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dwgerard

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Everything posted by dwgerard

  1. The catalog prices are those published for products such as digital cameras (which is where I obtained the 26% discount), law enforcement equipment such as weapons lockers, body armor and specialized equipment and other items such as commercial fitness products like treadmills. As far as the 26% goes, that is not a bad number for a single camera purchase. If I was purchasing more than 1 or 2, I would expect the discount percentage to go up for quantity discounts. When I purchased over 100 GPS units for one of my clients, the discount was in the 50% range over a single purchase catalog price. I am about to leave this office for a new job with the US Army, so my days of small purchases will be ending for the 2nd time. The office I am going to deals with significantly more complex contracts, so I am looking forward to a grown up job that will be more interesting. I did small purchasing as a GS-7, it is not as much fun now that I am a GS-13! Such is life in a civilian agency.
  2. formerfed, Competition may not always result in savings, but I disagree with that conclusion in the majority of purchases made by the government. In the average purchase (below $100K), competion is averaging about 10%-20% lower pricing than the market research indicates the price should be. That is based on more than 50 purchases made in the last three months in my office. I just awarded an order today using competitive procedures that resulted in a 26% savings over the listed catalog price. Perhaps that is a function of today's economy. That competion will not result in lower costs may be true for highly complex acquisitions where few contractors really compete for the work. I experienced that in ship construction and overhaul contracts. In that area of contracting there were only a few contractors doing that work, and all we really did in our competition process is decide which contractor was the prime and who was the subcontractor. In that situation, the real price was so far off of all the proposed prices that any conclusion about savings is like counting sand at the beach. Still, a blanket statement that competion does not result in cost savings is not correct.
  3. Formerfed, The problem with demonstrating competence is that many supervisors, managers and executive leaders have a different definition of what that means than you, Vern and I do. Many of those so called leaders think that slavishly kowtowing to customers or statistics is what makes for competence, instead of good contracting practices. An example: Contracting Officer who signs contracts with a period of performance lasting 2 years with 1 year funds. Result: Promotion to Assistant Director and GS-15. Another example: Contracting Officer repeatedly signs contracts with no competition without any J&A's, D&F's or even the mention of fair and reasonable. That KO also repeatedly signs modifications AFTER the period of performance had expired, adding options to contracts that did not contain FAR 52.217-9 either upon award or even after the modification incorporating the opton was signed. Result: Promotion to Assistant Director and admission to the organization SES academy. These are actual cases I have personally seen in my current organization. How is anything like real competence going to survive in that sort of environment? My problem is that I refuse to compromise my professional ethics and follow those examples. This has made me a "problem child", because I refuse to let the Program Office determine who will be awarded a contract, require that they provide the correct documents, approvals and funding, and break the law just to satisfy a "customer" who could care less what the FAR says. And yes, I have already received my marching order, I am leaving this organization and its unprofessional culture.
  4. Vern, Once I complete my dissertation, which I will begin in November, I would consider it an honor to work with you on such a paper, or even to just listen to what you have to say on the subject. I agree that rote accomplishing the classes required by DAWIA is not a true measure of how qualified a person is. My problem with the finance career field as it relates to contracting is that those personnel often have zero education in simple accounting and/or finance. They also have zero understanding of contracting as well, so I believe that some familiarization of those subject though coursework such as DAU provides would vastly improve the finance career field. As far as the rest of us, I thoroughly enjoyed the Master's Institute in Government Contracting course taught in part by Dr. Ralph Nash last December. To me, I believe that to be truly "certified" I must reach THAT level, learn from the best, and continually strive to improve my craft. DAWIA is simply a crude government imitation of that process. But as bad as it is, at least it is something along those lines. In some of the organizations I have dealt with in the government, the leaders in those organizations would be happy if their personnel did not receive ANY training! For the individuals in those organizations, mandatory DAWIA training is about as good as they can hope for, at least until they transfer out and report to a better command.
