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Thinking Critically About Word Choice: Is "Tradecraft" the Right Word?

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” --Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass When Better Buying Power (BBP) 1.0 was first issued in September 2010, then Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, & Log

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

The Incredible Shrinking P

I read a lot of rules—proposed rules, interim rules, final rules, second proposed rules, second interim rules, etc. In fact, I decided a year or so ago that I would read all new rules in the Federal Register that affect the FAR or DFARS (I’m only a few rules behind as of this writing). In my reading, I noticed a strange phenomenon that went unexplained in the Federal Register notices—the letters “P” and “S” were getting smaller. That is, citations to FAR parts and subparts were being changed

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

The Impending Exodus of "Experienced" Contracting Personnel: Crisis or Opportunity?

It seems that every few months we see a new article, report, or hear testimony predicting a mass exodus of "experienced" 1102s from the Federal workforce. Citing workforce data, the conclusion that is commonly drawn is that a "crisis" will result. If we just look at numbers it would seem that this would be a reasonable conclusion. However, has anyone given any thought to the caliber of the 1102s that are leaving the Federal workforce and those that are entering? Do we really need one new 110

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Sometimes Bigger is Better

An interesting aspect of the new socioeconomic parity rules issued in Federal Acquisition Circular 2005-50 (see 76 FR 14566) is that we now have some scenarios where a contractor is better off not being a small business concern. The Discussion and Analysis section of the Federal Register notice contains the following statement: This policy is implemented at the new FAR 19.203( c ). Further, the new FAR 19.203(d) states the following: Thus, for acquisitions over the simplified acquisi

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Small Business Programs Decision Table

NOTICE: The table originally posted contained an error in Step 4 of the HUBZone Program Decision Table. The entries for "Yes" and "No" were reversed, which implied that a HUBZone sole source was only permitted below the simplified acquisition threshold. In fact, the opposite is true. This has been corrected. I created a Small Business Decision Table to help navigate the new small business rules contained in the FAR. Note that there is a lack of clarity on some issues in the interim rule on

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Small Business Order of Priority Table (HOLD THE PRESS!)

WARNING: OMB issued a memorandum on July 10 directing executive agencies to temporarily disregard the two GAO decisions discussed below until a full review can be conducted. Until such a review is conducted, do not use the table. Depending on your point of view, two recent GAO decisions have either clarified or muddied our understanding of the rules pertaining to the order of priority for small business programs. In International Program Group, Inc., B-400278; B-400308, September 19, 2008, t

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Should We Criticize GSA?

In a recent blog post, Steve Kelman took issue with GSA for the way they intend to evaluate past performance under the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) procurement (see “GSA is Saying What?"). Specifically, the evaluation scheme in the draft request for proposals (RFP) shows that GSA intends to weigh past performance with federal customers more heavily than past performance with nonfederal customers (the draft RFP is available for viewing on FedBizOpps). Kelman says tha

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Should Training Classes Be Required?

It’s time we rethink our approach to the training problem. Our traditional approach is to dictate a blueprint of training classes that must be followed in order to obtain prescribed levels of certification. To put it in acquisition terms, we’ve been using a design specification. What if we were to use a performance specification instead? What might that look like? Before answering these questions, we should identify what it is we are trying to achieve with training. The purpose of traini

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Section 1331 Authorities: A Primer

Section 1331 of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (Pub.L. 111-240) recognizes the significant opportunities that exist to increase small business participation on multiple award contracts and the ability of set-asides— the most powerful small business contracting tool—to unlock these opportunities. Under Section 1331, Federal agencies may: (1) set aside part or parts of multiple award contracts for small business; (2) reserve one or more awards for small businesses on multiple award contracts

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Savvy or Unethical? Should the Federal Government be a Phantom Bidder in Reverse Auctions?

I recently heard from a contractor regarding an experience he had with reverse auctions. A federal agency was conducting a reverse auction using FedBid and he decided to compete (FedBid, Inc., provides a service whereby federal agencies can conduct reverse auctions). Although he submitted several bids, he ultimately lost the reverse auction. When he checked to see who had won, he was surprised to see that the federal agency that was in need of the required items was the low bidder. In other

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Problem of the Day--Pricing Delivery Incentives

Assume you are soliciting quotes for an item of supply. Suppliers A, B, and C each sell the item for about $100/unit. However, the probability of late delivery is different for each supplier. Supplier A has a 31% chance of delivering late, Supplier B has a 21% chance of delivering late, and Supplier C has a 4% chance of delivering late. There’s a 100% chance that all suppliers will deliver no later than one week after the delivery date and any damages due to late delivery will be negligible.

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Problem of the Day--Pricing Contingencies

Assume that you are pricing a firm-fixed-price contract using cost analysis. The prospective contractor has included a contingency of $100,000 in its cost proposal of the type described at FAR 31.205-7(c)(1): There is a 90% chance that this contingency will occur. If it occurs, there's a 100% chance it will cost $100,000. The prospective contractor can take Precaution A, which will cost $50,000. If the contingency occurs, Precaution A would reduce the chance of the contingency costin

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Plain Language Writing Contest--Winners

I've chosen the winners of the Plain Language writing contest. The following entry from @Jamaal Valentine was the acceptable entry with the best readability score: The most humorous entry came from @apsofacto: There were some others I really liked that didn't win. If we slightly change @bentley78's entry, we get: Thank you all for participating!

