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Vern Edwards

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Blog Comments posted by Vern Edwards

  1. On 5/22/2017 at 8:44 AM, Melissa Rider said:

    All of you are welcome to be part of the solution.  If anyone would like to share your best practices and have them considered for insertion in the Section 809 Panel's submittal to Congress or there is a part of DFARS or FAR that is completely impeding your abilty to get work done, please submit your recoommendations, including what you think the final change needs to look like, to https://section809panel.org/contact/

    Be the change you want to see in the world!

    Melissa is a member of the Section 809 Panel's professional staff.

    Sorry, but the Section 809 Panel is a complete waste of time. Look at the list of members. They are the usual suspects. They have been given until August 2018 to produce a set of recommendations that any one of them ought to be able to produce in two weeks. If they went to a good bar they might be able to do it in one week. I could produce a good set in one week without a drink if I didn't have to write a lot of bullpucky gobbledygook to go with it.

    I just pulled the following volume from a shelf: Report of the Acquisition Advisory Panel to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the United States Congress (January 2007), issued a decade ago. The panel that produced that report was known as the Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA) Panel. Three of the members of the new Section 809 Panel were on that panel. How many of its recommendations have been implemented? How many of you have even heard of it?

    The 809 Panel's goals are:

    1. enable DOD to adapt at the speed of a changing world,

    2. leverage the dynamic defense marketplace,

    3. allocate resources effectively, and

    4. simplify acquisition.

    Well, hell, we don't need a panel to come up with recommendations that would enable us to do those things. We don't lack ideas. We could have recommendations in print for comment by the end of June.

    What we lack, and what we will never ever have, is THE WILL TO ACT.

    American government--Congress, the president, the judiciary, and the bureaucracy--is not designed to act. Even in wartime, the only way we have been able to act has been by throwing out much of what is standard in American government law, regulation, and practice. In order to act you have to break some rice bowls, and you just can't do that in peacetime. Why not? Well, read Herbert Kaufman's brilliant little book, Red Tape: Its Origins, Uses, and Abuses (Brookings, 1977), page 4: "One person's 'red tape' may be another's treasured safeguard."

    Want to simplify acquisition? Get rid of the various subcategories of small business, the small business limitations on subcontracting, SBA procurement center representatives, and the certificate of competency program. Repeal the Service Contract Act. Eliminate protests to the Court of Federal Claims. Get rid of competition advocates. Recommend any of those things and they'll hear the howls on the space station.

    I wish I could believe in Melissa's call to arms, but I don't. Not. For. One. Minute.

    Oh, I'm going to publish some recommendations in The Nash & Cibinic Report (I already have, actually) and maybe in my Wifcon Blog. Not because I believe that any of them will go anywhere, but because I get paid to write something each month and I might as well earn my nickel by taking pokes at the panel. They'll say I'm being negative. They'll be right, and so will I.

  2. Gordon Rule was the spiritual ancestor of every smart, tough contracting officer who followed him, whether the contracting officer ever heard of him or not.

    Rule was the subject of a lengthy story by Brit Hume that appeared in The New York Times on March 25, 1973, "Admiral Kidd Versus Mister Rule." You can search for it at The Time's website. He was also the subject of several other articles in The Times.

    On December 5, 1975, The New York Times published the following by Mr. Rule on its opinion page, page 39:



    WASHINGTON—The moral climate in our great country, and our great Navy, is so eroded today that we are headed for national disaster.

    The following is adapted from remarks by a senior civiltan procurement official in the Navy at a Navy procurement officers' seminar:

    There is one basic philosophy and one basic reason that have brought about this moral climate.

    The basic philosophy was accurately described by Gen. Douglas MacArthur when he said that what was wrong in our country was that people were trying to see how little work they could do for how much money they could get.

    The basic reason is the amount of money available today for defense procurement. The very size of today's defense budget is corrosive and corruptive, in the absence of wage and. price controls—and don't forget for one second that the only people directly responsible for the prudent spending of those defense dollars are people in procurement.

    Every other category of individuals in the weapons‐system‐acquisition arena, with the possible exception of the lawyers, has other piimary objectives than prudent contracting.

    James R. Schlesinger as Secretary of Defense recently, lamented cuts in the defense budget. I wonder why he wouldn't face up to what was happening to the taxpayers' defense dollar because of the direct inflationary effect on the defense budget of no wage and price controls, which results in so many more dollars being required.

