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@Jamaal Valentine  I agree.  Contracting folks do indeed adhere to what’s modeled for them.  “Cut and paste” from other documents, templates and approved samples endorsed by management, office checklists, etc.  Creativity and ingenuity often doesn’t exist.  So many 1102s just go through the motions with the objective of making a timely award without protests

It’s amazing also how the same process gets done so many ways across offices.  Some are good practices while others are wrong. Things like requirements for negotiation memorandums, source selection decisions, and even FAR 5.2 announcements differ widely. Just look at the recent thread here on synopsizing for simplified acquisitions over $25,000 in value. 

Comments about changing jobs to get broader exposure are spot on.  So many offices have common practices that are just flat out wrong.  They are perpetuated by staff that haven’t worked anyplace else.  Plus offices that do all kinds of contracting just don’t exist.  Changing jobs to learn new things and obtaining broader exposure in our field is very beneficial.  Plus being subjected to new things, new people, and no processes is self-challenging and motivational.  Despite how good someone is in their job, people get content and bored with the status quo.  Having to start new and prove yourself all over again can be rejuvenating in someone’s career.

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8 hours ago, Jamaal Valentine said:

You can change jobs without ever relocating. For example, if you go to Los Angeles, you can rotate doing a variety of acquisitions and contracting - R&D, ACAT, SCAT, operational, staff, etc.

True enough, but I don’t think that Vern was necessarily limiting his comment to such scenarios. My first and second civil service bosses told me many years ago that I could choose a path of staying in one location for my career for financial stability but limited growth and promotion opportunities or be willing to move for greater growth, professional opportunities  and promotion potential. I chose the latter path. Lived in three different continents and numerous cities and 5 states.

Im still paying off my home mortgage, while friends who stayed put have paid off mortgages and have beach condos, etc. I retired at a much higher grade than most of them and had a very challenging, varied and fulfilling career.  

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27 minutes ago, joel hoffman said:

True enough, but I don’t think that Vern was necessarily limiting his comment to such scenarios. My first and second civil service bosses told me many years ago that I could choose a path of staying in one location for my career for financial stability but limited growth and promotion opportunities or be willing to move for greater growth, professional opportunities  and promotion potential. I chose the latter path. Lived in three different continents and numerous cities and 5 states.

Im still paying off my home mortgage, while friends who stayed put have paid off mortgages and have beach condos, etc. I retired at a much higher grade than most of them and had a very challenging, varied and fulfilling career.  

Relocation is not longer a financial hardship.  I know of dozens of 1102s that did this and weren’t harmed financially.  

https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/recruitment-relocation-retention-incentives/fact-sheets/relocation-incentives/

Of course this doesn’t negate family issues, especially children, that involve moving to a new geographical area 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, joel hoffman said:

Im still paying off my home mortgage, while friends who stayed put have paid off mortgages and have beach condos, etc. I retired at a much higher grade than most of them and had a very challenging, varied and fulfilling career.  

Oh, for Pete's sake. It's a personal decision. If you can't or don't want to move around, THEN DON'T.

Criminy, Joel!  Way to go from a big idea to a small one!

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On 6/26/2022 at 8:13 AM, C Culham said:

Directing my comments towards the civilian side of the house I have always wondered why what I will call "life experiences" do not count for much.  I agree that to an extent life experiences are noted such as being an avid and broad reader but if one looks at the FAI certification and what is noted as core competencies there is a whole world where they can be achieved.  Yet when it comes to CLP's  to support "continuous learning" the professional is solely directed to knowledge and assets with emphasis that are government centric.  Some how personal commitment should be acknowledged and a persons outside interests acknowledged and given credit.  Being a professional does not stop at the door of the Federal building. 

To quickly try to get to my point why isn't doing things like achieving a  USCG Captains License, meeting qualifications standards and having experience in court mediation programs , participating substantially in civic activities such as serving on a planning commission, a city's budget committee, being an officer of the board and otherwise active with an NGO, acknowledged as ways to achieve competencies?  If acknowledged officially maybe doing so is a measure of personal commitment as well?

