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Vern Edwards

Read this. Read it NOW!

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https://fcw.com/blogs/lectern/2017/06/dont-reform-procurement-eaves.aspx?admgarea=TC_Opinion

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The current procurement rules allow for a fair degree of flexibility. In our class we borrowed language that I'd learned from Jen Pahlka and Erie Meyer concerning  red rules and blue rules. Red rules signify rules that you cannot break, as they are in the law (e.g. a procurement threshold amount). Blue rules signify the “lore” or wisdom accumulated over years (e.g. agile methodologies are not permitted).

What we observed is people often confuse red rules (which cannot be easily changed) with blue rules (which are, at best, guidelines). The reality is procurement law allows for a fair degree of flexibility. Procurement lore does not.

It's minds, and the lack thereof, not just the written rules, that make things so bad in contracting today. The naysayers among us, the ones who find clear rules to be obscure, are threats to national security and well-being.

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Thanks for sharing Vern - I have Dr. Kelman's book "Unleashing Change" in my reading queue.  Based on the thoughts in this article, I just may move it up a few spots.

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Awesome article, thanks Mr. Edwards!

"The reality is procurement law allows for a fair degree of flexibility. Procurement lore does not."

This quote really drives home why it is so important to be a student of the game. As an 1102, if you just go with what you are told, you are going to find yourself bogged down by blue rules all day long. Learn and understand for yourself, and challenge the status quo... in many offices, there are plenty of "innovative" processes that can be discovered by clearly knowing the red rule/blue rule distinction.

Steve Kelman gets it. #MCGA

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Kelman did not write the article. It was written by David Eaves, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

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19 minutes ago, Don Mansfield said:

Kelman did not write the article. It was written by David Eaves, Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

I saw that, but based on his work with David Eaves and the inclusion of "by Steven Kelman," they presumably share the same thoughts (I know I wouldn't let a colleague put my name on an article or document without my review and consent).

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Gordon (or anyone else who is hip and with it),

Help me out -- what does #MCGA mean?

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When was "Contracting great" Gordon? To me, "again" implies to me that "Contracting" or "the Contracting profession" was once great but isn't now.  I DO know and have known some great individual KO's. When was Contracting largely, overall great?  I assume that you are using an informal definition of "great", referring to "the contracting profession" as, for instance, "impressive" or "grand".

Otherwise, some definitions of "great" are comparative to the "average" state or condition, e.g, "better than average". If so, when was or is the Contracting profession "average"? 

Just wondering what you mean by "MAKE CONTRACTING GREAT AGAIN"...😀

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When was "Contracting great" Gordon?

Great contracting (procurement) has been done in some organizations at certain times and in specific instances.

The greatness has not been in perfect regulatory compliance or speedy execution of routine contracting operations, but in coping with new challenges and solving tough problems through smart thinking and methods. There are histories that describe instances of it. See, for example:

Irving Brinton Holley, Jr., United States Army in World War II, Special Studies: Buying Aircraft: Materiel Procurement for the Army Air Forces http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/011/11-2/CMH_Pub_11-2.pdf

Elliott V. Converse, History of Acquisition in the Department of Defense, Volume I: Rearming for the Cold War, 1945 - 1960 http://history.defense.gov/Portals/70/Documents/acquisition_pub/OSDHO-Acquisition-Series-Vol1.pdf?ver=2014-05-28-103257-540

Arnold S. Levine, Managing NASA in the Apollo Era, esp. Ch. 4, The NASA Acquisition Process: Contracting for Research and Development https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4102.pdf

Procurement was critically important to the success of the project to develop the atomic bomb during World War II. See:

Vincent C. Jones, United States Army in World War II, Special Studies: Manhattan: The Army and the Atomic Bomb http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/011/11-10/CMH_Pub_11-10.pdf

However, unlike program management, contracting is not a "heroic" field. The names of great contracting officers, of which there have been many, are generally known only to those who worked with them. Their names are not (or rarely) written down in books. Who signed the contract for the B-52?

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@joel hoffman Mr. Edwards put it better than I can, it's a mind set for folks to engage in "coping with new challenges and solving tough problems through smart thinking and methods."

@Vern Edwards Chapter 4, The NASA Acquisition Process: Contracting for Research and Development was a very good read! Having worked in an R&D contracting environment, I found the information fascinating; R&D, like construction and other niche contracting areas, has some very unique challenges that make learning about past theories/processes entertaining for us contracting nerds!

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Interesting read. Federal contracting is managing scared and that is no way to manage a business. The net results of doing so are fear, delays, and mistakes. If you want to look for improvements in contracting start with looking at aligning the incentives of the acquisition team and focus with the end state in mind.  FAR Part 1 is clear we need to manage risk not avoid it.  

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PepeTheFrog is calling for a complete and total shutdown of blue rules in the contracting profession until acquisition officials and our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. Without looking at FPDS-NG data, it is obvious to anybody the foolishness is beyond comprehension. Where this foolishness comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous source selections by people that believe only in blue rules, and have no sense of reason or respect for the contracting profession.

PepeTheFrog has friends that use blue rules. They are great people-- but they know we have a problem.

Did you see what's happening in DHS last night? The source selection was a yuge failure, bigly. Sad! We have no choice, folks. We have no choice.

Make Contracting Great Again! #MCGA

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Pepe,

I'm sympathetic to your call to action.  

