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KeithB18

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  1. @Vern Edwards Several months ago I came across a 2006 letter from the Procurement Roundtable that was sent to OFPP regarding Relational Contracting. Somehow, and I'm not super proud to admit this, that was the first I had heard of it. I have thought about it a lot since then and spend this afternoon reading the articles you cite in your post. The current state has not improved since 1999; in fact it is probably far worse. A growing number of people working as 1102s today received their professional education in contracting after 1999. The "Orthodox Ideas About Service Contracts Not Suited to Long-Term Relationships" have further calcified in the bureaucracy. I hear them regularly, typically in some form of "Why can't they define their requirement?" We've been trained to demand precise specifications up front without ever asking ourselves if that is even possible. What a mistake. It has all sorts of obnoxious knock-on effects. "They want to raise the ceiling again!?!" Facts and circumstances will vary, but what if that is a sign of a success rather than a sign of financial and program mismanagement? E.g. We did not anticipate four years ago that we would need to fully integrate two-factor authentication into our IT security systems and it wasn't free. The contractor was able to integrate it successfully, on-the-fly, even working within a staffing structure that was developed four years prior. Great job everyone! More and more I think we need a comprehensive re-imagining of what Government procurement can be. (Financial assistance, BTW, is in similarly poor shape.) However, rather than problems being solved, they are proliferating. (Check out this publication from yesterday about research security...good grief: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/010422-NSPM-33-Implementation-Guidance.pdf) It's no wonder that the average taxpayer doesn't understand or appreciate what government does. Government procurement is a gated community and the 1102s aren't even gate keepers. We are the traffic cops inside the gates tasked with (superficially) enforcing ever more draconian traffic laws. Maybe it is just the date, but sometimes it feels like we are in the dying days of the republic. Government procurement is just one piece of the structural failure. ProcurementRoundTable.pdf
  2. I think you'd have to look at why it is taking that long. It very well could be that the requirements for putting together a procurement package are too complex or the tasks are misallocated. A lot of contracting offices make the program offices write the acquisition plan, which I think is crazy. Of course the program office is going to struggle to write a procurement document! I've also seen requisition packages rejected because they were not accompanied by pencil whipped documents, which creates unnecessary delays. In those cases, contracting is unsuccessful. On the other hand, there is sometimes a lot of debate and disagreement in the program as to what should actually be procured. I have seen this a lot in our IT function--there is a cohort that wants to modernize existing systems and there is a cohort that wants to maintain the existing systems. Both parties have relevant points, though I fall in the former (I'm oversimplifying the controversy, of course). But in controversies like that, there's only so much I can do as a CO to push the project. I'm not an IT expert and I don't have to live with, necessarily, the consequences of doing the former vs. the latter. In these sorts of cases, I can't quite put the blame on the contracting function.
  3. I have thought a lot about this, especially since I got into management around 2013. I used to measure the crap out of PALT. I had a beautiful spreadsheet that would calculate the allotted PALT a specialist had to accomplish a given task. The allotted time was based on our local PALT allowances. I was able to say things like, "Contract specialist A, on average, delivers awards 10 days ahead of the allotted PALT." But it ended up being a meaning-free effort. Contract specialist A worked mostly on simplified acquisition, exercising options, adding incremental funding, and the like. I was certainly happy the work was getting done "on-time" but it doesn't say much about how effective contract specialist A is, nor do the aggregate results tell you much about the effectiveness of the entire office. I changed my approach after coming to that realization. What I concern myself with most these days is ensuring my office writes solicitation procedures that sets the evaluation panel up for success. We've embraced oral presentations, limited essay-writing type proposals, and conducted advisory down selects. As someone said above, the length that an evaluation should take depends. But within the circumstances and context of an individual procurement, there are "smart" things we can do to reduce the chances we end up in evaluation hell for a year. So I kind of come down to this: if you're going to measure it, solicitation release to award is probably best. It does set up some perverse incentives (they've been mentioned, reluctance to enter into discussions, etc.). So does every other way to measure it. Lastly, in the context of research and development, PALT from solicitation release to award doesn't make a lot of sense. If you are using BAAs, you may be engaging in process which includes a concept paper submission followed by a full proposal. Then you may seat a merit review panel, potentially of external experts. PALT isn't a measure of effectiveness in that context (If it ever is).
  4. I had my whole organization take the class in October 2019. The most common piece of feedback is what Don typed above. I was disappointed that those folks missed the point, to say the least. I'd guess that less than 50% of the 1102 community actually wants to do more than cut and paste. (And sometimes cutting and pasting is fine; but it is never very interesting or intellectually engaging.) I thought the class was good to very good. Our instructor could have done a better job making it more of a conversation--there were long periods where he just read the material to us. That said, I enjoyed it and thought the focus on "how to think about source selection" was insightful.
  5. My initial interest was a scenario that I think is specifically prohibited, "operational delays." Depending on your appetite for risk, even if you thought you had a 90% chance of prevailing at GAO, you may choose to settle, if settlement were a real alternative. So the settlement offer would be something approximating what GAO would tell the agency to pay when the agency loses a protest. Another scenario that I'm thinking about is a situation where an agency writes a solicitation provision that it can't comply with but doesn't realize it until after proposals are received. But really I just wondered if it was possible or ever came up before.
