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Reading some of the pathetic, bs questions posted at Wifcon during the last couple of weeks, and feeling that contracting is no longer worth thinking about, I was encouraged to read an article in Defense News entitled, "F-35 program head blasts Lockheed for slow progress on contract." The article is about the negotiation of the contract for Lot 11 F-35 production.

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/02/28/f-35-program-head-blasts-lockheed-for-slow-progress-on-lot-11-contract/.

The article ends with this:

Quote

Since contract negotiations seem to be dragging on, isn’t it time for the president to get involved, as he did on the 10th lot of F-35s?

Vice Adm. Winter, who was asked that question, seemed to think that was unnecessary. The program office has its best negotiator sitting down at the table with Lockheed, and she’s doing “phenomenal work,” he said.

“She’s in the NAVAIR 2.0 contracting competency. First name’s Julie. She’s great,” he said. “She will stare down anybody. More importantly, she comes prepared with facts.”

I'm glad to hear that we've still got first rate people working on really tough problems who aren't posting silly, trivial, or incoherent inquiries here and then asking "Thoughts?"

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That's a nice article, does give some hope.

I starting in a contracting shop (1102), moved to the program side (343), and now do federal strategy consulting (both contracting and program office projects)... it's been very eye opening to say the least. I love learning about contracting, but my view of the profession has gone down hill in the last 5 years.

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Counterpoint: http://www.defenseone.com/business/2018/03/lockheed-pentagon-negotiators-are-becoming-more-unpredictable/146420/?oref=gbb-newsletter

Quote

“It’s not like negotiations were always easy, but I’ll say they were more predictable than they are today,” Tanner said in an interview Monday. “There’s just more things that are being changed or things that you thought were sort of foundational elements of negotiation that maybe weren’t up for negotiation that now seem to be up for negotiation.”

For example, he said, the government now wants companies to eat various costs they once would have been reimbursed for.

“Everyone should be interested in cost reduction, not simply not reimbursing elements of cost that you historically reimbursed,” Tanner said. “That’s a strange way to get cost reduction and, I would argue, a very short-sighted, not helpful, not healthy for the industry and ultimately not healthy for the folks in the Pentagon buying under that strategy to use that approach.”

 

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here_2_help:

I was talking about intelligence and competence and the fact that we still have some first rate people. So I don't know what you mean by "counterpoint."

A negotiator is an instrument of strategy, not necessarily a determiner of strategy. The negotiator represents his or her client. DOD's strategy for a major program might be less predictable than it was for any number of reasons economic, programmatic, or political, in which case DOD's negotiators will be less predictable than they were. That says absolutely NOTHING about the intelligence and competence of the negotiators in question.

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Further to what Vern said, aerospace Defense companies are masters at spewing political “talk” to further their interests. The Lockheed opinion appears to be a typical negotiation tactic in my opinion.

H2H, I think that you once worked for a certain huge Defense contractor, so you likely know how that works. This is not to impune you in any way-  just reminding you how the “Military Industrial Complex” system,  both inside and outside the Government, works. I have the utmost respect for YOU. I had to deal with several of the “big ones” for the last ten years of my full-time government employee acquisition duty, including “a certain one”. 

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Speaking of airplanes, where is Boeing’s new KC-46 Tanker?  Experiencing more delays, they still haven’t delivered the first acceptable plane.  

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/03/07/another-kc-46-delivery-slip-puts-pressure-on-boeing-to-meet-contract-obligations/

In the meantime, the “new”Airbus assembly plant  in Mobile, AL (completed in Sep 2015) has announced that they plan to increased production of the A-320/321 series  (first plane delivered in 2016) from 4 planes to 6 planes per month.

Airbus recently announced that they will build a second plant in Mobile under a limited partnership agreement with Bombardier to assemble their  C-Series airliners. 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/articles.al.com/news/index.ssf/2017/10/airbus-bombardier_deal_mobile.amp

I’m sorry for Witchita, KS after Boeing closed its Witchita Plant in 2014-2015, shortly after winning the Air Force Tanker competition with the political help of the Kansas Congressional delegation. Boeing Witchita was supposedly going to be part of the KC-46 production plan. 

Hopefully, the Air Force will get their FIRST new Tanker late this year but it’s looking like it will be Spring of 2019. 

Thats a period longer than the US combat involvement than World War 2...

The loss of the AF Tanker contract to Boeing ended up being a great blessing for Mobile and Airbus, who was able to establish an aircraft production presence in the US, despite the heavy opposition from a certain manufacturer and its political supporters. 

