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Guardian

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  1. Kathleen D Vohs, professor of marketing at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota writes, “Once you’ve reached a peak level of acceptance, however, you’re not going to be motivated to work harder.” This is a raveled statement inconsistent with Buddhist philosophy. It’s neither true nor false; it merely shows a lack of understanding of the principles of Buddhism. So then, what is it a practicing Buddhist realizes he needs to accept to progress toward an improved state? Emptiness—which is to say, that which is ubiquitous and perpetual, a recurrent state intrinsic to the temporal world. Herein we are confronted with an oxymoronic condition, which is emptiness in the face of abundance. He needs to accept the feeling of emptiness, which will continue to burden him even as he passes through many stages in life achieving successes. “[A] peak level of acceptance,” well now, that would be nothing short of nirvana. It would require more than a week or two of sitting in your company’s meditation room to reach such a state. I recently read the following essay, a portion of which is as follows— BALANCING INTERNAL MOTIVATION AND EXTERNAL NORMS So what would be the focus of law (as a set of norms) if it is to reflect the appropriately internal motivation so central to Buddhism? It must be designed so as to promote individual happiness—but that is too easy and too quick. It must be designed so as to operate on one’s dispositional states, such that one is disposed to be motivated properly. It must be designed to change hearts and minds, not merely behavior. So, if a law (let us refer to that law as a norm for now to avoid complexities surrounding the contrast between law in action and law as codified) is to be designed in such a way, a way appropriate to the internalist norms of personal development and motivation reformation, it must be internally endorsed, not externally enforced. Importantly, this norm will not work to promote the values it is supposed to instill unless one endorses it. In the case of external norms, one need not care about the norm or be motivated appropriately for the scope of that norm to apply; while I might not care about social sanction, the norms of social behavior will still be applied to me. But how can we formulate norms that will encourage this, that is, facilitate right motivation in the right way, rather than enforce behavior that leads to happiness in a manner entirely inconsistent with the internal focus of Buddhist norms? More simply, how can we formulate norms that capture the essentially internal motivation of Buddhist norms? Notice how odd it would be to say “to make people strive for their own happiness” rather than, more appropriately, “to encourage happiness.” (Shockley, Kenneth, “Internal Motivations, External Coercion, and Educating for Happiness” as published in the Buffalo Law Review, Vol. 55: 635-735 (2007).) Vohs might be correct in her assumption that “you’re not going to be motivated to work harder.” However, this seems a narrow-minded goal. Would not the better goal be for a greater work product, a smarter, more efficient method of doing business, and mutual satisfaction between parties. While hard work can certainly lead to economic growth and prosperity, in and of itself, it does not necessarily guarantee the results intended and has been a bane to many workers. Take the case of Warren Buffet, who nearly refuses meetings. His practical goal for some time has been to read prospectuses alone in a comfortable environment and make three of four wise acquisitions each year that will yield him and his stakeholders a worthwhile profit. Herein, there seems to be a level of utilitarianism. Many people benefit, as well as the larger economy. This he does in a modest office in Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, Buddists are concerned about profit too. The Dalai Lama said— Economic motivation is very powerful and we cannot expect people not to be personally motivated by economic gain. Also without money, there is no progress. Even Buddhist monks who are aiming for Nirvana in their day-to-day life, they need money. And I think from the Buddhist viewpoint, is really a matter of balance…. Surely the companies that will take us through the halfway mark of the 21st century will not disavow profit. Profit is essential—without it the company dies. But what else might become acknowledged as being important and by what other models can companies maximize profit? Lest we forget that Apple, Google and Nike are not companies of our grandfathers’ generations. Oh I watched them take the wrecking ball to the ole Montgomery Wards, Woolsworths became a Family Dollar and Sears has gone online. Have a good weekend, folks!
  2. Guardian