  5. Perhaps I was too harsh on Mr. Litman, but the title of "Senior Procurement Executive" in my current organization means a person without a degree, certification in contracting or anything else that leads me to believe they have any experience in contracting. With that said, Mr. Litman does raise some interesting points. I am about to begin my dissertation with a contracting workforce topic should it be approved, so perhaps some of this may be of use in my research. I intend to address the idea of the "super COTR" once I have completed my dissertation, along with study into increasing the scope of DAWIA type certification programs for financial personnel associated with contracting. I also agree that in the civilian organization I am currently working in, Mr. Litman's description of the Manager's role is right on the money. That is not so in the DoD organizations I have worked in. I wonder if the research team at FAIR compared civilian agency contracting organizations with DoD contracting organizations when they discussed that topic. One problem that I still have is that Mr. Litman does not seem to understand that pushing everyone involved into the Contracting career field is just not reasonable without a complete paradigm shift in the whole concept of acquisition. Just from a power viewpoint, I cannot see it happening any more than I see all of the military branches integrated into one service with one chain of command. It is easy to discuss it, but implementation is a whole "nuther ball game. Before we look at integrating all PM's, COTRS, etc. into one big A career field, we should be doing research into the last integration effort, when 1105 and 1106 series jobs were folded into the 1102 career field. It would be wise to know how that worked before we endeavor to make even bigger changes to the acquisition career field.
  6. Just scanning the "thought leader's" paper made me wonder if this guy has ever actually been in a contracting work area or out of the beltway in DC. My office does everything, cradle to grave, and there already is a "single career path and job series" here, not three as he claims. The work does not focus purely on award, although that is a big part of the process naturally. I spend far more time on pre-award and post-award functions per action than I do awarding the contractual action when it is required. Of course buying small dollar widgets need little pre or post award concerns other than proper competition and delivery, but I also purchase services ranging from $100K on up to more than $40M, so I get to exercise my pre and post award brain cells frequently as well. Another thought that came to mind is how contracting went from 1102-1105-1106 career fields to a single 1102 career field sometime before I transitioned into contracting. Before Mr. Thought Leader makes a judgement of whether or not we should be a "single career field", has he actually done any study of the previous transition, or is he ignoring the past changes? Seems to me a decent researcher would see that there is some evidence that pertains to the changes Mr. Thought Leader is proposing, and would address that information prior to making a recommendation. Maybe Mr. Thought Leader needs to log some travel time before putting fingers to keyboard.
  7. I have not done contracting overseas for the US Government, but one thing I do know: the host country CAN make the rules on just about everything with a very few exceptions. If they decide only local businesses can work on your contract, your choices are either to comply with that country or take the ride of your life in a foreign courtroom. I saw this from a layman's viewpoint in the Philippines in the 1980's, and from a contractor's view point a few years ago in Asia. The moral of the story: Know the rules, abide by the rules, and document, document, document. CON 101 stuff. If the local government does not care who works on the contract, then the FAR rules. If they local government does care about who works on a contract in their country, see how far the FAR flies in their courtrooms. In my experience, foreign governments could give a rip about US laws and regulations, unless it suited their purposes to to do so.
  8. If you read the last supliment to that letter, it stated an intent to add the restriction described in that letter to the GSA Manual. Have you checked to see if the latest update of that publication includes the terms contained in the letter?
  9. Brian, Losing a competition is not necessarily "unfavorable" or "adverse". Such a determination is entirely subjective and may not be readily apparent at the time that it occurs either. Consider this scenario: A contractor loses a competition. Later on, the contractor finds that his or her proposal was significantly flawed and would have resulted in financial losses or substandard contract performance that would have been detrimental to future contract awards. Is losing that competition adverse or fortuitious? Who gets to decide? "Adverse" as a measurement itself is very subjective, it depends upon what your are using as a standard. The only reasonable standard in relation to a solicitiation or contract competition is the terms and conditions of the soliciation and the work being solicited itself, not other contractors or a standard unrelated to the solicitation. To not restrict the standard as described opens the judgement to every opinion present, and likely some that may enter the fray at some later time. And as I was told in my very early days in the military, opinions are like ...., everyone has one!
  10. If non-governmental personnel are prohibited from receiving confidential and proprietary contract information, then the whole government might as well come to a screeching halt, as every office I have worked with in the last few years has contract employees working alongside the feds. That includes the contracting office itself, as well as the program offices, warehouses and flight lines. I believe that the contracts for those contractor services include the same kind of non-disclosure and re-employment restrictions that feds are under, but how that is reflected by 18 USC 1905 I do not know. It would be interesting to find that out, but if it is negative, it could be a really big deal across many organizations, including my current office.