    Our taxpayers' defense dollars are being ripped off shamefully, and until or‐unless we reimpose wage and price controls—at least on the defense sector—this country will continue to head downhill to disaster or to another form of government.

    Multimillion‐dollar defense contracts have become multibillion‐dollar contracts, and corporate, political and individual morality has reached the choke point with all these billions of the taxpayers' money being up for grabs.

    Just look around and see the conflicts of interest, officers leaving the Navy for jobs with defense contractors, or officers retiring and being rehired, as civilians or obtaining contracts with the Navy.

    Another indication: defense contractors who admit to bribes—or, kickbacks—when attempting to obtain contracts from foreign countries; and entertainment of officers—mostly flag —in this country.

    Does anyone believe that defense contractors who have admitted to illegal campaign contributions in the United States, and bribes, kickbacks, etc. abroad, have a double standard of corporate morality that precludes improper and illegal practices in this country when trying to obtain defense contracts?

    In short, does anyone believe that they have one corporate policy in the United States and another that takes effect the minute they leave our shores? I don't believe it.

    I am sorry to say that I do not believe our Department of Defense will take affirmative, punitive action against these defense contractors and the admirals or generals who appear to have violated the clear intent and meaning of the department's conflictof‐interest regulations.

    Letters of admonition or censure forpoor judgment put in their files after they retire are silly, in my opinion.

    I have long contended that defense procurement would be sanitized by permitting defense contractors to go into bankruptcy if they failed to meet their contractual commitments and obligations.

    The D, Tense Department would obtain our contracted‐for procurements if a company went into bankruptcy and such action could result in needed management changes.

    We all know, however, that the Lockheeds, Grummans and Northrops are sacred cows for the politicians and the defense hierarchy with the result that corporate morality is all but forgotten.

    These corporations who do business with the Defense Department on their terms are not even subjected to enlightened trade‐association disciplines in their industry. Even voluntary codes of ethics and fair‐trade practices are either nonexistent or nonenforced, and collectively they laugh at efforts to require them to be truly accountable for their spending of the taxpayers' defense dollars.

    Similarly, I have long contended that it one admiral or general—or any other officer—was court‐martialed and dismissed for conflict‐of‐interest violations, the entire procurement operation, as well as Navy credibility, would be immediately enhanced. Bold positive, disciplinary action is required by our leaders. But don't hold your breath until you see such action.


    Now think about the "Fat Leonard" scandal.

  3. 1 hour ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

    Vern, would you be interested in writing a contracting text instead of that horror novel I saw you mention? :P


    This was posted to Wifcon sometime today:


    Looking for others that have done a service contract as FFP, T&M, etc. where you expect contractor to invoice multiple times against a CLIN? I have typically utilized "JOB" as a unit of issue and qty of 1. EX> 1 JOB $100,000. GFEBS PR would denote that CLIN with "D" in multiple payment column. With a T&M contract I need emergency repair done with unknown labor and material/travel. I've typically put $10,000 on Labor CLIN and $10,000 on Parts CLIN and allowed invoices to be submitted multiple times until funding exhausted. My agency guidance is that JOB is only for construction and they tell me to use "Each" on the Parts CLIN? I'm about nuts trying to explain why this seems wacky.  Thoughts?

    That's what "contracting" has come to. I'm sticking to my horror novel.

  4. It seems to me that the essence of the scheme is this:


    [I]nstead of dictating how the workforce is to attain requisite learning objectives, we specify the requisite learning objectives (performance outcomes) and method of assessment, and let the workforce decide how they are going to attain them. Some workforce members may choose a program of self-study, others may study in informal groups, some contracting offices may develop their own ongoing training programs, etc.

    In short, instead of attending government prescribed and conducted or sponsored training courses, personnel would self-educate and then qualify by taking standard exams.

    There is no doubt that training courses have not worked especially well, and I doubt that they ever will, for a variety of reasons that I won't go into. The problem with self-education is that government contracting is such a specialty field that there are not many college courses of textbooks. The contracting body of knowledge is not widely taught or written about. Take a subject like contract pricing. In most colleges, pricing courses teach business how to set prices. They don't teach buyers how to analyze prices. They don't teach cost or price analysis. They don't teach cost realism or price realism analysis. They don't teach should cost analysis. So how is a student to learn those things? What resources will be available to them, especially if they work in small towns and rural areas? People who want to be actuaries don't face those problems, since the topics that comprise its body of knowledge are routinely taught in colleges. I don't trust agencies to develop effective in-house programs.

