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A recent discussion of lengthy protests reminded me that DoD has newly implemented a reporting requirement for Bridge Contracts with the expectation of reducing their use.  This initiative follows a recommendation of the GAO in its report 16-15: https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/sa/docs/learnmore/DPAP-SA-Report FY15.pdf

The GAO  report’s main recommendation other than defining bridge contract, is an unsurprising application of the useful adage...”if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”... GAO in their 43 page report conducted an analysis that should have called for a root cause analysis, for example by using five “Whys”, but GAO did not in my view conduct a root cause analysis...instead they looked at a sizable collection of data and seemed to ask one “Why” many times over and recorded the first unique answer each time.  The bevy of complaints or causes they elicited is an impressive list and it might strike one as comprehensive in that it covers a lot of landscape, albeit at one inch depth; and I don’t think you’ll find many roots at one inch depth or by using GAO’s method. Where is the comparison with contracts that need no bridge contract?...What are the elements common between those contracts that needed bridging and those that don’t...couldn’t those elements be ruled out as a root cause? 

I am curious...By asking “Why” five times or  by any other favorite method, what is your analysis of the root cause(s) 

Question 1) What is the real problem (the root cause) of too many bridge contracts?

Question 2) What is the real solution(s) to the root cause you cited? 

Maybe you think GAO nailed it...after all, they did get a working definition of bridge contract for use in a new DoD Report. Or maybe not, let me know...if not, there’s...Question 3) What is the root cause of a superficial 43 page GAO report? 

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On 4/21/2018 at 2:05 AM, Vern Edwards said:

1. Poor planning; incompetence at source selection.

2. Better planning; better training in source selection.

Thank you, Vern. 

I think that is correct...and I am schooled by your brevity. 

I am concerned that establishing a reporting requirement for bridge contracts may only serve as a proxy for a real solution...GAO was content not to recommend further steps though they discussed a lot of factors. 

I have one more solution: mentoring and I don’t just mean that which is done by supervisors...I mean mentoring (both formal and informal) by anyone who models valuable professional traits and practices and is willing to mentor.  Personally, I think of peer reviews of solicitations and awards as a kind of “peer mentoring”.  Yes, we might all learn to make the same mistakes through peer review that way, but I like to think that we tend to spiral upward when we are being mentored. 

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Can an agency let a contract run to near its expiration, then use that it is near its expiration as justification of "unusual and compelling urgency" to award a bridge contract to the incumbent?

 

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20 minutes ago, lotus said:

Can an agency let a contract run to near its expiration, then use that it is near its expiration as justification of "unusual and compelling urgency" to award a bridge contract to the incumbent?

See FAR 6.301(c)(1): 

“Contracting without providing for full and open competition shall not be justified on the basis of (1) A lack of advance planning by the requiring activity...”

 

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On 4/20/2018 at 12:55 PM, FAR-flung 1102 said:

I am curious...By asking “Why” five times or  by any other favorite method, what is your analysis of the root cause(s) 

Question 1) What is the real problem (the root cause) of too many bridge contracts?

Question 2) What is the real solution(s) to the root cause you cited? 

Going back a few decades, contracting officer used to keep track of contracts' performance periods, including option periods. This was done via a pencil and a hard copy spreadsheet. Well before contract expiration, COs asked their customers about needs for follow on contracts.

As time passed and IT entered the scene, keeping a list of existing contracts was facilitated, but the COs became unwilling or unable to perform these fundamental tasks. And contracting office managers did not hold COs accountable.

COs that cannot track their inventory of procurement actions and that cannot correspond with their customers need to be stripped of their warrants and removed from supervisory positions. 

 

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2 hours ago, C Culham said:

Maybe some did, maybe some did not, see this GAO Decision posted to WIFCON just the other day................