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Plain Language Writing Contest

I invite you to participate in a plain language writing contest. To participate, re-write the passage below in plain language and post your entry in the comments section below. Here is the passage: You may submit more than one entry. I will score your entry for readability using the Dale-Chall Readability Formula.  Your entry must communicate the essential information in the passage to be acceptable. The acceptable entry with the lowest adjusted readability score will be the winner.

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

New FAC Contains Wonderful Thanksgiving Surprise

It's been almost 10 months since the FAR Council issued the last Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC). The streak of inactivity will be broken on November 6 when FAC 2005-96 will be published. The FAC contains a single rule that removes the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rule. But that's not what makes the rule so remarkable. Item 16 of the FAC makes changes to the provision at FAR 52.204-8 as follows:      Notice something strange? See that link to a YouTube Video? That's reall

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: Proposal Rating

Myth-Information: When discussing the evaluation of competitive proposals with my students, I make a point of asking the following two questions (in order): 1. Are agencies required to evaluate proposals? 2. Are agencies required to rate proposals? Usually, students respond affirmatively to question #1 and are able to support their answers by citing FAR 15.305(a), which states "An agency shall evaluate competitive proposals and then assess their relative qualities solely on the factor

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: Price Analysis is Always Required

There seems to be a closely held belief by some in the Federal contracting community that the FAR requires the contracting officer to perform a price analysis before awarding any contract. CON 111 used to contain the following statements: A number of my colleagues, both practitioners and instructors, would agree with those statements. Further, I have had a number of students pre-programmed by their contracting offices to believe that price analysis is always required. What does the FAR sa

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: Obligating the Minimum in IDIQ Contracts

If the preconceived notions that our students are bringing to the classroom is any indication, there's a good deal of myth-information being spread regarding indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts. The one belief that I want to focus on today deals with obligating the contract minimum upon award of an IDIQ contract. This belief usually stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between creating and obligation and recording an obligation. The difference i

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: Neutral Past Performance

Some of you were confused when I classified the following statement as myth-information in the Federal Contracting Myths thread: Let me explain where I was coming from. In April of 1994, OFPP used a variation of the word neutral with the term "past performance" in a Federal Register notice soliciting comments on their proposed pilot program to increase the use of past performance information in source selections. The notice stated: In November of 1994, the Federal Acquisition Stre

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: Exchanges with Offerors

First, I'd like to thank everyone that contributed to my thread seeking myth-information in federal contracting. I culled another 20 pieces to add to the seven that I was able to come up with. If you come across any or are able to think of any more, please add to the thread or send me a message. Second, I'd like to comment on something that Retreadfed wrote in the aforementioned thread: While I hadn't thought about it, I like the distinction that Retreadfed made. Myth-information exist

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: Communication is 93% Nonverbal

The myth about communication being 93% nonverbal probably didn't start in the contracting field, but we are partly responsible for its spread. This is especially true when it comes to the subject of contract negotiation. The course manual for CON 100 used to state that communication was 90% nonverbal as a matter of fact. A speaker at a recent conference that I attended used a figure of 93% in a presentation on contract negotiation. The current Contract Pricing Reference Guides contain a vari

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-Information: A PWS is not a SOW

I have recently noticed an interesting phenomena regarding how the term "statement of work" is being used and understood in practice. If what many of my students are being taught in their contracting offices is any indication, "statement of work" (SOW) has come to mean a work statement that is not performance-based--the opposite, if you will, of a "performance work statement." Why is this happening? The definition of "performance work statement" (PWS) at FAR 2.101 could not be more clear:

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Myth-information in Federal Contracting

"You can't be distracted by the noise of misinformation." -James Daly In my career as a contracting professional and now an educator, I have come to appreciate the growing body of misinformation in Federal contracting. Contracting misinformation is pervasive. You can see it in the popular press, periodicals dedicated to the contracting profession, in posts at the Wifcon forum, internal policy memoranda at a Government agency, etc. As I'm writing this, somewhere a senior contracting profes

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Magnetic Properties of Metals with Partially Filled 4f Electron Subshells

Did you ever wonder about the type of debate that goes on before an acquisition rule becomes final and is incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation System? This information can be found in the Background section of the final rule when it appears in the Federal Register. I make a point of reading this section whenever a new rule comes out because it tells the story behind the rule?who the rule is going to affect, who is happy about the rule, who is upset about the rule, who thinks it s

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

 

Inconsistent Decisions?

In TYBRIN Corporation, B-298364.6; B-298364.7, March 13,2007, the GAO held that an offeror's cost estimate that indicated that it would not perform 51% of the contract work on a small business set-aside rendered the offer unacceptable, even though the offeror did not explicitly take exception to the solicitation's limitation on subcontracting clause (FAR 52.219-14) and the SBA granted the offeror a certificate of competency. The GAO reasoned as follows: As a result, the Air Force reopened

Don Mansfield

Don Mansfield

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