    I agree that what we do now is very expensive and mostly ineffective. Perhaps the solution is for the government to fund some colleges to develop courses in government contracting and make them available online and to commission textbooks.

  5. I'm all for it, not because it will help anyone, but because it will show how ridiculous the DOD acquisition statutory/regulatory/policy scheme has become.

    Congress, the White House, USD/AT&L, DPAP, and the service policy staffs have conspired to make DOD acquisition absurd. None of their voluminous rules have succeeded in making DOD a top notch acquisition organization. It should be no surprise that the F-35 still isn't ready for combat after 20 years of development.

  6. Preparing a task order proposal or quote that seems simple to a government contract specialist takes time, and time is money. Preparing an elaborate proposal or quote takes a lot of time, and a lot of time is a lot of money.

    It's one thing to email a price. It's another thing entirely to read even a short competitive RFP or RFQ and then write and mail a custom product or service description or explanation and provide a cost breakdown. Only people who have never done that work think it's easy or cheap. It's tedious and expensive.

  7. The folks who write the PWS often lack a basic understanding of contracting principles and other rules and concepts that need to be considered when writing the PWS. The result is that much of the Government’s and contractor’s resources post award that could otherwise be directed towards the actual services under contract, are instead spent interpreting, clarifying, correcting, debating, and modifying the terms and conditions of the contract itself. I call this the “opportunity cost” of a poorly written contract. Time and effort is wasted, and quality of service, timeliness, and customer satisfaction often take a back seat. Not to mention the detrimental effect this has on the partnering relationship between the parties, as well as the equitable adjustments and claims that are sure to follow.

    Please provide a real example of such an instance.

  8. David,

    I'm not interested in the assertion that there is too much contracting going on. That's why I didn't say anything about it. I don't know your argument in support of that assertion, and I'm not interested in it. I'm interested only in doing whatever contracting we're doing better than we're doing it now.

    I certainly don't fault you for doubting the likelihood of implementing any effective solution. I doubt it, as well. But I don't like your thought that the solutions I proposed suggested themselves. I thought long and hard about the things that I proposed. I thought them up and I suggested them. They didn't suggest themselves.

  9. Here's my shot at a plain English version. 918 words versus 1,365.


    Submitting your quote. Submit your company’s quote in writing and on paper to the address specified in Block __ of this Request For Quotes (RFQ). You may submit more than one quote. If you do, we will evaluate each separately.

    Submission deadline. We must receive your quote at the address specified in Block __ by the deadline specified in Block __. We will not consider any quote that we receive after the deadline unless we receive it before we issue a purchase order and considering it will not delay our purchase. In case of an emergency that delays our operations and makes submission or receipt of your quote impossible, we will extend the deadline by one working day.

    Terms and content of your quote. Your quote must be based on the terms of this RFQ. We might reject any quote that is not based on these terms in every respect. Your quote must contain all of the information described below.

    Small Business Status. In order to submit a quote, you must know whether your company is a small business. The small business size standard that applies to this purchase is stated in Block __ of the cover sheet of this RFQ, along with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code on which it is based. Regardless of the information in Block __, the small business size standard is 500 employees if you are submitting your quote in your own name but intend to provide a product that you did not manufacture yourself.

    Issuance of purchase order. Your quote should contain your best terms. The Contracting Officer may reject any or all quotes. After the evaluation of quotes, the Contracting Officer may negotiate final terms with one or more quoters of the Government’s choice before issuing a purchase order. The Contracting Officer will not negotiate with any quoters other than those of the Government’s choice and will not use the formal source selection procedures described in FAR Part 15.

    The Contracting Officer may issue a purchase order to other than the quoter with the lowest price. We might issue multiple orders, purchasing various items or groups of items from different quoters. We might issue an order for less than the quantity on which your quote is based, at the quoted price, unless you tell us that you will not accept an order on that basis.

    Information to be submitted. Put the following information on the first page of your quote:

    1. the number of this RFQ;

    2. your company name, address, DUNS number (see below) and telephone number;

    3. your price and any discount terms;

    4. acknowledgement of any amendments to this RFQ; and

    5. a statement that you assent to all terms of this RFQ.

    Beginning on the second page of your quote, provide the following information in the following order:

    1. a detailed description of the product or service that you will provide, including any product or service literature that you wish to give us;

    2. the terms of any express warranty;

    3. your payment address;

    4. references to current or former customers who will attest to the quality of your product or service in the within the past three years, including (i) customer name, (ii) customer address, (iii) contract or purchase order numbers, (iv) persons to contact, and (v) telephone numbers.

