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KeithB18

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Everything posted by KeithB18

  1. Kickstarter and the GCPC

    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.
  2. A Competition Revolution

    I am obviously quite late to this thread but I wasn't turned on to this approach until I was lucky enough to have Mr. Nash teach a portion of a class I attended in April. (He was really enthusiastic about it.) I am planning on using it for a rather large IT services procurement (~$300M over five years)*, but predictably enough, I'm encountering significant bureaucratic pushback up to the SPE level. I provided the Sevatac to the relevant people and have described the benefits of the approach. But I'm getting a lot of "we've never done this before" and "what do the lawyers think" and "this sounds risky." Has anyone at the working level used this yet? And if so, how did you convince the bureaucracy to go along? I certainly haven't given up the fight, but experience from others would be helpful! * Some additional details: Planning on using 8.4 and issuing 2 BPAs. Previous contract used 8.4 and tradeoff process for a single award service contract.
  3. The Great Debate: Agency Perspectives on Procurement

    Vern, With much respect and as a person that has gone out of his way to see you speak, I think you are projecting your experience on the career field. I was active duty in the Air Force at LA AFB in the mid aughts for 3 years. I spent 18 months in a program office (GPS) and 18 months in the operational shop (61 CONS). I also did two, four month deployments during that time (Iraq 05, and Afghanistan 05-06). I bought zero things during my time in the program office--I attended endless meetings, mostly planning on ensuring that nothing actually happened. I was on an IPT of 50+ people. Contrast that with my time in 61 CONS where I worked construction contracts that literally facilitated the base moving from Area A and Area B to only Area A. The colleagues that I deployed with that had only program office experience had no idea how to buy, well, anything. They'd been sitting in meetings while I was thrust into roles that people actually depended on in the operational shop. At this point in my career, I'm a GS14 and I supervise 6 people at a civilian agency. The bulk of my work is research and development contracting. But the things that really get the SES worked up is the operational stuff--commercial services, IT purchases, and basic "blocking and tackling" contracting. I spend a lot more time defending those things and making sure they have tight files and justifications than I do the R&D stuff. It's also totally possible I stink at my job, I suppose. So I guess it is fine to prefer the once in a lifetime buys that you did at SMC etc. But your attitude towards "purchasing" is daft and shows no real understanding of what the government is buying. And it's mildly offensive to those of us that don't inhabit the program office world. That said, I roll my eyes when I hear people talk about strategic sourcing and the person saying such stuff is the sort of procurement leader who has never signed a government contract talks about. Looking forward to the ensuing flame war.
  4. Data Madness?

    I've been experimenting using existing data sets (FPDS and locally generated reports) to measure the performance of our contract specialists and our organization generally. Low level stuff really: How effective are we are spending appropriated funds throughout the year rather than waiting until the 4th quarter for execution? The idea is that organizations get better procurement outcomes when the contracting office has the proper amount of time to develop an optimal procurement strategy. Too often we get crappy SOWs dumped on us in August-September so we end up with crappy contracts. If I can use FPDS data to show the 4th quarter spike, and then explain the consequences of that spike, I might be able to get the point across to the program offices. On a contract specialist level, I can make sure that I'm not pigeon-holing a specialist with a certain type of procurement or customer by tracking the types of procurement actions they are awarding. It helps to identify who is performing and identify potential skills gaps. Using local reports, I can track our PALT* times by office and by individual. I actually read "The PerformanceStat Potential" recently by Robert Behn. Behn was involved in NYC's CompStat program. He says in the book that there is no perfect performance measure. So I look at my modest attempts at using big data as an element in a larger picture of performance. One last point is that the government generates an insane amount of data. Rather than trying to develop a new database or dataset, I'd recommend examining what already exists to see if that will fit your needs. *Usual caveats about PALT. It's not always useful or indicative of performance and it certainly doesn't speak to quality.
  5. A couple of things I have not seen mentioned: 1.) While I recognize this isn't answering the question, if you get quotes that differ wildly from the IGCE, it might be prudent to examine the basis for the IGCE. Did they cut and paste something from the past? Did they pencil whip it just to meet the requirements of the contracting office? 2.) The FAR's language leaves the door open, IMO, for a specialist to do additional analysis above and beyond the existence of adequate price competition. I tell the specialists that work for me that if they are uncomfortable with a price being fair and reasonable, they should attempt to do additional analysis to gain another data point or points. There are seven total examples of price analysis in 15.404(B )(2). Can one of those additional methods be utilized to gain further insight? Eventually, you'll have to make a recomendation to your CO. That means you'll need to exercise some discretion and business judgment. I think this thread is a good start.
  6. Career Paths for an INTP