  6. If anyone is interested, while I was researching this morning, I found a reference to "Fedmail" in the RedBook chapter 3. "Occasionally, an agency may pay money to protestors to withdraw protests simply so that the agency may proceed with its procurement operations. This practice is known as “Fedmail.” GAO, ADP Bid Protests: Better Disclosure and Accountability of Settlements Needed, GAO/GGD-90-13 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 30, 1990), at 8, 30; Maj. Nathanael Causey and others, 1994 Contract Law Developments—The Year in Review, 1995 Army Lawyer 3 (1995), n. 50. Typically, the payment is for bid protest preparation expenses, including legal fees. GAO/GGD-90-13, at 31. Public policy favors the settlement of disputes, and agencies may settle protests and pay damages in the form of bid protest costs.71 Comp. Gen. 340 (1992). GAO does not oppose monetary settlements that reimburse a protestor’s bid preparation costs if an agency determines that it likely will be held responsible for such costs and is unable to correct the procurement. GAO/GGD-90-13, at 31. However, GAO stated in GAO/GGD-90-13 that there is no basis for any settlement that an agency may offer solely to avoid operational delays resulting from a protest." So it seems like it is allowable in the right circumstance.
  7. A thought came to my mind yesterday and I wanted to bounce it off the smart folks here. Scenario: Source selection has concluded for a nine figure procurement. There are only two offerors, afferor A, the incumbent, and offeror B. Offeror B is the apparent winner. Immediately after award, could the government enter into an agreement with offeror A that, in return for a one time lump sum payment, offeror A would forgo its right to protest to GAO or COFC? Additional questions: - Could the government do this under Alternative Dispute Resolution at 33.214? - Could the government do this to resolve a protest to the agency at 33.103?
  8. I shouldn't have included that line regarding CPARS--pure speculation on my part. They didn't tell us why they planned to provide gratuitous services.
  9. Thank you for sharing your knowledge here. Based on what has been said here and some additional research on my end, I am comfortable receiving the "gratuitous" services. I'm not overly concerned about the lack of contractual enforcement of specifications and clauses--it hasn't been the sort of work that those things have come into conflict. What I don't think make sense is to issue a modification saying that the contractor is going to provide $xxx,xxx in "gratuitous" services as that would imply that the terms and conditions of the contract cover the gratuitous portion. Confirming via email seems like it would suffice.
  10. I'm trying to broker a compromise based on this. If we fund it but the contractor never invoices for it, great. No worries. The funds are two year money so as long as we do our jobs efficiently, the un-invoiced for funds will got back to the program office. In short, we can't make them invoice for hours they don't want to invoice for. This is an issue I'm working. Will update the thread if I can get to resolution.
  11. I had a strange variation on this theme arise this week. A contractor notified a contracting officer as required, but stated that even though they expected to overrun the ceiling price (T&M type GSA order) by $six figures, they were not requesting additional funding and planned to finish the effort (about six more months of effort) within the ceiling price. I know a good deal when I see one--the contractor here is effectively eating some costs in order to receive a non-negative "cost control" rating in CPARS. (The total order value is in the low eight figure range.) However, another CO and our agency counsel believes that this would be accepting voluntary services and therefore not allowed. They've pointed me to the inspection/acceptance section of 52.212-4 Alt 1, but I'm not persuaded that those paragraphs cover what is contemplated here. They've also pointed me to B-324214 at GAO, which really has nothing to do with contracting. They both believe that I should be able to point to something in the FAR that allows us to accept these services, but I think they have the standard of evidence backwards. I might be wrong, but I keep asking why we are trying so hard not to take a good deal. Thoughts?
  12. For question 2: - If you are a jerk in your interactions with the contracting officer you could run into problems. - I've had vendors ask me so many questions that I felt like they wanted me to write their proposal for them. Even the most clearly stated RFQ/P will be interpreted in different ways so I think prospective offerors just have to live with a certain amount of ambiguity. The CO is probably not going to be able to make it perfectly clear for everyone. - I dislike answering questions that can be answered with publicly available data. FPDS and FBO are your friend. Questions about the incumbent and the previous price paid can almost always be found there (Not always, but most of the time). So don't ask the CO to do your research for you.
  13. We've been calling it Hit-Rip (HTRRP). Not sure it is better than anything else, but it is something.
  14. The most fun I have ever had in contracting is when I did construction contracting years ago. So for me, that would be a big draw. I don't share the love for DOD that others here do. I was active duty for four years and supported DOD agencies as a civilian for 4 additional years and I strongly prefer civilian agencies. There is significantly less bureaucracy outside of DOD which I feel like helps me get my job done without excessively focusing on box checking. Best of luck in your decision.
  15. I would recommend against getting involved with Kickstarter unless you know the person asking for funds personally. A few years ago I was burned for a not insignificant amount when the person that posted the kickstarter failed to deliver anything, even though the project received full funding. It's been a growing problem with kickstarter. If the project does receive the required funding, it will be eventually be available for purchase (typically at a much higher price). That's the time when I'd consider purchasing it on behalf of the government.
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