My emphases.  From what I have seen, the OFPP (e.g., this guidance) and agency-level guidance on CLPs does not limit the supervisor from approving continuous learning in these things, Carl.  Here's a passage from OFPP guidance about recommended activities for CLPs, with boldened emphases that tie to your above quote:

Quote

B. Participating in Professional Organizations and/or their Events

CLPs may be earned for participating in professional organizations, attending events sponsored by them, and obtaining professional licenses or certifications. Membership in a professional organization alone will not be considered as fulfilling continuous learning requirements, but participation in the organization leadership will. Before participating in professional organizations, workforce members must ensure that their participation is authorized by their agency and is permitted by ethics laws and regulations. Examples of activities that may qualify for CLPs include holding elected/appointed positions, such as committee leadership roles, or attending and/or presenting at educational conferences or meetings.

For an agency example, check out this guidance from DOE, on its recommended professional activities to earn CLPs (bold emphases added):

Quote

Publishing. Writing articles or books related to acquisition for publication generally meets the criteria for continuous learning. Points will be awarded only in the year published. Compliance with agency publication policy is required. 1 CLP per hour, maximum 20 CLPs per year.
Self-Directed Study - An individual can keep current or enhance his or her capabilities through a self-directed study program agreed to by the supervisor. 1 CLP per hour.

Middle management has the approval authority - the subordinates need only ask.  The onus is squarely on them to do so.  As a precursor, a manager should hire those (otherwise competent) whom express interests in these things.  That manager should also establish a culture that appreciates these things just as much as it appreciates issuance of an RFP, approval of an Acquisition Plan, or other governmental, middling accomplishments.

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Just now, Voyager said:

From what I have seen, the OFPP (e.g., this guidance) and agency-level guidance on CLPs does not limit the supervisor from approving continuous learning in these things, Carl.

Agreed but by experience the OFPP guidance is just that and agencies have adopted the government centric view even when the supervisor suggests strongly to approve the CLP's.  One more nail in the coffin for OFPP effectiveness.   

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59 minutes ago, C Culham said:

agencies have adopted the government centric view even when the supervisor suggests strongly to approve the CLP's

I think this is misinformed.  That same link above and my experience tells us all CLPs are approved by the supervisor solely.  If the supervisor is worried about what someone might think by approving these CLPs, this tells me one of three things, in progressively worse order: (1) the supervisor is a risk-averse or narrow-minded, (2) the culture somewhere higher up is toxic and the supervisor is afraid of it, or (3) the Acquisition Career Management Program (ACMP) is toxic.

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23 hours ago, Voyager said:

I think this is misinformed. 

Yep but all the same...cherry picked quotes from a Department CLP memo....one I am familiar with but I am willing to bet there are others!  It might be dated yet demonstrates a viewpoint that I do not think has changed.

"...Monitoring progress and completion of continuous learning (CL) is a joint effort between an employee, their Supervisor, and the Bureau CL Manager (typically the ACM designated in the USDA agencies (ACMD))..."

"...FAITAS will indicate when employees complete the required number of CLPs for maintaining certification.  The employee must then submit a CL Achievement Request for their supervisor’s approval; once approved, the request will be reviewed for approval by the Bureau CL Manager (BCLM).  The BCLM is the final approver for accepting CL events and their associated CL points (CLPs).   CLPs will not be accepted for attending duplicative events (courses, seminars, conferences, etc.) within a four year period...."

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/25/2022 at 10:14 AM, Vern Edwards said:

Emphasis added.

@Voyager

Okay. Fair enough. By "personal commitment" I mean, among other things:

  • seeking and reading books and articles pertinent (in the broadest sense) to your work and to the work that you hope to do and studying them;
  • getting up early and staying up late to read and to write (you must do both in order to learn);
  • deciding whether you want to be a professional or just an employee.

 

 

These three bullets really resonated with me. For the first bullet, I've been consistently surprised how reading something about an unrelated-to-contracting topic can influence my thinking about my contracting job. It happens all the time--something I read in the New Yorker or some such publication ends up having direct relevance to a project I'm working.

Just today, in regards to the second bullet, I was writing an email to a colleague that was mildly critical of a plan that I came across. I rewrote a key paragraph several times to make sure I captured the idea correctly. It landed perfectly--she immediately understood my position. The process of writing that helped me understand my own position. 

The last bullet is where I see a lot of challenges. I work with a decent amount of young-ish 1102s and there are a few of them that want the respect that being a professional accrues, without putting the work into becoming a professional. Becoming a professional is hard and it isn't a task that is ever fully complete. Vern commented that he's 75 and "still hopelessly ignorant." I'm 41 and much behind Vern on the ignorance scale (or am I ahead of Vern? Point is, Vern has forgotten more about contracting than I know), but a little less so every day. 