EDIT: I brought this up here because the AF Tanker competition has a tortuous history, where some high level Government and industry acquisition officials lost their jobs and worse over attempts to lease tankers. The saga then continued through an extended competition, protest and reprocurement process. The DoD  told the public and Congress that the final competition would involve an LPTA selection.  What they didn’t explain - or if they did, what the public didn’t understand was that the initial awarded contract for the first four planes. was a fixed-price incentive contract, not a FFP contract. Within a few months after award, the awardee announced that there would be massive cost overruns beyond the target and price ceilings, some of which the taxpayers will end up paying.  

LPTA...right...

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In terms of Contracting Pros, how vital is data rights in your experience with negotiations? It seems like 1102s don't stress the importance of data rights to ensure future leverage in competitions much less the maintenance/obsolescence issues that arise on a product that is fielded. This is a second/third order effect that gets low priority but has massive cost implications as the acquisition life-cycle matures, e.g. F-35.

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I read that comment to an  article in Defense News, too. It concerns the fact that airplane manufactures retain the data rights to certain airplane components and systems. The author wondered why the Air Force couldn’t contract or compete production contracts with several manufacturers to build or even assemble the same plane, when the Air Force has supposedly paid 100 percent of development costs for the aircraft.

I am certain that that issue is way higher than the paygrade of any contracting official. 

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This conversation relates to this article as well:  http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2018/3/6/new-undersecretary-vows-to-shake-up-pentagons-acquisition-system

I can't say I am terribly optimistic about these prospects (trying to be less cynical but it gets more difficult by the day), but maybe the structural change (having nobody to overrule his interaction with Mattis and Shannahan based on an org chart) will help with these prospects.

The problem that he will run into is the path dependent nature of federal contracting personnel.  The cadres of COs (as well as management and oversight) have been conditioned differently than what the new Undersecretary now expects.  People have been contracting scared, or engaging in (structurally) cumbersome contracting for many years.  It is going to be very difficult to get to a point where the operations can function without the oversight.

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Other Transaction Authorities, SBIRs (which large companies buy up), commercial item determinations, and generous IRAD have been ways to get innovative products faster than DOD can generate especially its institutional knowledge drain and severe lack of IP legal staffing.  From my fairly recent experience within AT&L, right before the break A&S/R&E breakout the matter on Government data rights will make sole sourcing the new(er) normal since we will be locked in data-wise before milestone B and thus before an 1102 could ever compete it out. 

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USN, can you explain your concern?  If DoD paid for the complete development of tech data, DoD should have unlimited rights in that data.  Is this not happening?

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That is correct.

For instance, on contracts I've inherited we had the data rights clauses but we had no CDRLs therefore we had no vehicle or grounds to actually get the data which we should have been getting since day one. My Program Office didn't even have a data manager.

Even though we had some grounds to get the data, i.e. the 252.227-7027/28 clauses, pursuing the actual furnishing of that data was next to impossible unless we bring them to court which our legal folks had no stomach for.

At AT&L I saw that AF and all of the services, are by law, supposed to do majority of the "organic" maintenance but the Government failed to get the data to perform the maintenance in-house.

When asked to price an option CLIN for that TDP for maintenance, not even for a competition mind you, it was well over a billion dollars if they responded at all. Now bear in mind this same data is free for commercial planes under FAA regs, alas DOD is exempt for FAA regs...  

In reality our own military is a subcontractor to the beltway bandit for O&M which offers tremendous cash flow, profit, and sustained revenue for those prime contractors for the remainder of that plane's life. Most 1102s and AT&L appear to have no clue things basic data rights like Form, Fit, Function and OMIT data is inherently unlimited and even if they are somewhat aware they and their programs don't have the stomach to fight the good fight, especially when we have the rights and legal processes in place to obtain this data. 

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22 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

A negotiator is an instrument of strategy, not necessarily a determiner of strategy. The negotiator represents his or her client. DOD's strategy for a major program might be less predictable than it was for any number of reasons economic, programmatic, or political, in which case DOD's negotiators will be less predictable than they were. That says absolutely NOTHING about the intelligence and competence of the negotiators in question.

Yes, I agree with you. The negotiator is just following orders. The individual making key strategic decisions is far from the negotiating table. That says nothing about the person at the table.

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The federal employee workforce has turned into a work-for-welfare program, instead of a respectable civil service.

Bring back the federal civil service exam and find a way to make federal employees at will employees (make it easy to fire them).

Magically, intelligence and competency will increase.

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3 hours ago, PepeTheFrog said:

The federal employee workforce has turned into a work-for-welfare program, instead of a respectable civil service.

Bring back the federal civil service exam and find a way to make federal employees at will employees (make it easy to fire them).

Magically, intelligence and competency will increase.

For me, probably the single worst thing about working for the federal government is the persistent perception within the public forum that, rather than being an asset to my country, I am instead a drain on it.  There is no distinction between a real professional and a loafer in that perception.  There is no distinction in pay, either.  

