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Vern Edwards

The Pentagon's procurement system is so broken they're calling on Watson

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Washington Post Headline: 

 
 
The Pentagon’s procurement system is so broken they are calling on Watson

IBM’s Watson, the computational genius that has bested Jeopardy champions, published a cookbook and even been unleashed in the fight against cancer, now has what is perhaps its greatest challenge—taking on the morass of federal procurement process. 

For years, government agencies have tried to find ways to make the purchasing process more efficient. But now the Air Force has come to the conclusion that humans cannot on their own manage the Federal Acquisition Regulation, 1,897 pages pages of the densest prose on the planet. The only way to navigate a stifling bureaucracy that virtually everyone agrees it is broken, is to turn to the power of the machine.

Read the rest:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/the-pentagons-procurement-system-is-so-broken-they-are-calling-on-watson/2016/03/18/a6891158-ec6a-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html

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Is this the same effort that J.V. reported in August?

 

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Vern (or anyone else who disagrees with big data), with regards to your comments on the "Data Madness" thread, do you stand by your beliefs that a system like this will never work in the acquisition field?

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7 hours ago, NavyBuyer said:

Vern (or anyone else who disagrees with big data), with regards to your comments on the "Data Madness" thread, do you stand by your beliefs that a system like this will never work in the acquisition field?

Which champion among us will face this Watson system in a head-to-head contest for supremacy? Who will be the contracting Garry Kasparov or John Henry?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Blue_versus_Garry_Kasparov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_%28folklore%29

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Quote from the article:

"The effort comes amid other efforts to reform the way the Pentagon buys weapons and services. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has made those reforms a top priority and is once again pushing legislation designed to speed up the procurement process and make it more efficient."

If Congress wishes to speed up the procurement process, one part of the solution is slash large portions of the FAR.  Take the onerous regulation off of CO's and hold them accountable for performing.  Congress and the Executive branch have created this monster that they seem to admit humans cannot reasonably fix.  What a sad commentary supported by yet another quote from the article:

"The Pentagon’s procurement system is the “perfect application for Watson,” Gorguinpour said. “While our acquisition system is very complex, it is document based. . .It’s unreasonable to expect that a single individual or even a group of individuals to be able to fully understand all of the relevant documents to answer a specific question.”

I beg to differ with this broad generalization. It puts down the contracting officers that DO have it figured out and have managed to stay on top of all the requirements.  Is this person saying a CO doesn't even know how to "answer a specific question", basic or complex?

Commercial enterprises don't need to spend millions/billions trying to figure out how to buy goods and services more effectively, I sure didn't see that when I worked in the private sector for a Fortune 100 company.  We had no acquisition regulation and saved millions for our business every year.  I know that Government has a mission distinct from commercial enterprises and special interests to address, but I don't think FAR Part 12 went FAR enough.

Seems like another endeavor akin to "clause logic" tools that have been developed in the past which have proved largely useless.

I shouldn't be so surprised.

 

 

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When Watson recommends the dismantling of socio-economic programs, they'll pull the plug immediately (that was the reaction to the AI who became racist).  Chess has one goal, we have many.

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7 hours ago, NavyBuyer said:

Vern (or anyone else who disagrees with big data), with regards to your comments on the "Data Madness" thread, do you stand by your beliefs that a system like this will never work in the acquisition field?

It could, but I doubt it will.  The system is only as good as the humans that develop it, the humans that maintain it, and the humans that use it.  Most of these systems are developed by people that are not contracting officers by trade, haven't ever bought something applying the FAR and its supplements, or at least haven't been in the practice for years.  I can't say that I'm optimistic.  I'd rather have my tax dollars going towards simplifying the process, not paying more for an increasingly complex regulatory environment.

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3 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

Which champion among us will face this Watson system in a head-to-head contest for supremacy? Who will be the contracting Garry Kasparov or John Henry?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Blue_versus_Garry_Kasparov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_%28folklore%29

I'll take it on. :angry:

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Guest Jason Lent
14 hours ago, apsofacto said:

When Watson recommends the dismantling of socio-economic programs, they'll pull the plug immediately (that was the reaction to the AI who became racist).  Chess has one goal, we have many.

Are you talking about Microsoft's AI that the internet taught to love Hitler?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/mar/24/microsofts-twitter-ai-robot-tay-tweets-support-for/

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The odd thing is that according to FPDS, it looks like the current obligated amounts on the 2 Watson contracts  are mere peanuts.   Like everything else from IBM, the final answer will surely be to outsource everything to India.

I find it very disconcerting when technologists insert themselves into this field - try and convince a single IT guy that automated clause logic is crap. They've been claiming victory on that one for 10 years now.

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Jason, do you think we can train Watson to advocate adopting communism in the United States in order to streamline the federal procurement system?

I'll bet good money there is no red tape when the North Korean purchasing agent has an opportunity to purchase some uranium. 

That may be how we get it turned off- our jobs will be saved.  Conversely, it may run for President . . .

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On ‎3‎/‎28‎/‎2016 at 4:59 PM, Todd Davis said:

It could, but I doubt it will.  The system is only as good as the humans that develop it, the humans that maintain it, and the humans that use it.  Most of these systems are developed by people that are not contracting officers by trade, haven't ever bought something applying the FAR and its supplements, or at least haven't been in the practice for years.  I can't say that I'm optimistic.  I'd rather have my tax dollars going towards simplifying the process, not paying more for an increasingly complex regulatory environment.

Oh, I agree 100% that people will always be needed to make the final determination, but it gives breadth of knowledge in our field.

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Oh, I agree 100% that people will always be needed to make the final determination, but it gives breadth of knowledge in our field.

You do realize that 'HAL' was originally supposed to be an IBM computer, right?

"I'm sorry, Dave,  but I can't allow you to terminate this contract" (at which point you are blasted into space)

What WOULD we like it to do? Create a bulletproof Section M? Conduct evaluations in microseconds? Prepare our Rule 4 files for us? 

Watson will never do the award determination part, but it seems like cranking through the months-long processes that seem to vex humans would be useful (making sure the RFP is consistent; making responsibility determinations; validating vendors in HUB Zones; set-aside determinations; market research). Leave the fun stuff to the humans (doing the deal).

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Maybe we need a supercomputer --

OUSD(AT&L) DPAP memo dated 11 August 2016, Acquisition Compliance Scorecard Third Quarter Fiscal Year 2016, revealed the Air Force included a mandatory clause in only 58% of contracts awarded in the third quarter. Compliance was previously reported at 48% compliance rate. (DoD's seemingly abstract goal is 95%.)

The subject clause, 252.204-7012, has been required in all solicitations and contracts (including commercial) since Nov 2013. I doubt a computer would do much worse than 58%.

Even more disheartening, the Air Force's response was to have a two-star general issue all contracting offices a reminder memo ...

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Often when talking about contracting we mix contracting with basic purchasing, and as a result make needlessly complex the latter.  Complex contracting is something that I doubt Watson could do, and my money would be on Don Henry...but what about the boring, non complex, commercial stuff?  Maybe schedules awards and modification and basic commodity purchasing?  If Watson would hep with that, would that not free up and elevate the 1102 field for doing the hard stuff?

I know nothing about what the USAF proposes, but if I was going to gamble I would say they are looking for a technical solution for a dynamic problem.  Maybe we should be looking at this for as to help with the small stuff to free up time and resources to work on the hard stuff.  

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