    NASA SEWP and BPAs

    It sounds like you have a recurrent need, which per your market research can best be fulfilled via SEWP. Although NASA may describe the concept of a delivery order with options, this is not the route I would take. About ten years ago I set up a BPA-type vehicle off a SEWP contract. NASA refers to this as a custom user purchase agreement (CUPA). I would contact the SEWP administration office for the agency and confirm that they are still promoting/sponsoring this type of vehicle and accepting such orders. I do not see why they would not be. After all, they are making a fee in the process. My understanding is that a CUPA is substantially similar to other types of BPAs in most respects. The guidance I have looked at from NASA for BPA-type vehicles cites FAR 16.505 and emphasizes that “[f]air opportunity must be maintained.” That said, I would point out that a BPA is not a contract as is an IDIQ described under this subpart and section. Notwithstanding the establishment of the agreement, the Government is not obligated to ever place any orders. Much like the BPA process described under 8.405-3, the preference is for the establishment of multiple awards. Certainly you could borrow some of the prescribed procedures under that subsection. I want to say that by setting the vehicle up as a CUPA against larger SEWP contract(s), you can place what the system refers to as “TOs” against the agreement. In the case of the purchase of supplies, these would really be “DOs.” One advantage, if I recall, is the ability therein to keep separate any modifications to your overarching agreement. As I am going back about a decade, you would have to check with the SEWP folks. Here is the PowerPoint presentation I found online, albeit it is a bit dated— https://www.sewp.nasa.gov/documents/bpa.ppt As to whether awarding a BPA against a non-FSS IDIQ is permissible under the FAR, I think Don answered that one by directing you to FAR paragraph 1.102(d). The question I think you should be asking is whether the administering agency, NASA, currently deems these methods permissible.
  3. Here is a link to the code in question, Vern. http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-1999-title41-section253&num=0&edition=1999 (B) in the case of a follow-on contract for the continued development or production of a major system or highly specialized equipment when it is likely that award to a source other than the original source would result in (i) substantial duplication of cost to the Government which is not expected to be recovered through competition, or (ii) unacceptable delays in fulfilling the executive agency's needs, such property may be deemed to be available only from the original source and may be procured through procedures other than competitive procedures. By "true sense" I mean "term of art" as you have described in your writings, as opposed to some colloquial usage. No, there is no express "statutory definition" found in Title 10 of which I am aware. I was drawing an inferred definition from the context in which it is used under that section. FAR Subsection 6.302-1 makes three references to the same term. All exist in the same context, the only variation being that one paragraph also mentions supplies for the same. By "rare" I mean, relatively speaking, the number of reported contract actions in FPDS categorized as such compared to the total number of reported actions within the most recently completed fiscal year. Moreover, I would further qualify that statement by underscoring "those that have been reported properly per the guidance that FPDS as administered under GSA provides." Specifically, you asked, "How do you know that follow-on contracts, whatever they are [emphasis added], are rare"? I would submit to you that we must reach some consensus as to what a follow-on contract is before we can move on to the question of whether they are rare. A question for you: If I am correct to understand you apply a broader definition to "follow-on contract" than what I have cited, I would appreciate your definition and its statutory and regulatory basis, including citations.
  4. As a matter of form, follow-on contracts in their true sense are rather rare. I suspect there might be a misapplication of the term here. On the civilian side, follow-ons are addressed under 41 USC 253(d)(1)(B) and cover “the continued development or production of a major system or highly specialized equipment.” On the DOD side, the term has its statutory definition under 10 USC 2304(d)(1)(B) and covers the same variety of services for development and production as well as those that are highly specialized. Is this a non-commercial buy? It sounds like it might be an acquisition of commercial items. I would suggest you follow the applicable requirements under Subpart 6.3—Other Than Full and Open Competition if you are operating under Part 15 and comply with any publicizing requirements outlined in Subpart 5.2. You have left several gaping omissions in your scenario/question. Like the others contributors, I am not sure why you require an “overlap” of services. If this has to do with an SLA, then we are talking about a subscription, which is typically considered the purchase of a supply. Why was the POP on the original contract miscalculated vis-à-vis the contractor’s current expectations? Did they not agree to the terms as already stated either through signature or start of performance? Lest we forget they have a contract with the Government, the conditions of which should be apparent. I would caution you against duplication of supplies/services. As far as any strict prohibition, you have a fair amount of latitude, so long as you adequately document your file. If this is something on which a big company seems to have your back against the wall so to speak, to appease their own internal contract processes, I would simply take care to ensure you are meeting your fiduciary duty to the taxpayer.
  5. One can rebuff artificial intelligence all he wants. The fact is that technology continues to evolve. The United States was primarily agricultural through the Civil War, with approximately three-quarters of the population living in rural areas. The ensuing transition toward industrialization and urban migration inevitability led to specialization within the larger workforce. Dare we forget that American manufacturing turned the tide in World War, accelerating the defeat of the Axis powers and lending to the rebuilding of swaths of Europe and the Far East. We maintained our status as the world’s industrial powerhouse until about the late 70s or early 80s when manufacturing jobs began to move overseas. Today, we identify as a service economy. The most purchased commercial items in dollars are exempted from domestic manufacturing requirements by the Buy American Act. Our most profitable supplies are those of the intellectual property type. The creation of software applications and like products is wholly reliant on the most exclusive forms of specialized knowledge and creative risk-taking. Even our service industry has been turned on its head. Today, the world’s largest provider of lodging owns not a single hotel. The largest passenger transportation service owns no vehicles. The majority of freight companies are brokers, subcontracting to trucking companies of varying sizes. The cost of freight in many regions of the county has nearly doubled, even though pay to drivers is at a historic high. With Boomers retiring, the need for professional drivers is greater than ever. But Millennials and Generation Z are not seeing the allure of a job relegating them to 11-hours a day of confinement. They know too that they would be lucky to see the maturation of another generation before the entire industry transitions to driverless vehicles. The same should be a concern for the 160,000 Uber drivers in the US. You can like it or hate it, AI is indifferent. AI may be in its budding infancy, but in time, it will surely grow to colossal proportions. We use predictive modeling and algorithmic-based applications on a limited scale in my office and I for one could not be happier. We are awarding a $147M supply contract containing over 4700 line items. Each represents a truckload delivery to an individual recipient. The final destinations span all 50 states, certain territories and Indian reservations. Offerors propose prices per state (or territory) for each item on the schedule of supplies. Offerors may indicate constraints in their proposals, i.e., limitations to particular locations and maximums for particular items. Apply these “constraints” to 4700 some odd items and it becomes the kind of price evaluation that my limited and impatient mind would rather not perform. The algorithmic software we use allows us to enter rules up front, including set-asides, then sorts the data per our instruction. The result is the creation of a scenario, complete with bar and pie graphs and several analytical representations of the data. Why have a protest hinge on the precision of your own calculus when you can rely on your handy TI-84 Plus? I agree that many specialists are consigned to repetitive tasks and vapid clerical work. The larger injustice lies in circumstances in which a specialist lacks capability or is unwilling to do more, but just the same benefits from the gainful rewards in pay and other incentives. Perhaps even more unfortunate is the skillful and ambitious CS who struggles to remain challenged and stimulated. Every organizational shift ought to contain the seeds of an equivalent or greater benefit. I would like to say that the smart ones will adapt, but intelligence is only part of it. There too has to be a willingness and fit determination.
  6. Guardian