But how many of our contracting officers can tell the difference?  How many of their supervisors can tell the difference?  How many of their procurement analysts can tell the difference?  How many of their attorneys can tell the difference?

I wish I could say "most" or even "many" or each category.  I can't.

Here is a few things off the top of my head from the "blue" or "lore" category--

·        A determination to include or exercise an option must be in a D&F (Determinations and Findings) format.

·        Q&As for a solicitation must be provided by solicitation amendment.

·        Any modification over 20% (or any other fill-in the-blank figure) is automatically out-of-scope.

·        A J&A (or other sole source documentation) is needed before issuing orders that cumulatively go above the estimated quantity (or price) in a requirements contract.

·        A task/delivery order purchasing the contract minimum must be awarded simultaneous with (or immediately after) the award of any IDIQ contract.

·        A determination of responsibility is required to support an option exercise or issuance of a task/delivery order.

·        A BPA must include a ceiling or maximum amount for the BPA, and a J&A (or other sole source documentation) is required before issuing orders that cumulatively go above that amount.

·        A contractor release of claims is required before closing out every contract, purchase order, or task/delivery order.

·        A contract closeout must be done with a bilateral contract modification.

·        A notice (solicitation) for a fair opportunity consideration must state whether all non-price factors, when combined, are significantly more important than, approximately equal to, or significantly less important than price.

Let me stop there -- lunch is over and I need to get back to work.  By the way, every single one of the above statements is FALSE but they are believed to be true by some of our associates -- that's why they're in the "blue" or "lore" category.

I'm reminded that in matters of religion, one sincere adherent's folklore is another sincere adherent's doctrine.  Some people reading my list of folklore might argue with me and insist that something on the list is doctrine.  I hope no one tries to burn me at the stake -- but if I do err, maybe someone will teach me with chapter and verse from the FAR or other FAR-level document (not from an agency guide or office SOP).  I'm open to learning.

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22 minutes ago, ji20874 said:

Any modification over 20% (or any other fill-in the-blank figure) is automatically out-of-scope.

This is my favorite one! I had this come up not long ago on a project I was advising on.

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I should have thanked ji20874 for the list. Sorry ji. Thanks for the list.

BTW:

20 hours ago, ji20874 said:

Any modification over 20% (or any other fill-in the-blank figure) is automatically out-of-scope.

See Nash & Feldman, Government Contract Changes, 3d ed., Ch. 4, II "Within the General Scope of the Contract," § 4.5, "Increase in cost":

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A dramatic increase (or decrease) in the contract price also should be an indicator of a cardinal change.1 Indeed, this issue is frequently a key component for whether the change is out of scope, although it is not a conclusive consideration.

As one author points out, it would be an error to conclude that within scope questions can be resolved by simply making an automatic mathematical comparison of the contract price with the cost of the change. The case law contains a “startling array” of seemingly inconsistent outcomes. For example, one decision held that adding a wing to a hospital under construction at an increase in cost of 33% was out of scope whereas a change on a supply contract that increased the contract price by 170% was within scope.

Footnotes omitted.

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If you haven't

20 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

Did you see what's happening in DHS last night? The source selection was a yuge failure, bigly. Sad! We have no choice, folks. We have no choice.

Make Contracting Great Again! #MCGA

In case you haven't seen it, here is DHS's request to GAO to dismiss the protest. It is something of a signed confession.

I wonder if the offerors can recover their bid and proposal costs.

Motion-to-Dismiss-B-414175-public_fnr.pdf

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On 6/6/2017 at 10:41 PM, Vern Edwards said:

Who signed the contract for the B-52?

I can't remember his name, although I do recall he was a Big Ugly Fat....Fellow....

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I'm guessing that it was Gen. Curtis E. Lemay or Gen George Kenney. Likely - Lemay

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I doubt that LeMay signed the contract, but I guess it's possible.

Here's a photo of Gen. LeMay in 1950, about the time the first B-52 production contract was signed. I don't know about ugly, but does he look fat? 

 

image.jpg.73a8625ef9469b8a65a0474aa92626d0.jpg

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I think General Lemay was barrel chested and stocky but not fat.  "BUFF" isn't a reference to Lemay.  It is an acronym for the B-52's nickname. It is "Big".  I think it is a pretty plane for its time, not "Ugly". It is somewhat "Fat".  It is definitely a "Frightening" experience for iits intended targets on the receiving end of a B-52 bombing run.  

Gen. Lemay prevailed over the Air Staff, who thought that the B-52 wasn't needed and who almost killed the program.

Frank Lovejoy portrayed a look-alike, "General Hawkes", in the 1955 film,  "Strategic Air Command", complete with the famous cigar that Lemay was noted for smoking/clenching. Jimmy Stewart - perhaps my all-time favorite actor- starred in the lead role, as Col. Dutch Holland. He was actually a Col. at the time in the Air Force Reserve, who flew Bombers in WW2 and in the Reserves. He was later a BG. 

It's one of my all-time favorite Air Force movies. At the Air Force Academy between 1967 and 1971, we probably saw it each year. I still watch it when I see it's showing on cable TV.  I spent five years active duty in SAC at two SAC Bases with H-Model BUFFs.  My nephew was a B-52H Navigator at Minot AFB.

Nephew and I love BUFFs.

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