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Requirements Analysis

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#1 Vern Edwards

Vern Edwards

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 05:07 AM

I just posted a response to a new blog post by Steve Kelman at the Federal Computer Week website: www.fcw.com, The Lectern, "Help for Contract Requirements." It will take a while for my response to show up at the site, but here it is:


It does not make sense to talk about requirements analysis unless you say what kind of requirements you are talking about. Are you talking about hardware or services? If services, what kind? Short-term transactional or long-term relational? The government never gets anywhere with this problem because it thinks shallowly and without facts. Instead, it relies on half-baked ideas and myths like the Wright Brothers Contract. This is a serious problem that will be solved only when and to the extent that serious people reason from facts to reach valid conclusions before writing policy letters and launching websites and training programs. As for the complaints from contracting people about program people, it’s time for them to stop complaining about how poorly program people do something that contracting people cannot do themselves and cannot even explain. They should shut up, stop issuing policies and regulations, and read a book or two about the subject before they utter another word or hire another company to develop another website. They might learn something that will help them come up with a new idea or two about how to contract for things that are not susceptible of up front full specification. They should not complain about how other people do their jobs until they can do their own jobs well.

#2 Caradoc


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Posted 12 May 2012 - 12:23 PM

Bravo! This would be a better world if we had "serious people reason[ing] from facts to reach valid conclusions before writing policy...." Instead, we have even the most serious people (often high-ranking and with the best of intentions!) simply putting their desired end results into policy documents without checking to see whether a bridge is needed to get from here to there.

Best example in my experience was the F-16 offset program. As a matter of cooperation among NATO partners with benefits ranging from economies of scale to enhanced logistics posture, it was a great idea to arrange for coproduction by European sources (starting with various engine items). The MOUs which SecDef Schlesinger signed with the four European participating governments made the commitment that -- by the end of the initial aircraft production run -- the US would have offset (read "spent") 58 cents for comparable technology in those countries for every dollar worth of aircraft going to the four countries. The MOUs stated that prices fior these offset items would have to be "reasonably competitive."

Aparrently missing was any analysis and resulting policy as to what 'reasonably competitive" would have to mean in order to cope with European labor rates 80-90% higher than US rates. Equally missing was any indication that anybody had asked the contracting community how much latitude the words "reasonably competitive" would provide in making an award decision. So, when the initial production run was about 2/3 completed and we hadn't accomplished any meaningful offset, it was finally time to make it happen. A sharp major at Wright Patterson recognized two issues working in different directions: (1) defining reasonably competitive as an acceptable percentage difference wouldn't contribute to European infrastructure since a European 'source" could simply propose a marked-up price for an item dropshipped from its US competitor and (2) for many items, extent of European technology available at next-lower-assembly level required at least some subcontracting back to US sources. His solution -- to be implemented at USAF MAJCOM level rather than DoD level -- was the 65-40 rule: we would accept a 40% premium above domestic price as being reasonably competitive but only if at least 65% of total dollars remained in Europe.

Less than a month after policy letters went out to the AFSC Product Centers and the AFLC Air Logistics Centers, a firm in the Netherlands responded to a synopsis for divergent turbine nozzles for the F100 engine and we were on our way toward meeting DoD's offset commitment. Could have happened a lot sooner if the right people had been involved.

The above was late 70s. Today, a similar tale of presumably good intentions versus actually making something happen is playing out in DoD's recent suggestion to revise the 41 USC definition of a commercial item. I'll post specifics under the appropriate heading.

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