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"Pie Crust Promises: President Obama and Procurement Reform"

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Having worked under Lorita Doan's tenure at GSA, I can say (from personal experience) she is a special type of person, very forthright, engaging and 'smart'. However, as long as names are being tossed about for the proverbial OPFF ring, here's another... maybe in the interest of ending the plethora of massive-money, no-comp awards to certain DoD ktrs --- the name Bunny Greenhouse springs immediately to mind as a more than feasible candidate! Her disdain for political agenda, affiliations and aspirations are inarguable --- additionally, her Federal Contracting experience and aptitude are unquestionable. She got a raw deal, but she is the real deal...!!!

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Guest Vern Edwards
Having worked under Lorita Doan's tenure at GSA, I can say (from personal experience) she is a 'special' type of person --- especially when given the opportunity/forum to self-promote. As long as we're throwing names out for the proverbial OPFF ring, here's another... maybe in the interest of ending the plethora of massive-money, no-comp awards to certain DoD ktrs --- the name Bunny Greenhouse springs immediately to mind as a more than feasible candidate! Her disdain for political agenda, affiliations and aspirations are inarguable --- additionally, her Federal Contracting experience and aptitude are unquestionable. She got a raw deal but she is the real deal...!!!

The OFPP administrator has no authority over spending and contract award decisions. In fact, the statute expressly prohibits the administrator from interfering in such matters.

Do you really think she could get appointed and confirmed? Really?

For those who do not know who she is, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunny_Greenhouse.

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"Specifically, would make her a good choice"?

My primary viewpoint of Bunny Greenhouse is that she represents the type of leadership that appreciates why we (in contracting) do what we do... and, in my opinion, would support and defend to the hilt the features and folks that work well --- and would seek to change those that prove wasteful and/or counterproductive. I see her in a role where she, if need be, would censure "change" just for the sake of change --- but would wholeheartedly pursue a genuine need for reform (policy, procedural). More specifically, she seems truly dedicated to getting Federal Contracting right --- rather than just getting close to the right self-serving politicos. (IMHO)

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Guest Vern Edwards

Here is 41 USC 405, Authority and Functions of the Administrator, paragraphs (a) through ?:

(a) Development of procurement policy; leadership. The Administrator shall provide overall direction of procurement policy and leadership in the development of procurement systems of the executive agencies. To the extent that the Administrator considers appropriate, in carrying out the policies and functions set forth in this chapter, and with due regard for applicable laws and the program activities of the executive agencies, the Administrator may prescribe Government-wide procurement policies. These policies shall be implemented in a single Government-wide procurement regulation called the Federal Acquisition Regulation and shall be followed by executive agencies in the procurement of--

(1) property other than real property in being;

(2) services, including research and development; and

(3) construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance of real property.

(B) Government-wide procurement regulations. In any instance in which the Administrator determines that the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the General Services Administration are unable to agree on or fail to issue Government-wide regulations, procedures and forms in a timely manner, including any such regulations, procedures, and forms as are necessary to implement prescribed policy initiated by the Administrator under subsection (a) of this section, the Administrator shall, with due regard for applicable laws and the program activities of the executive agencies and consistent with the policies and functions set forth in this chapter, prescribe Government-wide regulations, procedures and forms which shall be followed by executive agencies in the procurement of--

(1) property other than real property in being;

(2) services, including research and development; and

(3) construction, alteration, repair, or maintenance of real property.

? Noninterference with executive agencies. The authority of the Administrator under this chapter shall not be construed to--

(1) impair or interfere with the determination by executive agencies of their need for, or their use of, specific property, services, or construction, including particular specifications therefor; or

(2) interfere with the determination by executive agencies of specific actions in the award or administration of procurement contracts.

Take special note of paragraph ?. See too 41 USC 421?(1):

Subject to the provisions of section 405 of this title, the General Services Administration, the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, pursuant to their respective authorities under title III of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (41 U.S.C. 251, et seq.), chapters 4 and 137 of Title 10, and the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (42 U.S.C. 2451, et seq.), shall jointly issue and maintain in accordance with subsection (f) of this section a single Government-wide procurement regulation, to be known as the ?Federal Acquisition Regulation?.

