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Everything posted by dwgerard

  1. Thanks for the spelling correction Vern, my bad for not checking on that before hitting the Add Reply button.
  2. Vern, In my case, the specifications were provided by the customer, who requested and funded a particular brand and model along with their purchase request. In my market research I found very good quality binoculars that had even better specifications for a much lower price. In this case, the customer wanted the Lamborgini when I found a BMW that actually fit the stated purpose better than the Lamborgini. What I did not factor in was the customer was competing with another office that DID buy the most expensive binoculars, and did not want to be seen with "lesser" equipment. I, acting as the Contracting Officer, decided to not support their purchase and recommended acceptance of the better and less expensive binoculars, and they decided to withdraw their request for the purchase. In this case the requested binoculars cost more than $1,400 each, the recommended binoculars cost about $250 each, and the lowest price for binoculars of similar specifications cost about $65 each. In my situation I challenged the customers choice of product, not their specification. I found a product with better specifications than they requested at a lower price which I suggested to them. They were also given an opportunity to justify the more that 5 times greater cost by identifying what the higher cost would provide to their use. They were unable to provide that information, and refused to even address my request for that information.
  3. I have had similar problems in the past when customers requested $3,000 binoculars when I could find $700 binoculars that had exactly the same specifications. You won't find any definitions to back you up, but what I did was send a message to the customer requiring them to define exactly what specifications they required. If their specifications did not match the gold plated item, or could be satisified with the stainless steel version, I informed them of my findings and gave them a chance to either cancel the request or improve their requirement package to justify the gold plating. I never received a justification for the gold plating in the dozen or so times I had that problem, but in half of the cases they cancelled the requisition. They likely shopped it around to someone who never questioned their requirement, but at least it wasn't my fault that the government wasted money on a Cadilac when all they needed was a Chevy.
  4. And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Until Congress, GAO, SBA, and all the people up in the nosebleed pay grades get their stuff together and decide among themselves what the actual rules should be, we mice will continue to debate without any hope of reaching a consensus.
  5. Vern, If we do what you say and go with the OMB guidance, and the courts find for the GAO, will we then be forced to go back and recompete all those contract actions in favor of Hubzone contractors? I fear that will be the case, which will be a huge problem for many offices. I agree it should not be Shay Assad, but he should be pushing Peter R. Orszag into the ring since he is the one represent OMB and all of us in this dispute.
  6. Napolik, Here is what the GAO said about Shay Assad's memo: The DOJ opinion notwithstanding, we continue to read the plain language of the HUBZone statute as requiring an agency to set aside an acquisition for competition restricted to qualified HUBZone small business concerns where it has a reasonable expectation that not less than two qualified HUBZone small business concerns will submit offers and that the award can be made at a fair market price. See also Mission Critical Solutions v. United States, No. 09-864C (Fed. Cl. Mar. 2, 2010), appeal docketed, No. 2010-5099 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 2, 2010) (rejecting DOJ's interpretation of the HUBZone statute and concluding, consistent with our decisions in Mission Critical Solutions, B-401057, supra, that the language of the HUBZone statute is mandatory, such that a contract opportunity must be set aside for competition among qualified HUBZone small business concerns whenever the criteria set out in 15 U.S.C. sect. 657a are met). Thus, we conclude that the Air Force was required to first consider whether the conditions for setting aside a procurement for HUBZone businesses were met, and if so, to set aside the procurement for HUBZone small businesses. Because the agency did not perform this mandatory step, we conclude that it was improper for the agency to proceed with this procurement as an 8(a) set-aside, and we sustain the protest. The GAO then goes on to recommend: We recommend that the agency undertake reasonable efforts to ascertain whether it will receive offers from at least two HUBZone concerns and award will be made at a fair market price. If the agency's research indicates that these conditions are met, the agency should cancel the current solicitation and reissue it as a HUBZone set‑aside. We also recommend that the agency reimburse the protester its costs of filing and pursuing the protest, including reasonable attorneys' fees.[3] 4 C.F.R. sect. 21.8(d)(1) (2009). In making our recommendation, we recognize, as the Air Force has noted and the DOJ memorandum indicates, that the recommendations in our bid protest decisions are not binding on Executive Branch agencies. Small Business Admin.--Recon., supra, at 5 (citing Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 727-32 (1986)). This fact, however, does not affect our statutory obligation to decide protests concerning alleged violations of procurement statutes and regulations. See 31 U.S.C. sect. 3552 (2006). We have clearly stated our view on the proper interpretation of the HUBZone statute, and we recognize that the Executive Branch has resolved to apply its own, contrary interpretation of the HUBZone statute. Accordingly, absent some change in the statutory scheme, Executive Branch policy, or a contrary decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in connection with the Justice Department's appeal of the decision in Mission Critical Solutions v. United States, supra, we will decide future protests raising the issue here in an expedited and summary manner, in the interest of reducing the costs associated with filing and pursuing such protests. The protest is sustained. http://www.gao.gov/decisions/bidpro/402494.htm The Air Force, and everyone else in the DoD Contracting organization, is in the middle of a fight they cannot resolve nor can they add to that fight. Either Shay Assad or the GAO need to square off and resolve their disagreement, or we in Contracting need to ignore the GAO, which may bite us on the tail before this is over. It's a no win situation: the executives are failing to do their jobs and leaving us to deal with the detrius of that failure. It's shameful, and should be on the front page of the Washington Post. Perhaps I am bit idealistic for expecting them to resolve their differences in less than a year, but they all work in the same town for a Congress and White House of the same party control. Under those circumstances, they should be able to do so. Note: yet another memo was issued on May 18, 2010 Shay Assad for the Dod which kicks the can down the road yet again "pending a DOJ notice of appeal".