    Product samples. If this RFQ requires that you submit product samples, you must deliver them to us at the location specified for our receipt on or before the deadline for submission of your quote. We will not pay for the samples, and we will return them to you only upon request and at your expense, unless they are destroyed during testing.

    Availability of Government Documents. If the descriptions in this RFQ of the products or services we want to buy refer to any Government specification, standard, or commercial item description, you may obtain a copy of any such documents from the places listed in Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.212-1, paragraph (i).

    System for Award Management (SAM). Unless exempted by the Contracting Officer, you must register in SAM before we will issue a purchase order to you. If you do not register by the date set by the Contracting Officer, the Contracting Officer might issue the order to a different quoter. Once registered, you must remain registered throughout performance until final payment. Go to https://www.acquisition.gov for information on SAM registration and annual confirmation.

    DUNS Number (Data Universal Numbering System Number). [This applies to all quote if the solicitation requires that you be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM).] Place the annotation “DUNS” or “DUNS+4” next to your name and address on the first page of your quote followed by the DUNS or DUNS+4 number that identifies the quoter’s name and address.

    If you do not have a DUNS number, contact Dun and Bradstreet to obtain one. If you are located within the United States, you may contact Dun and Bradstreet by calling 1-866-705-5711 or via the internet at http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform.

    If you are located outside the United States, you must contact the local Dun and Bradstreet office for a DUNS number. Tell Dun and Bradstreet that you are a quoter for a Government contract when contacting the local Dun and Bradstreet office.

    The DUNS+4 is the DUNS number plus a 4-character suffix that you may use at your discretion to establish additional SAM records for identifying alternative Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) accounts (see FAR Subpart 32.11) for your company.

  10. Change paragraph (f) to read as follows:

    (f) Issuance of purchase order. Your quotation should contain your best technical and price terms. The Contracting Officer may reject any or all quotations. The Contracting Officer may issue a purchase order to other than the quoter with the lowest priced quotation. After the evaluation of quotations, the Contracting Officer may negotiate final terms with one or more quoters of the Government’s choice before issuing any purchase order. The Contracting Officer will not negotiate with any quoters other than those of the Government’s choice and will not use the formal source selection procedures described in FAR Part 15.

  11. Don,

    "DFARS 252.225-7001(a)(ii)(A)"

    "DFARS 252.225-7001(a)(ii)(A)" is not a valid citation, either. Paragraph ( a ) isn't broken down into (i), (ii), (iii), etc. Some of the definitions use (i), (ii), (iii), however.

    A CO's duty to inspect deliveries to ensure conformity of supplies or services is stated at FAR 46.103( d ) and FAR 46.104( b ).

    I'm not angry with the IG. I'm disappointed with the ACC's reaction. Instead of making the IG substantiate their position, they are going to make all of their contracting personnel take a three-hour online course that doesn't address what the IG thinks it does.

    I don't think FAR 46.103 and 46.104 address Buy American compliance, but I won't argue with you.

    ACC's response was probably based on more than just the text of the report. There was probably an out-briefing in which things were discussed. ACC probably didn't think it was worth arguing about. Anyway, it t won't hurt the Army's people to take a three hour course. It might be interesting. Besides, a DAU online course probably can be completed in 30 minutes.

  12. The "(a)(3)(ii)(A)" is pretty clearly a mistake. They meant (a)(ii)(A). See the citation in the third line from the top of page 15 and in the seventh line from the bottom.

    The IG appears to infer an administrative obligation to perform a component assessment based on the terms of the clause, paragraph ( c). The IG apparently believes that the clause imposes a duty on the CO to ensure contractor compliance with the terms of the contract.

    Lots of contract clauses impose obligations on contractors without expressly requiring the CO to ensure compliance. Take a look at FAR 52.246-2, Inspection of Supplies -- Fixed Price (AUG 1996). It requires the contractor to perform quality assurance, but expressly denies any obligation on the part of the government to inspect or to check the contractor's QA work, merely giving it the right to do so. But what CO would say that he or she has no duty to inspect deliveries to ensure conformity?

    The IG didn't trash the ACC. It seems to be doing little more than putting the ACC on notice that someone might ask it how it knows that the contractors are complying and not lying and that it ought to have an explanation. A fairly gentle heads up. It's up to the command to decide what if anything to do. Of course, they'll never be able to do component assessments on a significant number of contracts, even with training.

    Don't be angry with them, Grasshopper. They're just doing what IGs do.