The Administrator's powers are quite limited, but someone with political savvy can persuade the other agencies to do things. In time.

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By what mechanism would the projection of his "philosophy" come about? How would that philosophy, whatever it might be, work its way down to the working level 1102? The OFPP Administrator cannot make regulations and has a miniscule staff.

I wasn't the one who recommended Mr. Drabkin. To the extent that the OFPP Administrator has any influence over anything, I think that there would be change in philosopy, that's all. If that is good, okay. If it is "rogue-like", I'm not sure that it would be good. I'm not going to go any farther here with any of those suggested thus far.

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I don't know what "improve" means, but how would anyone do that as OFPP administrator, who has no authority over personnel? A lot of people what to do a lot of things. The question is how to do it.

The next Administrator might have as long as three years to make changes. If they concentrate on a few agenda items, they can make a difference. Here's an example I just thought up.

In the area of acquisition workforce, the Administrator could publish a model of what 1102's at various levels should be able to do - skills, knowledge, competencies, etc. and encourage agencies to make demonstrated performance against that model part of employee evaluation and inclusion in IDPs. The Administrator could stress to agency heads how important the acquisition function is and how qualified CO's can benefit the agency and why it's important to train and grow the best people possible. They could work with others in OMB to require agency plans on improving their acquisition workforce much like OMB is doing now with reducing cost type and non-competitive contracts.

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Guest Vern Edwards
The next Administrator might have as long as three years to make changes. If they concentrate on a few agenda items, they can make a difference. Here's an example I just thought up.

In the area of acquisition workforce, the Administrator could publish a model of what 1102's at various levels should be able to do - skills, knowledge, competencies, etc. and encourage agencies to make demonstrated performance against that model part of employee evaluation and inclusion in IDPs. The Administrator could stress to agency heads how important the acquisition function is and how qualified CO's can benefit the agency and why it's important to train and grow the best people possible. They could work with others in OMB to require agency plans on improving their acquisition workforce much like OMB is doing now with reducing cost type and non-competitive contracts.

I don't want to come across as negative and defeatist, but I think that the development of such a model would be a political football. The administrator would have to develop the model and get concurrence (or buy-in) from chief acquisition officers. They, in turn, would have to get concurrence (buy-in) from career officials. Much would depend upon the practical consequences of such a model. This would be far from easy to do. And keep in mind, the administrator does not have a large staff of experts at his or her disposal.

Organizational and personnel reform will have to come from the very top. I don't believe that it is a priority in the Obama administration, which, let's face it, has a lot on its hands--economic recovery, health care, two wars--to name just a few items. We are nine months into the administration and have no OFPP nominee. When the nominee comes, he or she will likely be one of the usual suspects. And when the appointment comes, you'll have someone in a weak office who must win over the congressional committees and the senior acquisition appointed and career officials of the agencies. I don't think you should get our hopes up.

The best hope for real change is Mr. Assad, who has an office of real influence and authority. But I have not seen much more from him than an inclination to conduct conferences and issue policy letters, unless I've missed something more concrete.

One of the best things a new administrator could do is persuade the president of the importance of acquisition, wrest power to write the FAR from DOD, NASA, and GSA, and funding to hire a larger staff of real experts, if any exist. That would take congressional action, and DOD, NASA, and GSA would fight like pit bulls.

