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Vern Edwards' Blog

Some Notes On Service Contracting

Posted by Vern Edwards, 13 August 2010 · 1,343 views

Although services account for most dollars obligated annually, FAR gives services short shrift. FAR Part 37 is only 18 pages long, including the table of contents and pages intentionally left blank. FAR does not define service or services. It defines service contract, but that definition is unsatisfactory because it tries to make a distinction between per...

Summer Reading

Posted by Vern Edwards, 10 August 2010 · 1,577 views

I just read my umpteenth summer reading list, so I thought: What the heck. I know that we?re already past  the middle of summer and it?s a little late for a list, but why not? We have a month until Labor Day. Well, almost a month. Still time to get in one or more books.Summer?s about fun reading, so no ?professional? books and no heavy reads. These are so...

What did I tell you?

Posted by Vern Edwards, 22 July 2010 · 1,561 views

Every now and then somebody comes along and proves your point for you in a wonderful way. Earlier this week I wrote about gimmicky reform "initiatives." Now I have learned that as the outgoing OMB director prepares to leave office he has published a memo that claims great success for the Obama administration?s acquisition waste reduction initiativ...

Contrarian? You bet I am.

Posted by Vern Edwards, 19 July 2010 · 1,478 views

Steve Kelman has said that I?m a contrarian. He said it after I pooh-poohed the idea of the government holding contests and awarding prizes to encourage its employees to come up with new ideas to save money and promote ?open government,? i.e., ?transparency,? the new buzzword. OMB has issued 12 pages (!) of guidance about it. See OMB M-10-11, Guidance...

What is it with all the awards?

Posted by Vern Edwards, 14 May 2010 · 1,302 views

Why do acquisition people love awards so much? There are all kinds of acquisition awards. For a list, go to http://www.fai.gov/acm/awards.asp. It prints out to more than three full pages, and it doesn't come close to listing all of the available awards.How can it be that a function/process that is the focus of so much dissatisfaction and criticism han...

Tea Party: Here's one for you.

Posted by Vern Edwards, 10 May 2010 · 1,368 views

We?ve all heard of performance-based contracting. Well, now I want to talk about consultant-based contracting. While searching for something through Google I came to the website of a prominent, beltway acquisition consulting firm. Curious, I scrolled down their homepage and spotted this:QUOTE We Deliver ResultsFewer ProtestsA large defense agency called o...

Tips for the Clueless Would-Be Contractor

Posted by Vern Edwards, 03 May 2010 · 2,865 views

A SAD STORY On February 19, the Armed Services Board of Contact Appeals issued its decision in the matter of Bernard Cap Co., Inc. , ASBCA Nos. 56679, 56703, 56705, and 56716, 10-1 BCA ? 34387, in which the board dismissed the contractor?s appeals from the deemed denial of four claims for payment. The contractor had won four indefinite-delivery indefinite...

Wallowing in the FAR

Posted by Vern Edwards, 16 April 2010 · 1,749 views

Those of you who have read what I have written over the years know that I think Steve Kelman was the best Administrator of Federal Procurement Policy that we have ever had. He had more effect on the acquisition process, mostly positive, than any Administrator before or since. But he recently wrote something in his April 8 column in the online edition of F...

Restructuring the Workforce: It is the right thing to do.

Posted by Vern Edwards, 29 March 2010 · 3,248 views

I have long argued that the structure of the contracting workforce is out of balance. Most contracting work is simple and repetitive, and includes a large amount of administrative and clerical work, yet most of the 29,000+ people in the contracting workforce (excluding 1101s) are 1102 contract specialists, with 1105 purchasing agents being a very small mi...


Posted by Vern Edwards, 18 February 2010 · 1,067 views

Our webmaster, Bob Antonio, had to put his little dog Ambrose to sleep today. Bob and Ambrose had been companions for nearly 17 years.Those of you who have owned dogs know how painful it is when they die, especially when they've been with you for a long time. I have seen some very tough people break down and cry like babies over the death of a dog. If...

It's Scary.

Posted by Vern Edwards, 21 January 2010 · 1,177 views

The opinion pages of the January 12 edition of The Washington Post contained a guest column by Paul C. Light entitled, ?The Real Crisis in Government.? http://www.washingto...0011103255.html In that column he makes an important point: our government is no longer competent enough to guarantee ?the faithful execution of our laws.? Ever...

A Simple Training Exercise

Posted by Vern Edwards, 05 January 2010 · 2,391 views

Here is an in-house training exercise for new acquisition personnel. The objectives are to: (a) give the participants a good overview of the acquisition process and (B) introduce them to the FAR and to the language of acquisition. These objectives are achieved by requiring the participants to actively engage with acquisition language and concepts. OVERVIE...

Which way do you see it?

Posted by Vern Edwards, 22 December 2009 · 2,056 views

I teach a class in which the students are given a scenario: They are told that the Government has awarded a firm-fixed-price contract for supplies and that the contracting officer changed the specification immediately after award. They are told about the contractor's original price proposal, the negotiated price, the change, and new price quotes. They...

The End of Incentives?

Posted by Vern Edwards, 01 December 2009 · 2,765 views

On October 14, the FAR councils published an interim rule about incentive contracts. (FAC 2005-37, 74 FR 52858.) FAR 16.401(d) now requires a determination and findings signed by the head of the contracting activity (HCA) before using any incentive contract. Given the bureaucratic hassle of processing such a formal document, I think we might reasonably ex...

Impotent Incrementalism

Posted by Vern Edwards, 24 November 2009 · 610 views

Why does anyone think that a long-standing administrative problem can be solved by writing reports, memos, and regulations? In a report issued in September, GAO 09-921, Extent of Federal Spending under Cost-Reimbursement Contracts Unclear and Key Controls Not Always Used, the GAO made the following recommendation to the Office of Federal Procurement Polic...

The Bean Counter Mentality

Posted by Vern Edwards, 04 November 2009 · 901 views

Warning: This is going to be cranky.In testimony before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, John Hutton of the GAO said that DOD had to do a better job of tracking contracts. Specifically, he said that DOD had to do a better job of keeping track of "the number of personnel employed on each contract in Iraq and Afghanistan....

A Cheap, Showy Gesture

Posted by Vern Edwards, 30 October 2009 · 1,023 views

In a memo released today and addressed to Chief Acquisition Officers and Senior Procurement Executives, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy issued "guidelines" to agencies about how to increase the use of competition and use fewer cost-reimbursement and time-and-materials/labor-hour contracts. Honestly, you have to wonder.The memo begins by r...

Shortsighted Supervisors

Posted by Vern Edwards, 23 August 2009 · 796 views

Anyone who has conducted onsite training is familiar with the scenario. A student's supervisor lets her attend a training course, but demands that she come into the office before and after class to get a solicitation or a contract modification "out of the door." Sometimes the supervisor pulls the student out of class to attend a meeting or a t...

Can you explain yourself?

Posted by Vern Edwards, 17 August 2009 · 1,207 views

In many places, the Federal Acquisition Regulation tells contracting officers to document their conclusions about this or that. The classic example is the requirement in 15.406-3(a)(11) to document the fairness and reasonableness of the contract price. See also FAR 16.103((d):QUOTE Each contract file shall include documentation to show why the particular...

Thinking About The Tool

Posted by Vern Edwards, 16 July 2009 · 1,348 views

"Automated" contract writing systems have been around for a long time. I recall early versions, like the Air Force's "AMIS" system, being in use since the late 1970s or early 1980s.DOD's Standard Procurement System (SPS), Procurement Desktop Defense or PD2, has been in use for over a decade and is now in version 4.2. I have never h...


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