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David Bodner

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Everything posted by David Bodner

  1. Is this article emblematic of our problems, or is this case sui generis? Perhaps this company's software was all they claimed, but this wouldn't be the first time that the off-the-shelf solution proved to be neither a real solution or even off-the-shelf. We really don't know, and I suspect the author doesn't either. I don't think there's an institutional bias against the commercial software solution. We've spent lots of money implementing them across DoD. There could've been a prejudice in this particular case against any non-incumbent. But, as always with these articles, I feel like I'm not really getting the full picture.
  2. This is a leviathan; it isn't simplicity. This is an everything-for-everybody IT procurement. It's hard to think of an IT task that would lie outside its scope. I'm sure the PCO made mistakes. But, the seeds for the RFP's complexity were planted and nurtured during the requirements definition. And let's not ignore the effects of competition and profit motive in this mess. The agency makes money when others use its vehicle. So, they have an incentive to have the most flexible and all-encompassing contract possible. This fuels complexity and dilutes focus.
  3. I find discussions like this to be frustrating. They got a bunch of smart and powerful people into one room, and, because of a lack of focus, the conversation meandered about without anything revealing coming out. Given the time restraint, the moderator should've forced a focus on or two subjects. Pick at areas where disagreement was hinted at, and pick it apart. That would've been illuminating.
  4. I'd read this article in a hardcopy newspaper a couple of days ago, and I missed the link in the Post article you linked to. One has to wonder why no T4D, though that's easier said than done, especially when the combat capability of an allied army is directly linked to the services being rendered. If a T4D could be upheld, there were 139 other offerors ready to step in. http://government-contracts.insidegov.com/l/8528309/W52P1J11C0015 Could one of them have been able to jump in and get the job done at least as well as AISS in a timely enough manner so as not to deleteriously affect the Afghan army? I like reading IG reports. But, I'm always left thinking that reality is a bit more messy than their reports portray. Sure, DoD has concurred and taken ownership. But without asking the question, "why do smart people do stupid things?" we're left fixing the current problem without preventing the next one.
  5. We're reading an IG report through the prism of a newspaper article, so I'm not going to add fuel to this fire from a position of ignorance. There are plenty of politicians who'll play that roll. And if I had the IG report in my hand, that would still be the start of inquiry, not the end. I admit there could be serious misfeasance or malfeasance. And, if so, heads should roll. But, I'm also interested in the constraints each of the major players were operating under. Without understanding those, you can't really fix the problem. Was the procurement strategy doomed from the start? If so, what political or ideological limitations or blinders drove the decision makers? Was the problem strictly post-award? Did it start off well, then go downhill with the larger situation? Or was it bad from the start? How was it allowed to fester? Can we expect that a different cast of US characters would've resulted in a much better outcome? Too often, I think the answer to that last question is, no. My suspicion is this was meant to be the one big contract that was meant to satisfy a universe of requirements. These fail often, but we keep going back to that well. Why?
  6. We can blow the "unacceptable" call. But, in my experience we have a greater tendency to be overly lenient than overly severe when we get toward the bottom of the ratings scale. If the folks evaluating the technical proposal have serious and honest doubts about the ability of a offeror to be successful, I have no business giving that offeror a contract. And I want to give the government maximum leeway in making that call. So, I'm not going to specify "unacceptable" to the nth degree. In reality, evaluators probably do fine-tune the ratings criteria as they read all the proposals. I recognize that's not the ideal, but I'm OK with that. As long as the evaluation is consistent with the RFP, I don't want to put roadblocks in the way of evaluators using their intelligence, judgment, and good sense. So, fewer evaluation criteria. I'm on-board with that. Unfortunately, I've had very little success in convincing my customers of that. That may not be one person's stupidity as much as cultural inertia.
  7. Maybe it's as bad as it sounds. Maybe the contractor was really that terrible and government oversight really that bad. But, in my devil's advocate role: I note a FFP contract in a war zone for which a failing government is supposed to provide GFM. How is that ever going to end well?
  8. Maybe they did their market research and concluded that they'd be happy with any of one four or five different contractors. There was no compelling reason to believe that any one contractor would do the myriad tasks substantially better than any other, or that any one could provide the required services for substantially cheaper than anyone else--over a five-year period. Therefore, they picked a method that precluded an artificial cost-technical tradeoff, got an acceptable guy, and GAO approved. Good for them. Or maybe it was a completely different situation. Vern, I hear your objections, and I'm not really disagreeing with you in principle. But, given the Swiss cheese of facts in this story, I can't really condemn.
  9. I can't see how satisfying GSA's bar is sufficient to give the warm fuzzies to the folks at Wright-Pat. Though, I agree the 30-page essay doesn't really do it, either. Can we really conclude the government is going to pay a $6M premium? I couldn't find the break-out between FFP and CPFF. If it's more the latter than the former, then I would question any such conclusion. I suspect this is another staff augmentation requirement with, at best, a veneer of performance based contracting. It's hard to write a good RFP under such conditions.