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On 6/23/2022 at 1:39 AM, Vern Edwards said:

The cohort of federal procurement professionals is aging, while agencies face challenges competing with the private sector to recruit younger workers.

There are more people 70 and older than there are people under 25 years old working in federal procurement, Field said at the Professional Services Council’s Federal Acquisition Conference on Tuesday. Overall, only 7% of the acquisition workforce is under 30 years old.

'These statistics make a pretty compelling case to make our workforce a top priority—both the pipeline, the recruitment, the development, and the retention,” she said.'"

Emphasis added.

Vern posted the above a few weeks ago.  As you can see from our poll of Wifcon users, this has spread to Wifcon.com.  Of 23 votes cast in our unscientific poll to date, all 23 votes are from users who are 30 and above.  Even more scary is the fact that about 44% of us are 60 years and above.  It isn't as if there is no new blood here because I continue to add new members every day -- from the government and industry.

Over the past few years, I have found less and less information to post on the daily Home Page.  It hasn't happened overnight.  Rather, it has happened over the years.  I've been adding more and more sources to search for information that contracting individuals might find useful.  Quite franly, the amount of information out there has declined from that in the past.  It's as if no one cares about you.

Last Friday, OMB released its plans for the Administration's management agenda for federal contracting.  I consider it BALONEY.  Actually, I have many more unkind thigs to say about it.  You may say Where is it? as you search.  I think it is objectives without stating the existence of a problem to correct

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It’s just political noise.  Mid term elections are coming up and the Administration has dwindled the list of topics where it’s down to Federal contracting after almost two years.  This is just more “look what we are doing for the country.”

I think a more proper focus for a management agenda is modernizing the contracting process to make us competitive internationally. 

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From the President’s Management Agenda, we get,

“Priority 1: Strengthening and Empowering the Federal Workforce

“Make every Federal job a good job, where all employees are engaged, supported, heard, and empowered, with opportunities to learn, grow, join a union and have an effective voice in their workplaces through their union, and thrive throughout their careers.”

This president’s management agenda is hopelessly out of touch with reality and represents a total lack of direction.

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9 hours ago, formerfed said:

It’s just political noise.  Mid term elections are coming up and the Administration has dwindled the list of topics where it’s down to Federal contracting after almost two years.  This is just more “look what we are doing for the country.”

I think a more proper focus for a management agenda is modernizing the contracting process to make us competitive internationally. 

I was thinking about modernizing the contracting process when I looked at the baloney last night.  This morning I looked at the clean version of H. R. 7900, the House NDAA for 2023.  I mention clean version because it just started the amendment process yesterday.  It was reported out of House committee on 7/1/22.  Theoretically, during the hearing process, one of the representatives on the committee identifies a real need that requires the law to be changed.

Title 8 is the annual dumping groung for bad contracting ideas.  Bad, in the sense that we don't need another piece of legislative garbage clogging up the contracting process.  It didn't take me long to find one.  Here it is

Quote
SEC. 803. PREFERENCE FOR DOMESTIC FOODS FOR MILITARY WORKING DOGS.

    (a) In General.--Chapter 287 of title 10, United States Code, is 
amended by adding at the end the following new section:
``Sec. 3906. Preference for domestic foods for military working dogs
    ``With respect to the acquisition of food for military working dogs 
by the Defense Logistics Agency, the Director of the Defense Logistic 
Agency shall give a preference for the acquisition of food that is 
manufactured or produced--
            ``(1) in the United States;
            ``(2) by an entity that is based in the United States; and
            ``(3) using only ingredients and materials that were grown, 
        mined, manufactured, or produced in the United States.''.
    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of chapters for chapter 287 of 
title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the 
following new item:

``3906. Preference for domestic food for military working dogs.''.

Now, I have 2 dogs that rule my house.  They want something, they get it.  They are a Princess and Prince.  But, do we need to have a legislative requirement to instruct DLA to buy Made in America dog food.  We need someone to read this and get so angry that they begin reforming the process.  As for me . . .

 

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Hopefully, the buyers or shoppers  care enough about their 🐕 and aren’t using low bid acquisition methods anyway! 🐕❤️🤠

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To be clear, I think tolerance is good.  I’m an American and we all need to tolerate our fellow Americans.  But too many priorities and unclear direction is a problem every American faces today.  When we tolerate enough people with poorly developed priorities, we collectively head in the wrong direction.  It’s so simple.  History is waiting to tell our kids this.