Bridge contract.  See Global Dynamics, LLC v. United States and GiaCare and MedTrust JV, LLC and MedTrust LLC, No. 17-1875C May 1, 2018 (May 3, 2018)

The decision recognizes the contracting office's obligation to track its contracts and their expiration dates and to take appropriate actions to award a competitive follow on contract:

"Defendant’s subtraction skills notwithstanding, in the court’s view, the fact that three officers retired is not enough to excuse the agency’s failure to ensure it was properly staffed. As plaintiff notes in its supplemental brief, the GAO has sustained a protest in which the agency sought to justify a sole-source award on the basis of similar personnel issues. See ECF No. 74 at 13 (citing Service Contractors, B-243236, 91-2 CPD ¶ 49, 1991 WL 135563 (Comp. Gen. July 12, 1991). Service Contractors involved a sole-source contract award for grounds maintenance at properties for which the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was responsible. In the protest action, in which the protestor alleged that a non-competitive award was improper, the agency alleged that “personnel turnover and inexperience” sufficiently explained the need for a sole-source award. Service Contractors, 1991 WL 135563, at *1. The GAO disagreed, and held that the agency’s defenses related to inadequate personnel “essentially recognize the lack of advance planning and merely provide an excuse based on the limitations of the agency procurement personnel.” Id. at *3. The court agrees with this reasoning, and concludes based on the evidence in the record, that the agency’s inadequate staffing was due to its failure to plan for staffing needs in the relevant department."

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11 hours ago, napolik said:

COs that cannot track their inventory of procurement actions and that cannot correspond with their customers need to be stripped of their warrants and removed from supervisory positions. 

Also, project managers must track their projects and initiate a procurement on occasion.  If the project manager requires this level of babysitting they may also need a cork on their fork.

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17 hours ago, lotus said:

Can an agency let a contract run to near its expiration, then use that it is near its expiration as justification of "unusual and compelling urgency" to award a bridge contract to the incumbent?

If a CO cites the unusual and compelling urgency exception, FAR 6.302-2, the CO must request offers from as many sources as "practicable." FAR 6.302-2(c)(2). Unusual and compelling urgency is not, in and of itself, justification for a sole source bridge contract. It's authority to limit the number of sources solicited. It exempts a procurement from full and open competition, but not all competition.

The GAO's decisions about the award of a sole source contract under the unusual and compelling urgency exception are a little obscure and confusing, at least to me, but it's clear that you cannot cite that exception if a lack of advanced planning created the sole source situation. An interesting discussion of this can be found in WorldWide Language Resources, Inc.; SOS International Ltd., B- 296993, 2005 CPD P 206. It's a long decision, but well worth the time if you want to better understand the unusual and compelling urgency exception. The GAO sustained the protest even though the procurement was for the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

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22 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

See FAR 6.301(c)(1): 

“Contracting without providing for full and open competition shall not be justified on the basis of (1) A lack of advance planning by the requiring activity...”

 

What happens to the KO's career if puts his foot down, saying "you guys dawdled around too long, and I'm happy to watch you suffer the consequences"?

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1 hour ago, lotus said:

What happens to the KO's career if puts his foot down, saying "you guys dawdled around too long, and I'm happy to watch you suffer the consequences"?

Who knows? But, that would be a stupid thing to say. The KO should just explain the facts--for acquisitions under FAR part 6, they don't have the authority to limit competition unless it's justified. A lack of advance planning is not justification for limiting competition. Unless there's a legitimate justification, the problem will have to be solved a different way. Here are some other things we can do...

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2 hours ago, lotus said:

What happens to the KO's career if puts his foot down, saying "you guys dawdled around too long, and I'm happy to watch you suffer the consequences"?

Hopefully, somebody would crush his foot with a sledgehammer and then fire him for being a jackass and putting organizational conflict ahead of mission. It would be like a doctor treating a patient with colon cancer and saying, "Well, you didn't get a colonoscopy, so I'm happy to let you suffer and die horribly."  (I'd rather say, "We're going to fix this for you guys, and I hope you'll remember that we did.")

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2 hours ago, lotus said:

What happens to the KO's career if puts his foot down, saying "you guys dawdled around too long, and I'm happy to watch you suffer the consequences"?

I think Don and Vern answered the mail just fine on this one...

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23 hours ago, lotus said:

What happens to the KO's career if puts his foot down, saying "you guys dawdled around too long, and I'm happy to watch you suffer the consequences"?