    Dump the addiction to Myers-Briggs. It's based on junk science. Even it's inventor, Carl Jung, admitted it. Here's a good explainer with plenty of links. http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/19/myers-briggs-test-unscientific
  7. I have had small business call me and say that "Gov-win (I think that is the name) says this that and the other." Often the information is months old and not particularly accurate. My advice to them, if they ask, is to stop paying for access to bad information. That said, when the aggregator companies call me, I'm truthful, but curt. Most often they want to know the day a particular solicitation is being released. Sometimes they want to know things that are already publicly available. In those cases, I direct them to the resources that can answer their question. Honestly, not enough of these jokers know the FDPS exists. It can answer a ton of their questions regarding the who, what when how and how much. Heck, I use it all the time to see what other agencies are paying for similar supplies/services.
  8. I had not read the decision above, but it sort of confirms my approach. I've generally provided the debrief in writing. If I get questions that I consider reasonable, I'll answer them. I haven't had one go further than that, but I would try to maintain the "reasonable" standard for follow up questions. It can't go on forever though--at some point the contractor needs to accept the decision or protest.
  9. Violation of Procedures

    I'd ask my client politely not to do it again while also explaining that it is my job as a CO anyway, so the PM can lessen his or her own burden by letting me (the CO) take care of that sort of thing. It is discussed above, but there is lots of confusion among program staff as to roles and responsibilities. Some of that is self-inflicted as a lot of contracting "professionals" are happy to let someone else do their job.
  10. Acquisition Support Personnel

    I did contract support work for contractors at client sites before I became a Fed. I worked for five different clients in four years and I can say this: Some of them just stunk. Some will micromanage and some will give you no guidance at all. I'd recommend finding a better client. That's really your best recourse. Talking to the CO and COR is just going to piss them off. Your corporate boss just cares that you keep billing.
  11. Government contracts "Primer."

    I did a 14 slides "Contracting for Executives" presentation recently. Takes about 30 minutes to go through; I'd be happy to share with you if you want it. It is tailored to a specific problem we were having with our executives (creating personal services relationships) so it spends a bunch of slides on that issue. Just PM me if you want it.
  12. I think you'll be competitive for a GS-12. Just beware that USAJOBS is one of the most frustrating websites around and the hiring process, in my opinion, generally stinks.
  13. This thread took a really strange turn.
  14. (1) More and (2) Better Training?

    Below is what I have now. I've started working on formalizing this into something that we can use to train locally over the course of a year or maybe two. Read all the definitions in FAR part 2. Then read FAR part 7.1 and highlight the terms that were defined in Part 2. Discuss with your contracting officer the meaning of the highlighted words in the context of FAR part 7.1. (This is almost straight from Vern) Create and populate a matrix based on FAR 6.302-1-7 that covers the following: Exception Title, Exception Use, Level of Scrutiny/Special Requirements or Provisions. Also include the dollar value thresholds for JOFOC approval at the bottom of the matrix. Create and populate a matrix that summarizes the posting requirements in FAR part 5. The matrix should include distinctions between different types of contract actions, contract magnitude, and location of the posting. Additionally, discuss the posting exceptions that allow for FAR part 8.4 and 16.5 actions. Create and populate a matrix that explains the differences and usages of “Limited Sources Justification,” “Justification for Other than Full and Open Competition,” “Brand Name Justifications,” and “Exceptions to Fair Opportunity.” Explain why it is important to use these terms accurately. Read FAR 16.505(b ) and highlight passages that seem extraordinary or unique to this section. The contracting officer (or training officer) should find a very poor solicitation posted on FBO.gov. Provide that poor solicitation to the trainee and ask for the trainee to highlight everything that they can find that is wrong, strange, unusual or inappropriately used. Ask them to review the solicitation as if they were the contracting officer.
  15. (1) More and (2) Better Training?

