the matrix on the DAU Acquisition Community Connection. I'm open to suggestions for making it better. Also, I would like to think that it doesn't contain any errors. However, if you spot one please let me know. As an incentive, I will add your agency's provisions and clauses (the ones in Title 48 of the CFR) to the matrix if you point out a mistake.

     

  10. The long-standing principle that the federal government had the same implied duty of good faith and fair dealing as any commercial buyer was put in jeopardy by a 2010 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Precision Pine & Timber, Inc. v. U.S., 596 F.3d 817 (Fed. Cir. 2010). There a panel of the court adopted a narrow rule seemingly limiting application of the principle to situations where a government action was “specifically targeted” at the contractor or had the effect of taking away one of the benefits that had been promised to the contractor. Although the decision concerned a timber sales contract not a procurement contract, when I wrote it up in the May 2010 Nash & Cibinic Report (24 N&CR ¶ 22), I expressed the fear that the reasoning would be subsequently applied to procurement contracts.

    My fear was realized in a construction contract case, Metcalf Construction Co. v. U. S., 102 Fed. Cl. 334 (2011). In that decision, the judge described eggregious conduct on the part of the government officials that would have been held to be a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing under many earlier cases. However, the judge held that under the Precision Pine standard, the contractor had not proved that the actions were specifically targeted at the contractor. In the February 2012 Nash & Cibinic Report (26 N&CR ¶ 9), I criticized this decision but stated that I believed that even if the decision was affirmed on appeal, most contracting officers would not take this as a signal that the proper way to administer contracts was to abuse the contractor.

    Fortunately, a panel of the Federal Circuit has reversed the decision, Metcalf Construction Co. v. U. S., 2014 WL 519596, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 2515 (Fed. Cir. Feb. 11, 2014). The court held that the lower court had read Precision Pine too narrowly and that “specific targeting” was only one example of the type of conduct that could constitute a breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. Importantly, the court also rejected the government’s argument that this “implied duty” only could be found when it was footed in some express provision of the contract. The court concluded that the correct rule was only that the express provisions of a contract had to be examined to ensure that they had not dealt with the conduct of the government; for if they had, they would override the implied duty.

    This leaves us in a tenuous position with regard to the views of the Federal Circuit. We have one panel in Precision Pine stating a narrow rule, another panel in Metcalf Construction stating the traditional rule, and a third panel in Bell/Heery A Joint Venture v. U.S., 739 F.3d 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2014), ruling in favor of the government because the contractor had not alleged facts showing that the government had “engaged in conduct that reappropriated benefits promised under the contract” (which is part of the Precision Pine reasoning). Thus, it is difficult to state where the judges of the Federal Circuit stand. Hopefully, the court will agree to take either Metcalf Construction or Bell/Heery to the full court for an en banc review of the issue.

    I’ve never been sure why the Department of Justice has so vigorously argued that the government should not be held to the same standards of conduct as a commercial buyer. Of course, persuading the courts and boards that a narrower standard should be applied to the government is a way to win litigated cases. But, in my view, encouraging abusive or non-cooperative conduct hurts the government as much as it hurts its contractors. I have taught for many years that in the long run the government benefits from actions that show industry that it is a fair contracting partner. A line of published judicial decisions that demonstrates that the government is not such a partner is one more of the many messages that tell companies they should sell to the government only when they can find no other customer. Surely, this is not the message that government agencies in need of products and services on the commercial marketplace want to convey to companies that can provide those products and services.

    Many years ago when I came to Washington to work in the field of government contracting, I concluded that there was one major advantage to being on the government side of the negotiating table. That advantage was that I was under no pressure to extract money from the contractor by unfair bargaining or unfair contract administration. To me fairness was an integral part of the job of a government employee. I still believe it and teach it. Thus, no matter what the outcome of the good faith and fair dealing litigation, I will continue to urge government employees that fair treatment of contractors is the only way to go.

    Ralph C. Nash

  11. When I get older, losing my hair

    Many years from now . . . .

    When I'm Sixty-Four

    John Lennon, Paul McCartney

    Shortly after we celebrate our country's independence on July 4, 2013, Wifcon.com will end its 15th year on the internet. With much help from the Wifcon.com community, I've raised a growing teenager. When I started, I was 49 and my hair was so thick that I often shouted ouch or some obscenity when I combed it. Wifcon.com has existed in 3 decades and parts of 2 centuries. During that period, I've updated this site for every work day--except for the week or so when I called it quits. I remember the feeling of relief. I thought it was over. However, many of you convinced me to bring it back. Yes, just when I thought I was out, many of you pulled me back in.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, someone once told me that Wifcon.com was my legacy. I once had great hopes for a legacy. Perhaps, a great saxophone player belting out a solo in front of thousands of fans and seeing them enjoying themselves. Instead, here I sit in my solitude looking for news, decisions, etc., to post to the home page. For many years, my dog Ambrose kept me company. Now, my dogs Blue Jay and Lily stare at me and look for attention. With my sights now set realistically, I accept that Wifcon.com is my legacy. It's the best I could do.

    Every now and then, I receive an e-mail from someone thanking me for Wifcon.com. They tell me how it helped their careers. These e-mails keep me and Wifcon.com going.

    Send me a postcard, drop me a line,

    Stating point of view

    Indicate precisely what you mean to say

    Yours sincerely, wasting away

    Give me your answer, fill in a form

    When I'm Sixty-Four

    John Lennon, Paul McCartney

    The thoughts in these e-mails won't let me quit. I still search each night for something to add to the site in hopes that it will increase your knowledge. If I find something new, I still get excited. Often, it feels like a self-imposed weight around my neck. What started as a release for my imagination has evolved into a continuing and daily addition to the contracting community. In the evenings, it is as if I'm Maillardet's automaton. I head over to my office, sit before the computer, and update. Then I send the updated pages to Virginia where it is accessed from around the world. Maybe I'm addicted to Wifcon.com; maybe I was born with the Wifcon.com gene.

    If you haven't added the numbers, I'm 64 now. Wifcon.com and I are showing our age. I can comb the top of my head with my fingers. The ouches and other obscenities caused by my once thick hair are gone. A recent upgrade to the discussion forum requires that I turn the "compatibility mode" off on my browser. In that mode, I realized that Wifcon.com is ugly. I have current software for the needed future redo of this site.

    I am Wifcon.com; Wifcon.com is me. It is my legacy and my albatross. As always, thank you for your support.

    You'll be older too,

    And if you say the word,

    I could stay with you.

    When I'm Sixty-Four

    John Lennon, Paul McCartney

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