  10. Styrene makes my point in a straightforward way. I've been out of the game for a couple of years, so maybe things have changed, but how do you support all your implicit make-and-model requirements?
  11. I know I'm late to this, but I've got an operating system that's way better than Windows. Surely you're not going to preclude my product from consideration, are you?
  12. The amphibian is correct. Unfortunately, the failure to distinguish between a purchase card and a travel card traces back to the original post by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).
  13. The paradox of fairness is that you can never be fair to everybody. The current rules are skewed in favor of fairness to vendors. But, that fairness comes at the expense of inefficiencies that harm taxpayers and customers. That's unfair to them. And I don't believe there's can be a middle ground where we're objectively maximizing fairness to everybody. If you're for fairness (however it's defined), you have to ask, "fairness for whom?" As it's currently implemented, it fairness for the vendors at the expense of others. Given the realities of the squeaky wheel and regulatory capture, how can it be otherwise? It's been probably 20 years since I read the book, but I think I first heard of the fairness vs. efficiency argument in Steve Kelman's,"Procurement and Public Management." I read it when he was nominated to the OFPP. It was exciting reading it at the time, though there was never a real drive to implement its principles. I don't suppose there was ever really a chance.
  14. An organization can't accept failure in an individual employee when his position is so difficult to fill. Perhaps rationally the long-term benefit should outweigh the short-term pain, but in reality we don't see it that way. Every hire simply has to succeed when you employ the absolute minimum number of people in a job category. In order to have high standards, we need to institute a farm team of potential talent. Then let the cream rise to the top. That also means there has to be a place for the non-star. I like Jamaal's comment #13 to get there. I think Vern has also spoken along similar lines.
  15. I think I like it. Sounds like low-cost, technically acceptable--with a high bar for technically acceptable (i.e. Substantial Confidence).
  16. Perhaps for experienced contracting officers, the GSA schedules aren't difficult. However, I just tried to put myself into the position of a low-level worker who's just been given a purchase card and told to buy some basic office supplies (e.g. pens and paper). This is the 1st GSA page that came up in my search: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104721 I pity the person with no other guidance or someone looking over his shoulder who has to fulfill his objective from that page.
  17. I assume we're talking about cost-plus-whatever-fee, term support services contracts and task orders. I concur with the examples of whining. The author's contentions simply don't hold water in my experience. And yet, I also sympathize with the author's overall point. Incumbents ARE being underbid by competitors with unrealistic cost proposals. I've awarded contracts to unrealistically low offerors, myself. And I think it's become more common in the past several years of lean budgets as we look to do "more with less." I was generally fairly aggressive in increasing evaluated costs of proposals whenever I detected a specific anomaly. But there were plenty of times that I had to let it pass because I had nothing better than a strong gut feeling that the offeror couldn't perform--for long or particularly well--at his proposed cost. The trouble is, I don't think my gut feeling would've impressed GAO as being something other than my being arbitrary and capricious. So, I had to let it go. The success of support services contracts tends to ride entirely on the quality of the supplied personnel. In most services procurements, the offerors are all competing in the same labor market. Do we really believe that Offeror A will be able to supply the same quality workers for substantially less than Offeror B? Maybe at any given point in time, but not in the long haul. And yet, we implicitly contend that they can.
  18. Why do we always conflate personal services with inherently governmental? Aren't they two different things? In my cynical mind, Keith's scenario (with or without the meeting) probably crosses the line. On the other hand, that line is so blurry that any claim to being able to recognize exactly where it is is questionable. Keith brought up the issue with his management. That was the right thing to do. Now Keith has to determine where his organization's culture draws the line and try to apply it that way in the future.
  19. In replying to a previous post that blamed "too much procurement" on the lack of a balanced budget, you listed recent emergencies that contributed to the problem. But, I thought you missed the most important reason--one that pre-dates any of the emergencies since 2001: The much longer-term trend of outsourcing our staff. In trying to use the FAR to solve what is essentially an HR problem, we've ballooned the number of procurements and introduced all sorts of other problems.
  20. True, but you didn't mention the decades-long trend in outsourcing. When I was a working KO, I used to introduce myself to my clients as their "personnel guy." For years my main job was putting butts into seats. And that's regardless of the various temporary emergencies we've dealt with this millenium.
  21. I largely agree. One problem not often mentioned is that there's simply too much procurement going on. But I don't see a realistic solution to that, either.
  22. I don't doubt it does happen, and it might even work quite well. But, I can't recommend it be done as blatantly as you suggest. It sounds to me like you'd be asking the PMO contractor to perform inherently governmental work. If your PMO contractor were, instead, helping government employees do their contractor oversight work, then it should be more palatable.
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