    Fixing our career field's formal training system is a noble and needed goal. It will take a lot of resources and time with not-guaranteed positive results. I have done my best to take the approach that training starts at home. I've taken our junior specialists through a couple of the exercises Vern has posted on his blog and instituted a monthly 1 hour training session that covers practical, agency level issues. Sometimes ad-hoc opportunities come up: Last week I came across a contract from another agency that was a pile of garbage. I had our two junior specialists circle everything they thought was odd or wrong. I did the same and we came together and discussed what we came up with. It was, I think, a positive experience. We've done other exercises on Part 16, Part 6, and Part 5. We don't have to wait for DAU or FAI to train our people. Maybe it would be worthwhile for me to write down the ad-hoc stuff I've done. If I get to it this week, I'll post it here or where ever the mods want me to post it.
  16. No. 8.4 gives contracting officers an appropriate amount of flexibility and discretion. Unfortunately, too many 1102s don't want that--they want to be told what to do step by step allowing for neither flexibility nor discretion.
  17. A couple of thoughts: Do churches/priests/preachers surf FBO.gov routinely? The contract specialist may do well to reach out to a few local churches are point them in the right direction. If this were to come across my desk, I'd probably attempt to establish a Part 13 BPA with a local Catholic church.
  18. Why won't COs talk to prospective suppliers?

    I guess I'm in the minority here...Contractors are owed what the FAR requires COs to give them. The sections on debriefings are specific and allow for the debriefing to be done "orally or in writing, or by any another method acceptable to the contracting officer." Contractors will fully leverage their protest and claim abilities; I don't know why I wouldn't fully leverage my ability to conduct a debriefing in the method acceptable to me. Controlling the information is important during a debriefing. If a program person or a member of the SSEB makes a minor mistake or misspeaks, the unsuccessful offeror could get the impression that the source selection was wrongly decided. The way to prevent that sort of error is to put it in writing and answer reasonable questions in response to the written debriefing. I don't think that's being protest adverse, just prudent. As far as meeting vendors face to face in other situations--If you have lots of extra time on your hands and like to listen to marketing pitches, sure go ahead. That doesn't, however, describe my situation.
  19. Why won't COs talk to prospective suppliers?

    The vast majority of the inquiries I get are of this nature. The phone calls that I get are mostly asking questions about procurements that were put on the agency's procurement forecast. I generally do not get into any details about those procurements during the acquisition planning period. I suspect a lot of the phone calls I get are from firms that are selling information. When they ask questions about a specific solicitation, I do my best to answer reasonable questions in a reasonable manner via solicitation amendment.
  20. My suspicion is that the COs don't know what it is and/or don't know how to do it, so they simply refuse it.
  21. My small (13 person) contracting shop at a civilian Department of Transportation agency does a monthly internal training session. We have a range of grades, GS-09 through GS-14, that attend. We've been sort of scheduling topics on an ad hoc basis but for FY15, I'd like to take a more structured approach. Some pertinent facts: We have 40 minutes per month. The two GS-14s are generally responsible for either presenting or assigning a presenter. We'd like to have the more junior grades involved more. Some sample topics we've covered over the past year: Changes clauses, FAR part 8, GSA E-Buy, lessons learned on a recent large solicitation, the difference between sole source, limited sources and exception to fair opportunity and acquisition planning requirements. So, I guess what I'm asking for is two fold: What topics can be covered appropriately in that time? Is there a logical order you suggest that those topics be covered? (We buy 75% commercial items ans 25% research and development)
  22. Internal Contracting Curriculum

    I'm glad you mentioned that because I took our two most junior people through it about five months ago. One took to it; the other did not.
  23. Internal Contracting Curriculum

    I covered the findings this FY, but it may be worth covering them again. Thanks all, this has been helpful.
  24. Set a date and stick to the date. Don't be afraid to not answer every question. You want to ensure the process is fair to all, but you also want to make sure you don't inadvertently answer a question in a way that contradicts your solicitation. I don't think you need your legal department's support to enforce the deadline. I would think that counsel would have an opportunity to review the solicitation prior to its release--if they had a problem with the mechanism for questions, they should have raised it at that point.
  25. Either one. They both [care] and know more than I do. I'd be happy to learn from them. Edited by owner, wifcon.com
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