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Service Contract (O&M) valued at $450 million??

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We are planning to award a service contract with Ops & Maintenance funds for Aircraft maintenance, etc services for a period extending 5 years. Would a 5 year base with 2 (2.5) years options be permissible? Can we go beyond the 5 year limits of the SCA? The current contract is 10 years and the requiring agency anticipates 8-10 years of performance period. thank you for your responses in advance.

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We are planning to award a service contract with Ops & Maintenance funds for Aircraft maintenance, etc services for a period extending 5 years. Would a 5 year base with 2 (2.5) years options be permissible? Can we go beyond the 5 year limits of the SCA? The current contract is 10 years and the requiring agency anticipates 8-10 years of performance period. thank you for your responses in advance.

Since it was dated 2003, I thought perhaps some regulations have changed. Have there been changes that would address my question?

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We awarded an O&M contract when I worked for the Coast Guard for the base year plus 9 potential option years. I believe it was considered an IDIQ contract, although it was really more of a hybrid FFP with some IDIQ line items. We did include an Economic Price Adjustment provision for years 6-10, to mitigate the risk of wild fluctuations in material costs. Check with your legal advisor, but at the time it was legit.

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Guest Vern Edwards
We awarded an O&M contract when I worked for the Coast Guard for the base year plus 9 potential option years. I believe it was considered an IDIQ contract, although it was really more of a hybrid FFP with some IDIQ line items. We did include an Economic Price Adjustment provision for years 6-10, to mitigate the risk of wild fluctuations in material costs. Check with your legal advisor, but at the time it was legit.

Grrrr. Why should he check with his "legal advisor"? If he's the contract specialist he should know. Why should a lawyer know more about the contracting regulations than a contract specialist?

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Vern,

Legal is jumping into the mix all to often and assuming the role of deciding what is appropriate, even over the Contracting Officer's opinion. I keep reminding everyone that legal attorneys are advisors and not deciders, but the senior management disagrees with that. Basically, everything goes to legal, and if they say its not "legally sufficient", it never reaches the street. Thjat is increasing, as my organization just instituted "peer reviews", which add no less thant 2 extra legal reviews to each contract action. I asked how an attorney consitutes a peer, and to date I have received no answer.

This is not just a contracting problem, our program managers are now required to write their SOO/SOW in such a way that legal can understand what they are doing. Given that we are working with state of the art computer simulation systems, such a requirement means our program folks need to be pretty effective wordsmiths as well as technical experts in the world of computer simulations. In one instance, the legal advisor could not understand what we are purchasing, so he declared it legally insufficient, and now the program folks are having to teach the legal rep about computer program integration as well as re-write their RFP to satisfy legal. The fact that the Contacting Officer understands the program seems to have little or no bearing on the progress of the project.

Overall, I see this trend as returning the role of the Contracting Officer to that of a clerk, a word that is reappearing in the job description much to my dismay. I certainly did not earn a master's degree to be called a clerk, and will not remain in this career field long if the trend continues.

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Guest Vern Edwards
Vern,

Legal is jumping into the mix all to often and assuming the role of deciding what is appropriate, even over the Contracting Officer's opinion. I keep reminding everyone that legal attorneys are advisors and not deciders, but the senior management disagrees with that. Basically, everything goes to legal, and if they say its not "legally sufficient", it never reaches the street. Thjat is increasing, as my organization just instituted "peer reviews", which add no less thant 2 extra legal reviews to each contract action. I asked how an attorney consitutes a peer, and to date I have received no answer.

This is not just a contracting problem, our program managers are now required to write their SOO/SOW in such a way that legal can understand what they are doing. Given that we are working with state of the art computer simulation systems, such a requirement means our program folks need to be pretty effective wordsmiths as well as technical experts in the world of computer simulations. In one instance, the legal advisor could not understand what we are purchasing, so he declared it legally insufficient, and now the program folks are having to teach the legal rep about computer program integration as well as re-write their RFP to satisfy legal. The fact that the Contacting Officer understands the program seems to have little or no bearing on the progress of the project.

Overall, I see this trend as returning the role of the Contracting Officer to that of a clerk, a word that is reappearing in the job description much to my dismay. I certainly did not earn a master's degree to be called a clerk, and will not remain in this career field long if the trend continues.

