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Situation:

My Department, HHS, mandates all acquisitions over $250K have a written AP which must cover everything in FAR 7.105.

My OPDIV (unnamed, but hi Ted if you are reading this) essentially passes down this mandate unchanged.

My OPDIV does perhaps 95% commercial fixed price contracts, mostly orders using various existing government-wide vehicles (GSA, NITAAC, Best-In-Class, etc.). We very rarely use FAR 15 procedures or award 'contracts'.  

Results:

HHS's policy regarding acquisition planning is terrible for my OPDIV, given our actual workload as described above.  Its drastic over-kill given the relatively simple stuff we do.

  • Time-waste 1:  Large swaths of 7.105 are never applicable or extremely rarely applicable to us, yet we have to include them in an AP, every time.
  • Time-waste 2: We get thousands of acquisition plans a year.  Want to buy $500K Dell Computers from NASA SEWP?  You need a 20+ page Acquisition Plan.  Somebody has to waste their time writing, and reading, all those APs.
  • If everything is important, nothing is: Everyone knows much of the AP is completely unimportant, and leads to all involved discounting the importance and usefulness of the AP in its entirety.   
  • Ignoring important stuff: Actual acquisition projects and programs - which cover multiple contract actions - do not have acquisition plans at all.  All the trivial procurements do, but not the project.  For example, the acquisition project is to to acquire a very large Widget.  Our big widget which consists of components A, B, & C,  assembled together by contractor D, and operated by contractor E.  That's five acquisition plans (A,B,C,D & E), but does the acquisition project to get the Widget have an AP?  No.   

Questions:

  • What the heck was HHS (or anyone involved) thinking? 
  • Is ignoring a thoughtless and counter-productive policy that bad a thing to do?
  • How can the harms be fixed or mitigated, given my higher-up's narrow & literalist interpretation of the policy & the FAR? 
  • If you were involved in Department or OPDIV policy regarding acquisition plans, what do you think?

 

 

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36 minutes ago, General.Zhukov said:

My Department, HHS, mandates all acquisitions over $250K have a written AP which must cover everything in FAR 7.105.

Actually HHSAR 307.105 says:

Quote

Federal Acquisition Regulation 7.105 specifies the content requirements for a written Acquisition Plan (AP). The Department of Health and Human Services requires a written AP for all acquisitions above the simplified acquisition threshold.

It doesn't explicitly say it has to cover "everything" in FAR 7.105. Just address the topics pertinent to the acquisition.

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For your commercial fixed-price contracts, can you make a one-page fillable-form-check-the-box AP template?  Then, check the N/A box as appropriate.  I think a one-page fillable form is far better than a 20-page Word document.

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Yes, HHSAR does not explicitly say it has to cover "everything" in FAR 7.105.   The actual text leading to the generation of thousands of APs full of mostly empty or otherwise useless content is found in the AP template instructions and the obscure "Directive for the Acquisition Plan." 

For all acquisitions not requiring SPE review and approval, and are equal to or greater than the simplified acquisition threshold, including task orders under Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts (FAR 7.105),OPDIVs may use this AP Template or their own template which must meet, at a minimum, the AP content requirements outlined in the FAR 7.105 and HHSAR 307.105. 

 

Which many people interpret to mean, everything in 7.105 must be covered by every AP.   The HHS AP template, which we use in a slightly modified format, has 64 text fields, I counted.  Gotta fill in all 64 text fields, every time, even if this task may be repeatedly pasting in "Does not apply".  In some cases, the AP content does not ever apply- like, never ever, not even once.  Its Pre-Award IBR, we don't do that and the AP has four questions about it.   Yet, we paste in "does not apply" a few thousand times a year.  Its dramatic overkill and makes the process ridiculous.   Many thousands of hours wasted by poor PM's and CORs and such wondering "What is an IBR" and ultimately concluding, yet again, it doesn't apply.  

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34 minutes ago, ji20874 said:

For your commercial fixed-price contracts, can you make a one-page fillable-form-check-the-box AP template?  Then, check the N/A box as appropriate.  I think a one-page fillable form is far better than a 20-page Word document.

yes.  You haven't encountered policy people who respond "Good lord no, you have to state how pre-award IBR's don't apply when you're buying another $500K of Microsoft Office licenses."?

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57 minutes ago, General.Zhukov said:

yes.  You haven't encountered policy people who respond "Good lord no, you have to state how pre-award IBR's don't apply when you're buying another $500K of Microsoft Office licenses."?

I suggest pre-filling in  all the “not ever,  not no way, not no how” questions in the template itself. Modify the template to reduce the number of questions you have to deal with. 
You could have some alternate templates tailored for the different types of actions.

And “N/A” is quicker than typing “Does not apply”. They both mean the same thing.

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Reminds me when we carved an “official looking”  FUBAR ink stamp from an Art Gum eraser. We used it on circulated notes ,  correspondence, forms, etc., when I was in the Air Force 50 years ago. 

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If I were in that situation I would gather examples and procedures from other agencies.  Frankly I can’t think of another agency that does what is described.  Put together a study showing why a detailed acquisition plan is meaningless for many procurements.  Include an estimate of how much time is spent in preparation, review, and approvals.  Brief your management and get things changed.

Its your proposal is accepted, you’ll be a hero.  You can buy lunch for the Wifcon partipants with your cash reward.

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13 hours ago, formerfed said:

If I were in that situation I would gather examples and procedures from other agencies.

You can look at the various annexes that DASN (P) mandates for acquisition planning at https://www.secnav.navy.mil/rda/DASN-P/Pages/NMCARS.aspx  They are annexes 17 through 21.  There is a table at 5207-1 that shows when (and at what thresholds) the various annexes are required.  While still cumbersome, the stream-lined acquisition plans (annexes 17 - 20) are much better than the prior format that covered everything in 7.105.

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  • 1 month later...

Looks like HHS 1102's are still paying the price for the Obamacare website fiasco.  Absurd and damaging levels of oversight from the very same people who caused the whole mess is the standard response when such a giant SNAFU happens. This is why we can't have nice things!

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