  11. Formerfed, The contract I have been writing about was a Best Value negotiated RFP with discussions with several RFP revisions as discussions were held. There was verbiage in the RFP that stated past performance would be considered but I do not recall if the distinctions between Past Performance in terms of bad performance and a separate category of how well the contractor had gotten along with the government in the past was considered. The actual root problem in my opinion is the inexperience of many 1102's and program personnel have in actual negotiations and evaluating proposals. In that office, they hired contractors to evaluate the technical proposals, so the program people were somewhat removed from the information they were supposed to evaluate. Another root cause I believe exists is that many RFP's are way, way too complicated and arcane, which hurts the government more than it does the contractors. In reality, how can anyone evaluate loosely defined objectives that would require a month of parsing words and can be defined in a dozen different ways? I do not have a solution to these problems other than training, training and more training. Training to keep it simple, training in negotiation techniques and source selection procedures, and training for everyone, including the program side. And perhaps if we were not able to outsource the technical evaluation, then maybe the technical source selection material would be revised to a level where it actually made sense for a change.
  12. It depends upon the size of the box they are talking about. The smallest box is for Contracting certifications such as those issued by DAU or FAI: i.e. "I am level III certified so I am done!" The next size of box is the secondary certifications encouraged by DAU: i.e. "I am level III certified in my primary career field, and level II in my secondary career field, so I am done!" The biggest box is professional level certifications, which is what I am working towards right now: i.e. "I am level III certified in my primary career field by DAU and FAI, halfway to level II certification in a secondary career field and CFCM certified by NCMA, working towards full CPCM over the next year. And maybe, just maybe, I will be done then!" Ask them what size of box they are using to make a statement "I have all of my contract certifications".
  13. Formerfed, Perhaps, but this is what I proposed at that time to resolve the problem: I would like to add to the contractors offer the costs to the Goverment for the unnecessary modifications and unreasonable length of time that the modifications entailed. If we could so easily get that information, particularly when those amounts were 5 or 6 times that of any other contractor in that industry, I believe we should be allowed to make those adjustments as they are documented and quantifiable. My proposal was not accepted, and they ended up with the protest and results I wrote about above. As far as non-responsible goes, that is kind of hard to prove when the contractor has gotten wealthy by abusing the contracting systems over many years. Makes me wish I could paste in the picture of that nice little boat named "Change Order" in this space!
  14. Don, The contracting officer did declare the price as unrealistic, backed up with DCAA reviews of both the current price and previous instances of low balling from the contractor and the resultant modifications. The contractor protested being removed from the competition, and the unrealistic price determination, and the GAO agreed with the contractor that even if they were low, it was not "unrealistic" if they had successfully completed contracts under similar situations in the past. The fact that the Government spend months fighting over many, many bloated modification proposals in those situations was "not a factor" in that decision. I am not revealing the GAO case number, the contractor nor the Government organization to protect the integrity of this website, but I would be glad to send you the information via email.
  15. A few states have decided to tax federal travelers (New Mexico is one of them), and I believe that some state and local governments have decided to tax contractual vehicles as well, although I have not run into that problem. Most state and local goverments do not, so I would simply bring the subject up and be prepared to submit a tax exemption form if required.
  16. I know of at least one contractor, and a major one at that, who regularly lowballed their quotes, knowing that he could rely on the government to make changes that he would then price in the stratosphere to make up their profits. That might not work for simple orders or some services, but it worked like a champ for that contractor. They even won a protest when they lost a competition due to that practice, even with all of the evidence clearly showing that was his practice over decades of doing business with the government. For simple orders, I would document my findings, then contact the vendor and question them on their quote, reminding them of the ramifications for being unable to fulfill their end of the bargain. That has worked for me a number of times, and the contractor either revised their quotes or bowed out of the competition. Services are harder to catch such practices, but I have not had as many problems in that area as I usually use GSA MOBIS schedule contractors or I get access to previous contracts that potential contractors have won and check out their labor rates, OH and other costs for similar work. And in such cases, a "crime" has been committed once a low-ball bid, quote or proposal has been submitted. It is further cemented into the "illegal", or at least unethical, category once it has been accepted and incorporated into an contract. The question then is whether or not the crime will be discovered, or prosecuted should it be found.
  17. Heck, using the logic of some of the management guru's writings I have seen lately, all of the services should be combined into one single service, reducing redundancy, wasteful competition and improving interoperability. If that logic follows through, what does that mean for competition in contracting? Or the concept of a diverse supplier base? And over all of this, the NY Times editor is probably as short sighted as the people running newspapers in general. They did not adapt to the internet challenge very well, nor does he see how a dedicated Air Force can be a deterence from threats that may not exist right this instant, but could very well challenge us in the future.
  18. Here at my work the HR folks are a joke and completely incompetent when faced with anything more complex than submitting a form. Even in that they make a mistake at least 50% of the time, particularly in dealing with benefit options. They also have a practice of putting about 30% of new employees from other agencies in the "career conditional" category even when they were in the "permanent career" category before being hired. When we showed them in writing they were wrong, citing regulations, laws and rulings, they still refused to change, even when the supervisor over the HR shop admitted they were wrong. When we asked why he would not change an admittedly wrong action, he replied it would "upset" his workers, which he was unwilling to do. And they wonder why the hiring process in the federal government is hosed up!!