    Eliminate FAR 52.217-9?

    My former agency insisted on including clause 52.217-9 in every contract with options. Back then I thought that it was a required clause for multiple year contracts. Reading the prescription found in paragraph 17.208(g), it is clear that the contracting officer is provided a level of discretion in deciding whether to incorporate this clause. The question in my mind is not whether its inclusion is always a bad idea. Instead, the better question is whether the CO based his decision to include the clause on any or all of the three conditions provided in the prescription. It seems that more often than not, COs are putting this clause in their contracts not having considered these conditions and whether they have been met. Possibly, use of the clause becomes a thoughtless exercise or justified on the basis of “that is the way we have always done it.” It has been my experience that senior specialists and COs tend to convince the novices and journeymen that 52.217-9 is required any time you are functioning under Part 17 with option periods. They used to convince me of as much before I became a more careful reader. It became a big “to-do” marking our Outlook calendars with reminders to send out preliminary notices of intent 30 to 60-days prior to contract expiration. We had one senior CO who insisted on committing the Government to 60-days advanced notice to the contractor in every contract with options. I am not sure why that would be seen as a sound business decision. Most of these contracts were for relatively routine supplies and services for which the contract needed little if any notice for logistical preparation. I have seen the “Option to Extend the Term of the Contract” clause put in countless contracts for “software maintenance,” purchased as a subscription, which entitled us to little more than access to a generic helpline. The condition most likely to trigger the need for the clause is the notification requirement. I could see this becoming a concern when we are procuring complex services. The other two, as FrankJon alluded to, could simply be written into any other part of the contract, i.e., [a] statement that an extension of the contract includes an extension of the option and [a] specified limitation on the total duration of the contract [do we not already list a period of performance for each option period described in the schedule of supplies/services?]. Once I forgot to send out the notice of intent 30-days prior to expiration as required by the terms we had filled in and to which we had thereby committed ourselves. The section head was in a huff because of it. Now we need to have them sign the SF30 (exercising the option to extend the term of the contract), she insisted, they could increase their prices, which we would likely be bound to, lacking sufficient time to re-solicit. The contracting office had made this commitment to notify them in advance by their own discretion, short of any statutory requirement. The net result seemed to add another layer of work, another deadline potentially to miss.
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