  7. And for others its not a joke as those words describe U.S. Infantry and Marines who courageously charged the German lines during WWI.
  8. In my case it was just adapt and eventually move on as the office had a number of other problems that I did not care for. Before I left I found myself buying paper so I could document contracts, RFP's, letters, etc., and then when paper was available I took an equivalent amount and replenished my personal supply which I kept locked up. I bought my own pens and markers as I prefer to work with decent tools. Most of the pens everyone picked up at the health fairs seemed to be programmed to fail in about a month, normally right when you were writing something really important. To me, being professional means that sometimes I have to do what I have to do. Things like printing my own business cards when the organization will not supply them, having paper and reliable writing instruments, and most importantly, keeping high ethical standards even when supervisors and leaders do not. I hope things work out for you and your business. I myself have done my best to support small businesses in my career, but not everyone feels that way unfortunately. I have also experienced a number of small businesses that make the whole community look bad, which may be a factor in why others shy away from small businesses. Not that large businesses aren't worse in many cases.
  9. Nothing ever changes, my example is from 2005-2006 at a "premier installation" with a big iron guy across the parking lot telling us to follow him.
  10. Brian, Please don't take this or my earlier comment as a personal attack or anything. I realize that not all offices are the same, I was just offering what my experience has been working in system procurement offices as well as a base level contracting shop. Each level has its own problems. The systems teams had huge solicitation, proposal and contract award packages with hundreds of pages, many copies of each, and very formal evaluation teams that included contractors. The base operations team I worked on had comparatively smaller packages, but also had a very austere budget, which basically ran out of funding well before th end of the fiscal year, right when we needed supplies the most. It is embarrassing to print out a contract on pink, yellow or blue paper, but we had to do that for a couple of months as it was only the paper we had. Asking customers to bring the paper that their contracts and orders will be printed on is also a little embarrassing, but we had to do that as well. All, Sorry to hijack the thread, this will be the last post I enter on this issue. Brian: if you want to chat some more on this subject, just let me know and I would be glad to converse via email or some other medium.
  11. Brian, Actually, it is because the government doesn't like to make 5, 10 or more copies or prints for each proposal for the review process. Instead, the contractors are required to provide enough hard copies to distribute to the review teams and the original to be held by the KO. In one office I worked in, 1 single competion would have killed the paper budget for the office for more than a year if we had to print out all the review copies. That office had its adminstrative budget cut so much that we had to attend the base health fair for pens and require customers to bring 2 packs of paper in order to accept their requisition packages.
  12. Leo is correct in that listing the subclins outside of SPS as exhibits would not satisfy the financial teams requirements, which is why we have set up the contract that way in the first place. I agree it would be nice to set it up that way that Tap described, but the finance folks had more weight in influencing the changes in 2005 than the contracting community.
  13. In the office I am currently working in, there are two data systems and a reporting system that are used to communicate contract actions to those who need that information. First is the actual contract software, SPS in our office, second is FPDS-NG and the reporting system is a weekly email with a specific format that goes up the chain from each division within the command. None of those are particularly difficult, nor do they take an inordinate amount of time. I have found that the changes made in the DoD contracting system that the finance people required back in 2005 have made contract generation a bit more difficult and is causing problems in SPS due to the fact that those changes have doubled and tripled the number of subCLINS that need to be contained within each contract. That is particularly true for the big ID/IQ contracts, one of which has 6,000 line items, each with mulitiple subCLINS required for the financial systems. For that contract, the generation of DO's, matching CLINS and other technical procedures takes up to 45 minutes to complete, while the 1102 sits on their hands and waits. Somehow I think that there is a better way to do that, but I have not done the research to find that solution. The command is looking at it now but has not resolved it either.