  19. The Fort Benning Directorate of Contracting had a contract for potable water supplies from the Columbus Public Works office that might offer some insight into how such a program works. I do not work there any longer, so I can't give you any specifics. Give that office a call and maybe they can help you out.
  20. Carl, What basis do you have for the response below?: Questions:Do you think that contracting officers must release trade secrets or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques when giving debriefings in commercial item acquisitions? Your answer: Yes, unless a contractor claims Exemption 4 and it is then determined that Exemption 4 applies. Are you really saying that the debrief MUST divulge trade secrets (and) or confidential manufacturing processes and techniques UNLESS the contractor specifically says no in this specific instance? I read the law as it is impermissible for the U.S. Government to release trade secrets and confidential information obtained from contractors without specific authority. I do not see that a debriefing of a competitor's proposal equates to that specific authority. Your position that it IS that specific authority is puzzling to me, as it means that a contractor who has provided trade secrets or confidential information to the Government must repeatedly state its right every time we do a debrief in order to protect its information. Do you really mean to say that?
  21. Joel, We had a publishing company that received the whole contract, unit prices and everything else, just by asking at FT. Benning until shortly before I reported there in 2005. They stopped releasing that information after the Army lost a lawsuit from a contractor who was "harmed" by the release of his unit prices and several other management concepts which were used by a competing contractor in the generation of his competing proposal for a follow-on contract. It was for an equally common type of service as ground maintenance, so I can see that in some cases even a grounds maintenance contractor might want to protect his unit prices, as it might suggest to a competitor how to beat him or her in the future. I agree that a failure to release the name of the contractor appears to be overly restrictive, but I don't know the specifics well enough to say its a violation of the FAR.
  22. Why is your issue with "me", rather than the information? Labor Hour and T&M contracts are both described by the same FAR section, 16.6, so they share the same designation and category. If you want to categorize them differently, knock yourself out but I choose to treat them the way my agency and the FAR treats them. Notice that I did not take issue with you, so please have a little courtesy in this forum.
  23. br549, I believe a Labor Hour contract is a hybrid, with elements of both a fixed price contract in that the hourly rates are fixed; and a cost type contract in that the quantity of hours are not fixed. The requirments for such a contract are also different than either a strictly fixed price or strictly cost contracts, which I am daily reminded in my present job. An example is that a labor hour may not require detailed cost information to be presented to the government, but HCA approval must be obtained in order to for the contract duration to be more than 3 years. That shows that requirements for such a contract are in someways less stringent than a pure cost type of contract, but more stringent than a pure fixed price contract. Since a Labor Hour contract is a hybrid, it is both a cost type contract AND a fixed price type of contract simultaneously.
  24. Many hotels require a security deposit to block out a large number of rooms for a conference. The way we handle that here at my agency is to award a PO to the hotel in the amount of the security deposit, and then deobligate any funding not utilized by attendees failing to rent the rooms or follow the cancellation policy. The attendees do pay for their rooms with their travel cards, and we get a printout of who rented a room, who cancelled and who simply did not show up. We use that printout to research what happened and to determine how much of the security deposit the hotel can claim. The food portion is also a part of the PO, as it is required up front so that the hotel can make the catering arrangements. The "food" is not a meal however, unless very specific requirements are dealt with and approved by legal. The food that is normally provided are small snacks such as pastries, cookies or something equally as small so that the participants won't miss out on the sessions looking for a mid-morning snack. Some conferences do provide lunch if training is conducted over the lunch hour. In order for this to happen, a complete lesson plan must be provided in advance, the session must be attended by all of the people at the conference, and that attendance must be positively recorded. Our legal department reviews meal requests very, very closely and I have rarely seen full meals either requested or approved. Also provided is coffee, tea and water, which all require compensation at most conferences, although some hotels are offering the drinks on a complimentary basis in order to be more competitive in this economy season.
  25. Don't forget that all J&A's restricting competition also must be posted on FBO as well, which should be fun to watch over the next few months. Our agency has the position that all but FAR 13.501 specific J&A's must be posted, which is already causing a lot of squirming from the Program Offices. To me, the whole shebang looks like a new stimulus plan for enriching lawyers in these "hard" times. That's just me though, always looking for where the money is going. Must be that old law enforcement training I went through!
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