There is a tendency among officials to look to attorneys for an imprimatur and a nihil obstat. The attorney's blessing gives nervous and fearful people cover. "I checked with my lawyer and she said it was okay." That's an American thing, a characteristic of our litigious society. In any case, given the widespread professional ignorance and incompetence of contracting personnel and a choice between relying on them or on an attorney, most managers will go with the attorney. Contracting people are among the worst in this regard. The motto: Go ask your attorney might as well be hung over the entrance to every contracting office.

Many of us attribute magical powers to attorneys. I had a discussion yesterday about a young contracting officer who had been assigned to the conduct of a difficult source selection. I had seen the RFP and thought it poorly written, and I said that it had been unfair of management to have assigned that job to such an inexperienced young person. I got an interesting response: It's okay, because the young person is a lawyer. That was said to me as if law school somehow qualified her to do something that is not taught in law school. It doesn't, of course. Law school is training about a particular field of inquiry and a particular kind of reasoning. But there is much more to contracting than legal inquiry and reasoning, and a law degree, in and of itself, does not quality a person in other fields.

There is a way for contracting personnel to escape their second-class citizenship, but it is a long, arduous professional journey. Most contracting people simply won't (or maybe can't) go that route.

As for writing a SOO or SOW (or PWS) so that an attorney can understand it--I agree with that completely. A statement of work is a legal document with technical content, not a technical document. If there is a disagreement about what it says that cannot be resolved among the parties themselves, then attorneys will decide what it means, so we might as well make it clear to them at the outset. When I was a contract specialist I made my technical people explain the requirement again and again until I understood it, then I rewrote the SOW or specification in plain English using appropriate technical terminology as necessary (I owned and still own a lot of technical dictionaries). I then asked the program people to verify that my version accurately described what they wanted. Most of them were very pleased with the result and thought my version better than theirs. It's not that hard to do. In my opinion, a technical person who can't write a SOW or spec in plain English (including appropriate technical terminology) probably doesn't understand their own requirement very well or simply can't write. You're talking to a person who has spent the better part of a lifetime explaining a specialized field and specialized terminology to people who don't know anything about them. I'm told I do pretty well. Anybody with half a brain can do it.

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Vern,

Thanks for the great reply! I also see that basically the entire organization I am with uses legal as cover for their real or imagined lack of skills in contracting. It also may be a way of deflecting blame for problems that arise such as protests; "Its not my fault, legal signed off on it!".

I have also seen how legal will basically rewrite an RFP, and when they are done, it is hard to even tell what we are purchasing! In many instances, the legal professionals have been great in my experiences. In other commands however, legal reps are not very knowledgeable about contracting and it shows. Sometimes the attorneys are hired without any contract experience and simply thrown into the process.

I hope to be one of the fish that is swimming upstream towards professional respect and knowledge, and it is indeed an arduous journey. I may never reach the end of that journey, but I would rather fail at excellence than succeed at mediocrity.

I like your take on the SOO/SOW/PWS review. In the case I referred to, the PM bypassed the KO and contracts shop (prior to my being assigned to this command), and it went directly from the PM shop to legal. In the future, I will try to work with the PM's here and offer my writing services to "help" them with writing the SOW/SOO/PWS documents. Hopefully, my half of a brain will be successful at that. Unfortunately I am in my final statistics class prior to my dissertation, and the remaining half of my brain may be hopelessly contaminated by the end of this weekend...!

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"There is a way for contracting personnel to escape their second-class citizenship, but it is a long, arduous professional journey. Most contracting people simply won't (or maybe can't) go that route."

I think this is a profound statement. I have only met a few contracts people in the Federal Gov't who are capable AND willing to go the route Vern is describing. Moreover, I have not met one 1102 in a Supervisory position who comes close to implementing some of the practices Vern recommends for starting the journey to make our craft credible as a professional part of the acquisition team. That is a problem! Escaping second-class citizenship is helped by having support from contracts leadership (maybe Chiefs or Supervisory Contract Specialists) who are competent and aggressive in pursuing a professional relationship with other departments. In my view, this does not exist...and the technical departments prefer it that way. When weak supervisors give in consistently on basic policy and procedures, technical representatives smell blood in the water and start to completely disregard contracting officer authority. I am friends with the construction engineers and designers I work with, so I can get them to level with me (we fight/argue a lot): They say, "Matt, it is really hard to change. We have dealt with so many contracts people who went from having a High School diploma and being a GS-5, to overnight being promoted to GS-11 or GS-12 and still only having a High School diploma. Why should I have to 'get permission' from a person who doesn't even have a clue what is being built out in the field? No, I'd rather get the lawyers to tell me whether or not I am breaking the law since the lawyers have the real training to back up their advice."

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