Want a nominee? How about Prof. Steve Schooner of GW Law School. Here's his bio:

Professor Schooner was the associate administrator for procurement law and legislation at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy in the Office of Management and Budget. He previously served as a trial and appellate attorney in the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Department of Justice. He also practiced with private law firms and, as an active duty Army judge advocate, served as a commissioner at the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. Until his retirement as an Army Reserve officer, he was an adjunct professor in the Contract and Fiscal Law Department of the Judge Advocate General’s School of the Army, in Charlottesville, Virginia. His scholarship focuses primarily upon federal government contract law and public procurement policy. His dispute resolution experience includes service as an arbitrator, mediator, neutral, and ombudsman. Dean Schooner is a fellow of the National Contract Management Association and a certified professional contracts manager (CPCM). He is the faculty adviser to the ABA’s Public Contract Law Journal and also serves on the Procurement Round Table and the advisory board of the Government Contractor. He served as senior associate dean for academic affairs of the Law School from 2006 to 2008.

Steve is connected in the acquisition community and is known by the Senate and would get confirmed quickly.

I would not hazard a prediction of what Steve would do in office, but whatever he decided to do he would pursue it with intelligence and a very high level of energy. There's only one question: Would he want the job? I doubt it, at least not the way it is now. In fact, I don't think anyone with anything going for him would want to the job the way it is now, except for a resume. A sensible nominee would demand promises of staunch support from OMB.

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Want a nominee? How about Prof. Steve Schooner of GW Law School.

Steve is connected in the acquisition community and is known by the Senate and would get confirmed quickly.

I would not hazard a prediction of what Steve would do in office, but whatever he decided to do he would pursue it with intelligence and a very high level of energy. There's only one question: Would he want the job? I doubt it, at least not the way it is now. In fact, I don't think anyone with anything going for him would want to the job the way it is now, except for a resume. A sensible nominee would demand promises of staunch support from OMB.

He would be excellent without a doubt. But like you said, would he want the job? That job has got to be so frustrating, espcially with the lack of support by OMB. The last couple Administrators seem to be out there all alone.

Hey, how about you as a nominee?

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Guest Vern Edwards
He would be excellent without a doubt. But like you said, would he want the job? That job has got to be so frustrating, espcially with the lack of support by OMB. The last couple Administrators seem to be out there all alone.

Hey, how about you as a nominee?

I would be absolutely the worst candidate anyone could imagine.

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It appears that a senior lawyer from GAO is the nominee-go figure!

http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?arti...;dcn=todaysnews

Dan Gordon is smart, articulate and well-respected (as far as I know) in the government contracting community, and he and has years of experience in reviewing government contracts and fiscal issues, dealing with senior government and industry leaders, and serving in a top position at a large agency. You seem surprised at the possibility that he might be nominated. Is it just the fact that he's a lawyer or is it something else?

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Not that he's a lawyer, I think that most of the administrators have been lawyers...just different to have someone from GAO

???

Al Burman

Steve Kelman

Dee Lee

Paul Denett

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Guest Vern Edwards

The Administrators, excluding acting, have been:

Hugh Witt, 1974-1977

Lester Fettig, 1977-1979

Karen Hastie Williams, 1980-1981

Donald Sowle, 1981-1984

Robert Bedell, 1986-1988

Alan Burman, 1990-1993

Steven Kelman, 1993-1997

Deidre Lee, 1998-2000

Angela Styles, 2001-2003

David Safavian, 2004-2005

Paul Denett, 2006-2008

Note the brief tenures.

I think only Williams, Bedell, and Styles were attorneys.

Witt, Fettig, Sowle, Styles, Lee, and Denett had experience in the acquisition world before appointment, but not necessarily in contracting. Al Burman was on the staff of the Commission on Government Procurement. As a scholar, Kelman had written an important book about procurement. Only Lee and Denett had been career contracting officials. Burman and Kelman had a significant impact on policy that affected the working level. Kelman was the most effective and influential of all the Administrators, due in part to his own energy and in part to the support he got from the Clinton Administration and Vice President Gore. He continues to be influential.

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Guest Vern Edwards

The gist: He's a nice guy, he has experience running GAO's protest shop, and he knows procurement law.

Steve Schooner said it all:

Gordon's top priority should be improving the size, training and skills of the acquisition workforce. "You can't fix any other problem without rebuilding the acquisition workforce," he said.

