I'm sure there is a very easy explanation to this but I'm starting to wonder why SPS/PD2 even exists (I know PD2 is being replaced soon and this applies to any future contract writing software too). It was made a long time ago (early 90's I think?) and perhaps these days its more efficient to have the contractors actually write the contracts.
In short, it seems the Government should be able to efficiently motivate each awardee to write the contract and any modifications for the Government and just have KOs review them thus eliminating our need for our own contract writing software system. (We would still need to upload data into FPDS and WAWF of course).
Here's my long thought process for anyone who wants to read it:
In 2010, then Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) Ashton Carter established the Better Buying Power initiative. The initiative challenged acquisition officials in DoD to seek savings first through eliminating excessive costs and unproductive overhead and second by getting industry involved. One area where both of these objectives can be achieved is through the reduction and ultimate elimination our reliance on Procurement Desktop Defense (PD2) by placing the responsibility of writing the actual contracts on Industry. Contracting Officers would still maintain the responsibility to award the contract via approval of the contact provided by Industry and they would still need to upload all necessary information in Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS).
The overall goal would be the complete elimination of PD2 but that is not appropriate in the short run. An appropriate area to test this would be in the procurement of commonly used software products. DFARS 208.7402 directs contracting activities to use DoD ESI when the required software or hardware is available. In my current position I serve as a warranted Ordering Officer at the Department of the Navy, Assistant for Administration (DON/AA) and I am frequently tasked with ordering software licenses. Let’s consider only Microsoft products. The contract for Microsoft licenses has already been competitively awarded to one specific contractor thus there is no solicitation for quotes or evaluation of quotes needed but rather there is an ordering process that must be followed. This process requires the Ordering Officer to create the Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) call in PD2.
The main area for improvement lies is the creation of the contract itself. PD2 is part of the larger Standard Procurement System (SPS) that actually writes DoD contracts. PD2 also uploads contract data into the Wide Area Workflow (WAWF) which allows for proper invoicing, payment, document retrieval, etc. As many PD2 users know the system frequently experiences latency issues and sometimes it is down all together. The interface is dated and cumbersome and could use significant modernization. This article is not about how to improve PD2 but rather how to reduce and eliminate DoD’s dependency on the system. This is where efficiency can be achieved.
Can the Government properly incentivize industry to create the physical contract document, without PD2, after an Ordering Officer places the order? Why can’t the Government require the contractor to create the physical contract in the required uniform contract format and return it to the Ordering Officer for review and signature? Think about the last time you signed a contract for work to be done on your home or your car. Did you write the contract or did the contractor write the contract? Imagine going to the contractor’s website and placing an order for the desired Microsoft software – just like you would if it were a personal purchase. The Ordering Officer fills out all the necessary fields and the contractor returns a contract to the Ordering Officer in the correct format for a bilateral signature.
What are the advantages to this?
1. The Government will receive a contract more quickly because the contractor will be motivated to create an efficient process to get the contract completed. This will result in the Government receiving the software quickly.
2. The Government will not need to use its own labor to create a PD2 document. I can personally attest that sometimes it can take an entire day to build 1 contract depending on the number of contract line items (CLINs) and the latency of PD2.
3. The contractor will improve their cash flow by receiving orders more quickly. It is possible, that literally the day the Contracting Officer places the order on the industry’s website the contract can be returned for bilateral signature.
4. If the labor associated with procuring software can be burdened by industry this can possibly expand to other areas in contracting and possibly eliminating the need for PD2 altogether.
What are the disadvantages?
1. A process will need to be created to allow the Contracting or Ordering Officer to input the contract into WAWF for proper invoicing and payment for non GPC transactions.
2. A process will need to be created to allow the Contracting or Ordering Officer to input the necessary contract data into FPDS without PD2.
3. Part of the evaluation criteria will rest on the contractor’s ability to demonstrate the capability to make the contract in the correct format. This added service will raise the cost of the products but theoretically these added costs would be much smaller than the savings previously mentioned.
In the short term I think it is possible to test this but getting the contract data into FPDS will be the major hurdle. Overall, the potential of savings and efficiency is high eliminating PD2 is possible (a contract awarded in 2006 to CACI International indicated that over $70,000,000 was spent to maintain SPS/PD2 for five years (search for it you'll find it online)). Contracting and Ordering Officers only need to focus on the accuracy of each contract and then use that contract to input data into FPDS and WAWF outside of PD2. I believe the removal of PD2 aligns with the Better Buying Power initiative goals of eliminating excessive costs/unproductive overhead and getting industry involved. Let’s start the conversation and find out if Industry has a solution that can save the tax payers millions while continuing to achieve our goals as acquisition professionals.