  14. This have been one of the better threads to read for somone who considers himself to still be learning this profession well after earning the Level III certification and a graduate degree. One thing that stood out in this discussion over the last several weeks on the knowledge and abilities of contracting and other acquisition personnel is that the target is moving. I have been at my current command for less than a year, but in that time the contracting process has changed several times and the Policy Division has issued new directives every week since the first of February. Legal and senior managers have instituted a rigid peer review process, and Agency level requirements change with every package sent to them from single documents to complete solicitation and contract award packages. How can we become proficient, knowledgable and competent when the definition of that quality changes so rapidly? Even when we are up to date on the FAR, DFARS and AFARS, the guidance we are getting is often based on political decisions, old information, or in some cases policy, legal and senior executives who are more ignorant regarding the acquisition process than those producing the work. Personally, I have seen the Best Value process abused. I believe that unless someone has a definitive way of determining what constitutes BV, they should use LPTA methods to award contracts. But, as Joel said, there is resistance to that in the Army, and it is easier to get approvals for BV than LPTA as of right now. Which to me reflects the standard "But that is how we have always done it" disease. My biggest fear about this problem is that it will not get any better before I retire, which would be a sad thing to see.
  15. The latest technology might be expensive, but is being the best less expensive than a posture that suggests that an adversary might win in a fight? I personally think that this is politically motivated more so than simply being frugal. Having the best technology has costs in both time and money, but it is an investment in the US that we should think long and hard before we walk away from it. Being the best, having the best weapons, means that an adversary will avoid a war. He knows he will lose or at least suffer so badly that other opponents will then take advantage of his weakness. That adversary may not love us, but he will respect us. If we lose that edge, and the enemy has no respect for us due to that mediocrity, then war of some kind is virtually certain. Would the war be more expensive than maintaining the technological edge? I tend to doubt it, particularly in terms of lives. Technology is not the end all of military superiority, the Germans learned that lesson in WWII, but it sure goes a long way towards that goal. I for one am willing to pay for that through my taxes more so than dumping money into commercial businesses that have failed to manage themselves properly in the marketplace. And if we in the Government cannot even run a solicitation for new aerial tankers properly, how can we expect a contractor to build new and exotic aircraft without problems? Building stealth fighters is far more complex than a solicitation for a gas station with wings!
  16. Welcome 1102newbie! It has been a decade since I was in your shoes, but the things that I remember are to learn the FAR and your agency specific regulations as much as possible, learn the technical processes in your organization so you become the expert and subject matter expert, and most of all, do the right things even when people try to get you to cut corners. Learn why those right things are right, and why the other ways are wrong, and then help customers and associates understand that information. You will never know everything there is to this career field, the masters of contracting such as Vern Edwards, Ralph Nash and others have forgotten more than I know, and they are still learning too. Contracting continually changes, so our learning must change as well. Find a mentor, someone who knows the ropes and has been around a while. That may not always be the nicest person, or someone everyone likes, but in my case, that was exactly who I needed to get a good start in contracting. I disagreed with his politics, but his knowledge of contracting was excellent and I benefited from that relationship greatly. Good luck and welcome to one of the best careers a person can have in the government! It may not be the easiest, and will certainly frustrate you at times, but it will probably be one of the most secure jobs a person can have for some time to come.
  17. Is there any reason you cannot get the customer to give you a list of the books they might want to order in the next year or so? Are they so unaware of their own requirements that they cannot even describe what they want? I believe that the customer should know what he or she wants, and should be able to put a list together. If that list is not exaustive, it can be updated within reason over time as new titles are selected. Once the BPA's are awarded, you can have the contractors provide updates as new titles become available, and generally manage the BPA along with the customer, modifying the BPA as new titles get added, and issuing Call Orders for titles as required. If your customer cannot determine his or her need, then I would forego setting up BPA's, and simply issue purchase orders against the GSA FSS contracts as the needs become known. A BPA is for recurring needs from the same contractor as per FAR 16.702(1)(. If the customer cannot determine his or her need, how can you know if you will have recurring contracts with a particular vendor?