Anecdote:

PepeTheFrog knows of a contracting officer and "Division Chief" or "Branch Manager" who does (did?) something like this regularly. He or she would penalize the program office for perceived inadequacies in the requirement documents by purposefully delaying the progress of the contracting process. He or she would also penalize (and delay) projects for professional disagreements in meetings. The contract file would mysteriously remain on the bottom of the pile for weeks or months, with none of the required signatures that he or she needed to move the project forward. His or her subordinates would catch some heat for the delays but everyone knew who was really holding up the process. 

You might ask, "How on Earth did the leadership allow this behavior?" They were just as stupid and incompetent.  

There is a good ending to this anecdote. Although this atrocious behavior continued for years, PepeTheFrog hears this person was stripped of responsibilities and supervisory status. Send hopes and prayers for termination of employment. Press F to pay respects.

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On 5/10/2018 at 10:17 AM, Vern Edwards said:

If a CO cites the unusual and compelling urgency exception, FAR 6.302-2, the CO must request offers from as many sources as "practicable." FAR 6.302-2(c)(2). Unusual and compelling urgency is not, in and of itself, justification for a sole source bridge contract. It's authority to limit the number of sources solicited. It exempts a procurement from full and open competition, but not all competition.

The GAO's decisions about the award of a sole source contract under the unusual and compelling urgency exception are a little obscure and confusing, at least to me, but it's clear that you cannot cite that exception if a lack of advanced planning created the sole source situation. An interesting discussion of this can be found in WorldWide Language Resources, Inc.; SOS International Ltd., B- 296993, 2005 CPD P 206. It's a long decision, but well worth the time if you want to better understand the unusual and compelling urgency exception. The GAO sustained the protest even though the procurement was for the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Well, the GAO has just issued a new decision involving an allegation of lack of advance planning: Trailboss Enterprises, Inc., B-415812.2,B-415970,B-415970.2, May 7, 2018. https://www.gao.gov/products/B-415812.2,B-415970,B-415970.2

Quote

As discussed above, the incumbent contract was due to expire on March 31, 2018.  The agency issued the competitive solicitation for these services on November 6, 2017.  Trailboss’ initial protest of the terms of the solicitation (B-415812) was filed on December 20, 2017.  On January 18, 2018, the Air Force posted a synopsis of the sole-source award on the FBO website.  Our Office dismissed the pending protest (B‑415812) on January 25, 2018, based on the agency’s notice of corrective action.  On January 29, Trailboss filed its protest (B-415970) challenging the synopsis of the sole-source contract to PKL.

Quote

Trailboss argues that the sole-source award was improper because it reflects a lack of advance planning by the agency.  In this regard, the FAR states that an award based on other than full and open competition shall not be justified on the basis of “[a] lack of advance planning by the requiring activity.”  FAR § 6.301(c)(1).  The protester contends that the agency has known of its requirements since 2008, the date of the award of the first of two sole-source contracts for these requirements, and therefore any short-term need arising from the expiration of the incumbent contract must reflect a lack of advance planning.

As our Office has explained, however, an agency’s procurement planning need not be error-free or successful, and the fact that an agency encounters delays or exigencies does not demonstrate that the agency failed to meet its obligation for advance planning.  eAlliant, LLC, B-407332.4, B-407332.7, Dec. 23, 2014, 2015 CPD ¶ 58 at 5.  Specifically, an immediate need for services that arises as a result of an agency’s implementation of corrective action in response to a protest does not constitute a lack of advance planning.  Systems Integration & Mgmt., Inc., B-402785.2, Aug. 10, 2010, 2010 CPD ¶ 207 at 3; Chapman Law Firm Co., LPAsupra.

Here, the record shows that the agency anticipated award of the competitive contract prior to the time for the expiration of the incumbent sole-source contract, and that the protest filed by Trailboss (B-415812) and the agency’s corrective action in response to that protest created the need for a sole-source contract.  Under these circumstances, we do not conclude that the agency’s sole-source award to PKL reflects a lack of advance planning.

 

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