I absolutely agree. It is not clear to me how Mr. Gordon's niceness, experience, and knowledge especially qualifies him for that task. It is not clear to me how the authority of the OFPP administrator extends to that task. New laws, regulations, and policies are not going to fix anything.

Mr. Gordon's nomination is as good as most and certainly better than some (Bedell, Safavian). The tendency of the press is to declare every nominee to a presidential appointment to be at the genius level. Let's see what he does and judge him on that.

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The gist: He's a nice guy, he has experience running GAO's protest shop, and he knows procurement law.

Steve Schooner said it all:

It is not clear to me how Mr. Gordon's niceness, experience, and knowledge especially qualifies him for that task. It is not clear to me how the authority of the OFPP administrator extends to that task.

Mr. Gordon's nomination is as good as most and certainly better than some (Bedell, Safavian). The tendency of the press is to declare every nominee to a presidential appointment to be at the genius level. Let's see what he does and judge him on that.

I agree with all you've said, BUT in my experience Steve Schooner NEVER discusses the government acquisition system without pointing out that the workforce needs fixing. Not that I disagree with him, it's just that it would be nice to hear him address any of the other problems we face--especially since, as you accurately point out, as the OFPP administrator, Gordon may not have much to say about it.

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Guest Vern Edwards
I agree with all you've said, BUT in my experience Steve Schooner NEVER discusses the government acquisition system without pointing out that the workforce needs fixing. Not that I disagree with him, it's just that it would be nice to hear him address any of the other problems we face--especially since, as you accurately point out, as the OFPP administrator, Gordon may not have much to say about it.

You could say the same thing about me. Did you see my piece about the workforce in the August 12 issue of The Government Contractor? I mention the workforce here every chance that I get, because that is THE problem.

The problem now is not policy. The problem is policy implementation. New policy will only create a new implementation problem.

What is boils down to is this: the workforce is not competent. There are competent individuals, but, by the mass, the workforce is not competent. As long as that is the case, you cannot fix "the other problems we face." Take, for instance, organizational conflicts of interest. We don't need new policy. We need a workforce that knows how to implement the policy that we have. You simply cannot write policy to cover every possibility. You need people who know how to think about the particular problem and work it out. We don't have enough of those people.

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I just thought about ways to improve the workforce. There's nothing like experience. People can take all the classes that are out there but until you actually do the work, it doesn't sink in.

The problem is how to people get experience? The things that I saw and did when I was just starting out in the government aren't really available now, or if they are, not for many. Intern programs, rotational assignments, industry/government exchange programs, long term development programs, etc. Few opportunities are available to work in new and different areas. Of course, you can switch jobs if you want to do something different but sometimes the new job isn't what you hoped it was.

One thing the new Administrator could do is come up with ways for the workforce to learn and grow.

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I just thought about ways to improve the workforce. There's nothing like experience. People can take all the classes that are out there but until you actually do the work, it doesn't sink in.

The problem is how to people get experience? The things that I saw and did when I was just starting out in the government aren't really available now, or if they are, not for many. Intern programs, rotational assignments, industry/government exchange programs, long term development programs, etc. Few opportunities are available to work in new and different areas. Of course, you can switch jobs if you want to do something different but sometimes the new job isn't what you hoped it was.

One thing the new Administrator could do is come up with ways for the workforce to learn and grow.

Formerfed, experience may be important. However it takes much more than experience to be competent. Experience doing things wrong or using poor or outdated guidance, learned from incompetent supervisors, supervisors that haven't kept up with acquisition changes and reform, etc. is worse than not having any experience.

I had a couple of examples which infect our organization but have decided not to describe them. However, they are widespread across our entire organization. Suffice it to say that a lot of KO's and their supervisors apparently don't know that FAR Part 15 was rewritten in major ways, over 12 years ago.

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Joel,

I agree. I mean selective developmental assignments with the proper mentoring and guidance is needed. Part of rotational assignments teaches people how to do things better or differently as well as realize some of the things you were doing before is wrong.

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