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Vern pulls no punches.

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NASA plans to base its source selection decision on competing answers to an essay test from Hell.

One of the problems is that the "system" rewards adherence to the sub-optimal status quo, while at the same time punishing those few creative thinkers who seek to break the paradigm. There are few, if any, consequences for incompetence ... except those consequences felt by the citizens.

Thanks for writing this and giving Bob permission to post it here, Vern.

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What I have found, at least at my agency of 1-1/2 years, is that programs think they can fix their inability to manage their existing contractors/incumbents with  a source selection to end all source selections for the next contractor.  The conversations tend to go like "Why are you insisting on employing unnecessarily complex evaluation factors which are not meaningful discriminators anyway??" The answer inevitably is "Because [current contractor name here] isn't doing what we want."   Insisting the COR to do their dadgum job is an option they never considered.

So they think (for example) if they gin up a scenario for the RFP which describes something they are unhappy with now, they can fix it in the future by eliminating anyone who doesn't address their ridiculous sample scenario to their satisfaction.  They literally believe they can source-select their way out of post-award contract management responsibilities, if only they are allowed to add JUST ONE MORE FACTOR/SUBFACTOR.

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Thanks @Vern Edwardsfor sharing your excellent writing with the contracting community free of charge. I think one of the challenges the workforce faces (among many) is that they simply lack access to many of these best in class resources like The Cibinic & Nash Report and Briefing Papers. When they're not taught how to write solicitations properly as part of their "acquisition training" and they don't have access to outside materials to learn anything different, they just listen to their coworkers and default to what they do: copy and paste...

I'll add this to the set of writings that I share with my contracting and acquisition colleagues.

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20 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

I think one of the challenges the workforce faces (among many) is that they simply lack access to many of these best in class resources like The Cibinic & Nash Report and Briefing Papers.

I still remember 20+ years ago when I first read the Nash & Cibinic Report. My PCO shared an article about something we had been debating as a team (I think it had to do with clarifications v. discussions). I couldn't believe there were smart people writing thoughtfully about the seemingly mundane work we were doing. It brought my work to life. The trajectory of my career was forever changed. I wanted to be like those guys.

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This NASA example, and countless other similar actions, are really acquisitions of personnel services.  Mostly it involves professionals with specialized expertise to do needed work for government managers.

How about Congress just removing restrictions on personnel services?  Let government managers recruit, interview, and select individual(s) either through contract or HR appointment?  If the government needs a large team of people, how about selecting a company to do the hiring and managing the staff?

Not only would this add efficiency and effectiveness to carrying out government programs, you eliminate all the corporate overhead costs.  You eliminate the facade that all the work is for non-personnel services and narrow decisions down to which individuals are best to perform the needed work by some means as reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and doing checks just like in hiring.

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@formerfed, I kept thinking about personal services too. Every office I’ve been in awards personal service contracts that are labeled performance-based-services-acquisitions.

@Don Mansfield, I remember reading through the Formation of Government Contracts and the Administration of Government Contracts and wondering why what I was reading didn’t match the training and education I was receiving. The (1) what; (2) why; and (3) how in those books was very different than the dogma I was learning. Even worse, the offices generally didn’t have an interest in what was in the books.

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3 hours ago, formerfed said:

How about Congress just removing restrictions on personnel services?  Let government managers recruit, interview, and select individual(s) either through contract or HR appointment?  If the government needs a large team of people, how about selecting a company to do the hiring and managing the staff?

@formerfed

Congress? OUR congress? The one in D.C.? The Barnum & Bailey act?

What would be the status of such hires? Would they be civil servants? Would they be government employees of some other classification?

The political ramifications could be very significant. Which party would have the support of such hires. Who would lose political support for voting in favor of such hires?

Let us know when you get back from Fantasy Land. 😂 

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On 4/30/2022 at 6:57 PM, Jamaal Valentine said:

@formerfed, I kept thinking about personal services too. Every office I’ve been in awards personal service contracts that are labeled performance-based-services-acquisitions.

@Don Mansfield, I remember reading through the Formation of Government Contracts and the Administration of Government Contracts and wondering why what I was reading didn’t match the training and education I was receiving. The (1) what; (2) why; and (3) how in those books was very different than the dogma I was learning. Even worse, the offices generally didn’t have an interest in what was in the books.

When I was a consultant, I pulled both of the Cibinic & Nash procurement bibles out of a recycle bin at DOC.  Neither of them looked like they had ever been opened.

There are 2 axioms (in Federal procurement consulting anyway) that have never failed to be true in 20 years:  1) Management never believes they are at fault for the failures of their organization, and 2) Management is always at fault for the failures of their organization  (somebody was signing that crap after all).

100% of the time leadership believed the problem was that no one who worked for them was as smart as they are, because the stupid CS's didn't use 12 sub-factors in addition to the 4 uber-factors or their RFP didn't include critical guidance to the vendor such as "2 + 2 = 4".  The troops were plenty well trained; it's their leaders who insisted on the approach they learned in the mid-1990's when they last took a procurement course.

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I shared this article internally (echoing h2h - thank you @Vern Edwards and @bob7947 for posting this).

Been thinking of it all day.  I think many of us can attest to the 'crisis of routines' vs. know-how/what/why.  Lets me ask, what makes you believe that a specific discipline in higher education is the answer?  To tie it to another post, can the degree infer a level of curiosity needed to improve or is that an inherent personality trait?  I could see an argument for graduate programs (Masters or Robust Credentialing) in that specialty, but other than the GW procurement law program, I don't see many business or public administration schools that would the scenario described in the article.  The ones I see that are out there would need to change from being everything to everyone to having a mission-like purpose to the field.  

This also makes me wonder about NCMA as an organization.  Maybe a government-specific standards body that focuses exclusively on federal contracting?  Would that be the pathway to a better education/professional development?

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