I wonder, how I can impart my ability to prioritize on others?  If I don’t, my kids will just follow someone else’s agenda, like this one.

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Quote

 Even more scary is the fact that about 44% of us are 60 years and above.  

Ok, but I have literally been hearing that since I was hired as an intern in 1992 under the outstanding scholar program which was put in place because of....the aging 1102 workforce. This is not new.

The fundamental issue is similar to the tax code - Federal procurement is overly complicated and favorable to insiders, because if it weren't complicated and favorable to insiders, an entire sector of our economy would go out of business overnight.  The FAR Bootcamp would be one a one-day webinar! 😆

For example, eliminating the CICA stay would wring out hundreds of  thousands of wasted dollars and hours of effort in Federal procurement but there's too much money being made by insiders to ever allow that.

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2 hours ago, REA'n Maker said:

The fundamental issue is similar to the tax code - Federal procurement is overly complicated and favorable to insiders, because if it weren't complicated and favorable to insiders, an entire sector of our economy would go out of business overnight.

That's quite an assertion. Not just an issue, but the fundamental issue.

What do you mean by "complicated"? Complicated? Complex? Convoluted? Intricate?

Is the complicatedness problematical only because it favors "insiders"?

How do you define "insiders"?

 

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7 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

I started working for the government as an Army intern.  The civilian personnel recruiter explained to me in the interview that the contracting field is interesting and challenging.  He said I would learn about contract law, cost accounting, and negotiation.  The commendable objective of the field is buying critical goods and services in a timely manner and at good prices.  I would undergo two years of training including five weeks in basic contracting at Fort Lee, three weeks in contract administration at Wright Patterson, and three weeks in cost/price analysis and negotiation techniques at a Navy site in Arlington.   My on the job training would be done by seasoned contract specialists at one of the largest centers in the government doing centralized buying for ammunition at the peak of the Viet Nam period.  It was an exciting experience.

Young people entering the field today don’t get that same training and exposure.  Contracting today is much different.  It’s far from being from what I learned.  Contract specialists have to do through a maze figuring out mandatory sources, applicable socioeconomic considerations, preferred contract vehicles, and multiple clearances with lots of second guessing of their decisions.  In addition to dealing with many more laws and constraints, there are political initiatives that really have nothing to do with contracting for the government.  The executive order cited above is a prime example.  Why should the government care about how a contractor hires their employees?  This executive order is just issued to satisfy a sector of the voting base.  We are subject to the political flavor of the month.  

I don’t remember who said this but their comment was along this line - every new initiative starts out with “we will leverage their buying power of the Federal government”  What happened to acquiring things quickly at a fair price?  As I wrote this, I’m wondering how I would react to questions of a recent college graduate about entering the 1102 occupation.

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/15/2022 at 2:44 PM, Vern Edwards said:

That's quite an assertion. Not just an issue, but the fundamental issue.

What do you mean by "complicated"? Complicated? Complex? Convoluted? Intricate?

Is the complicatedness problematical only because it favors "insiders"?

How do you define "insiders"?

 

Fundamental to this issue, yes.  Immigration law is the same way for the same reasons.  New rules and regulations are added every day at every level to create the illusion of progress when all they are doing is adding layers of complexity which accomplish nothing.  When I was a consultant I conducted an organizational assessment of USCIS during the INS breakup period and had numerous interviews with the adjudicators ("immigration officers") who described driving to work in the morning and hearing about some new law or regulation that they had to implement when they got to work without any clue of what any of it meant.  It definitely struck me how similar that is to being an 1102 (think Covid clauses).

"Sustainable acquisition checklists" , "strategic sourcing memos" and the like multiply like flies and accomplish nothing except add to the space required to store our files.  Don't even get me started with what has been done to Part 12.  The -4 and -5 clause packages have ballooned, what, by a factor of 10 times or more since they were first conceived?  Is acquisition of commercial supplies and services  any the better for it?

Complicated, Convoluted, Complex, Intricate. And don't forget Contradictory.  I'm now required to evaluate a vendor regarding their "equity and inclusion"  but personal services considerations preclude me from having anything to do with hiring decisions. How is THAT supposed to work exactly?

Complicatededness is only relevant to insiders.

Insiders are anyone who profits from the current system, including this guy (points thumbs at self).

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