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17 hours ago, Junius said:

There is no distinction between a real professional and a loafer in that perception. 

That assertion is belied by the admiral's praise for his negotiator. Top-notch people are appreciated. In all my many contacts with senior agency officials, especially DOD officials, that appreciation has been apparent.

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1 hour ago, Vern Edwards said:

That assertion is belied by the admiral's praise for his negotiator. Top-notch people are appreciated. In all my many contacts with senior agency officials, especially DOD officials, that appreciation has been apparent.

Vern - Junius was referring to public perception. Although certainly there's an argument to be made that within Government, top performers are not sufficiently recognized and incentivized. Simple appreciation is not sufficient unless it is relayed to the employee in a consistent and meaningful manner.

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On 3/13/2018 at 8:54 AM, Vern Edwards said:

Oh. Sorry, Junius.

No problem.  Your point is valid though; for the most part, based on my (limited) experience, senior leadership seems to really appreciate the work their employees do.  I just wish some of that appreciation could transfer to the general public.  The news media is more interested in highlighting failures than successes, but that's only natural.

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On 3/8/2018 at 7:20 PM, Vern Edwards said:

“She’s in the NAVAIR 2.0 contracting competency. First name’s Julie. She’s great,”he said. “She will stare down anybody. More importantly, she comes prepared with facts.”

Well, that goes without saying, dunnit? B)

As a NAVAIR 2.4.1 alumnus, my experience was that we didn't rely on leadership to get rid of poor performers, we did it ourselves.  If you were a slacker, or a poseur, your colleagues would make your life so miserable that you couldn't wait to get out of there. OWN IT!

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I love the "she comes prepared with fact" part of the admiral's quote!  I remember a negotiation I led in 2010 for a defense contractor with Australia's military where being prepared with the facts was absolutely the key. 

The Aussie's KO threatened to terminate their contract for an aircraft assembly that had not been built since the 1970s where the contractor had delivered a portion of the contract on time but later articles were delayed as the quality of the later parts was being questioned by the contractor QA team.  The fly in her (the KO), ointment was that I had actually read the Australian version of the FAR, and I knew she could not terminate the contract as none of the precursors (show cause, etc.), had been issued and the Aussie PM had authorized the delays due to the added security of the QA checks (without the KO being aware of the authorization). 

The Aussie technical team bought me beers that night, they had never seen the Aussie KO so angry!  She left the negotiation in seconds after it concluded and did not come back for the reception afterwards!  Knowing the facts (and the associated procurement regulations), is vital for a negotiator.  Oh, and the contractor delivered all of the articles in the agreed upon time plus Australia got a couple extra assemblies for free, so they were a happy customer!  Being prepared with the facts is absolutely necessary for Contracting professionals, whether assigned as a negotiator or not!

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On ‎3‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 6:54 AM, joel hoffman said:

Speaking of airplanes, where is Boeing’s new KC-46 Tanker?  Experiencing more delays, they still haven’t delivered the first acceptable plane.  

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/03/07/another-kc-46-delivery-slip-puts-pressure-on-boeing-to-meet-contract-obligations/

[...] Hopefully, the Air Force will get their FIRST new Tanker late this year but it’s looking like it will be Spring of 2019. 

Thats a period longer than the US combat involvement than World War 2...

[...]  EDIT: I brought this up here because the AF Tanker competition has a tortuous history, where some high level Government and industry acquisition officials lost their jobs and worse over attempts to lease tankers. The saga then continued through an extended competition, protest and reprocurement process. The DoD  told the public and Congress that the final competition would involve an LPTA selection.  What they didn’t explain - or if they did, what the public didn’t understand was that the initial awarded contract for the first four planes. was a fixed-price incentive contract, not a FFP contract. Within a few months after award, the awardee announced that there would be massive cost overruns beyond the target and price ceilings, some of which the taxpayers [ended up]  paying.  

LPTA...right...

 

Quote

 

[From the 4/19/2018 WIFCON Home Page]

Contracting Audits

 

Government Accountability Office

">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">

KC-46 Tanker Modernization: Program Cost Is Stable, but Schedule May Be Further Delayed

(April 19, 2018)

">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">">

 

 

 

Here is the link to the Audit Report:

 

https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-353

Still no new USAF tankers to replace those that the Air Force stated many years ago were its top priority to replace.

Meanwhile Airbus is STILL delivering its tankers...

See, for example, this November 2015 article: Big Role In Mideast For Big Airbus Tanker

https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/defense/2015-11-09/big-role-mideast-big-airbus-tanker

The article began with the statement that the Airbus 330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) had already amassed 56,400 hours of flight, including sustained operations over the Middle East by the first four customers. It went on to say that eight more air forces had since selected the Airbus 330, including three in a European partnership... 

 

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