  18. Formerfed, How about a J&A that took 6 MONTHS just to route internally, then another 6 months seeking a signature in DC, and 12 months later, it is STILL not approved! The J&A took less than a day to create, and the KO signed it that same day, but once it left the contracting officers desk, it went into a bureaucracy from hades, and even though the senior executive is calling DC daily on this matter, it still is just sitting on some policy weenies desk with no hint of urgency on their part.
  19. Vern, Which is why I am putting in for the FAR Bootcamp training you conduct, so I can grow in my understanding of the FAR. It was highly recommended by a mutual friend who just started working in my office who attended the training in the past. Civ, My answer would be in the form of a question: Against who and under what conditions?" As a former law enforcement officer, I have a history of handling violence in a very quick and convincing way that might offend the gentle ears of some supervisors. Somehow I doubt that is what they are looking for.
  20. Vern, The amazing part of the story is that the program manager for that contract and the KO work in on the same floor of the same building in offices less than a 60 second walk apart. In this case, the KO quietly asked me to process the action as appropriate, and I got it done in about 2 weeks by personally walking the approval documents to each of the approving officials. It got done in time, but it would have been much better to have done it the right way. Contracts would have looked better than to have needed special treatment in the approval process, and if there was a better way to solve the problem than the modification, we certainly did not have the time to look for it. That disrespect goes far beyond just the PM-KO relationship. We have a J&A that needed to be signed by higher authority for one project that we sent up to DC in Jan 09. The higher authority returned the J&A in Dec 09 demanding a large number of revisions before they would sign it. That left the KO less than a month before the end of the previous contract for all of the other approvals, and the December holidays to deal with. Needless to say, that forced the extension of the previous contract, which also required approvals and J&A's, and separate funding to be provided. My previous example is not a part of this example, it was completely separate and was going on at the same time. The result of this is people retiring early and transferring at a rapid pace, which adds even more problems as institutional knowledge is lost. And of course the powers that be up in the rarified atmosphere of DC think they can fix the problems with more reviews, more bureaucracy and more regulations. As if a 1 year review process for 1 single document was not enought time. DON, Sorry to have taken the thread off topic. But if we cannot run the major contracts correctly, how can we expect the small purchases and purchase card decisions to be any better?
  21. formerfed, I have worked in offices where program offices and personnel DID work well, provided information and requirements on time and were good team members along with the contracting office, customer and other team members. Unfortunately that is not always the case, it has been pretty rare since I left my first contracting job with NAVFAC SW in San Diego. At that office, it was as good as I could image it could be. Since then, it is not unusual to have program managers work on a project for months, and then toss it over the fence and expect contracts, who has never even been told of the requirement prior to it landing on their desk, to get it done "right away before the money expires!!!" An example: Program office knew that a contract would not be completed by the scheduled completion date more than 6 months prior to that date. That information was not communcated to the Contracting Officer, despite requests for information within that time frame. Finally, less than 30 days before the CCD, a program manager comes into the office on a Monday and expects a modification extending the POP by the following Friday. The cost of that extension was in the millions, and required far more than a simple memo to the file, so it was completely impossible for it to happen in 5 days. When that information was communcated to the program office, they exploded with "why cannot I get support from contracts!!" That is not a fictional scenario, it has actually happened. That sort of thing might not happen in your workplace, but in DHS and some DoD agencies, as well as in the private sector, it does happen far too often.
  22. Or asking what part of the dictionary is preferred. My answer is the part that I used for my last procurement, and the one that I used to answer a question from the attorney reviewing my last contract action. Personally I would not ask such a silly question. I would ask a question along the lines of which customer in the interviewees experience was the best to work with and why he or she felt that way. Now, if they want to talk cars or even better, motorcycles, then we might have an interesting interview!
  23. Ya gotta love the concept of a "combat hardened fruitcake bar". In my experience, most fruitcakes were already harder than depleted uranium 120 MM rounds! Merry Christmas everyone!
  24. There are more civilian drydocks than military dry docks these days, so I don't neccessarily think that replacing non-skid would be mil-spec. That said, dry dock non-skid probably started as a mil-spec, so some organizations are still hanging on to "we have always done it that way". I agree with Joel, I would not get wrapped around the axel about non-skid, the real work is basically removing and replacing a form of paint. Would that be considered a commercial service? I tend to think so, as commercial firms have dry docks that need painting. That would apply whether your organization sees this as a service, which I agree with, or a supply, which I do not. But in the end, the regulations of FAR Part 36 would apply as painting, including the removal of paint, has been catagorized as a construction service when applied to a structure such as a dry dock. Does that preclude treating it as a commercial service? I don't know, but I bet there have been organizations that have and others who decided not to. I lean towards no, as I doubt it will be a simple quote used for determining a price for the work.
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