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joel hoffman

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  1. Having worked with DBA wage rates dating back to the 1970’s, I sense that this reversion was made to favor Union wage scales.

    The major controversy back in the pre 1983 revision by the Reagan Administration was that the prevailing wage rates were essentially the local trade union rates. This was to protect and promote union share of construction work, even if union share of the workforce was a small minority (apparently 30%).

    Im certain that this is a Biden Administration union serving initiative, cloaked by other narrative rationale.

    I will say that the quality of work on union projects in my experience is usually exceptional.

    However, union labor practices, such as feather bedding and other restrictions on what each trade can perform on a job, should still result in effective competition for construction project contract awards by non-union construction contractors.

    One of the worst examples that I personally witnessed was on a highly technical Chemical Weapons Disposal processing plant construction project.  Three union electricians would carry 10’ and 20’ PVC, small diameter electrical conduits, grinning as they walked past us.

    I will also say that, in many areas, the prevailing wage rates, even for non-union contractors often exceed the DBA wage decision rates, due to competition for trade labor. 

  2. Gosh, just saw this tonight! I’d better check the Blogs more frequently. I was still in the Air Force in 1974 but spent 10 years in Huntsville with USACE from 1997-2007 and have several NASA friends there. Your story is fascinating, Bob! Thanks for sharing it.

    And yes, I remember meeting you at the GAO building - (Also the USACE HDQTRS) actually it was across the street at the Architecture Museum. It was nice meeting you.

  3. Wow, I just saw your Blog entry, Bob. Thank you. It was fascinating. It did raise one question in my mind. It seemed to me that Thiokol’s long term costs could also be effected by a learning curve adjustment . Thus, even though it may not have addressed it in its proposal, the effect should be similar.

    At any rate, your experience was fascinating! 

  4. Based upon the facts presented by the protestor and determined by the OHA, this appears to be yet another  SB “front” arrangement like the ones I used to encounter 25 years ago.

    I can understand the Agency’s clueless ignorance or indifference concerning:  the late submission and non-compliant JVA and late, unsigned addendum to the JVA  and the fact that the Responsible Manager was an employee of the mentor.

    But also the SBA(!!!)?? Are they toothless? Sheesh! 

  5. 45 minutes ago, bob7947 said:


    I know.  I'm writing about the A-12.  Anyone that sees something that looks like the SR-71, is really looking at a derivative of the A-12.  The A-12 was an impossibility that Kelly Johnson and his Skunk Works created anyway.  I'm trying to keep it to 20-pages so it will be read but still tell a complete story about the airplane.  That also may be an impossibility for me.

    The best I can hope for is that someone

    • reads my humble article,
    • is as fascinated as I am about the A-12, 
    • visits an A-12, the YF-12A in Dayton, or even an SR-71 in a museum, 
    • stares at the titanium beast in front of them and understands what it is, and
    • holds the airplane and the people who built them in awe.


    The plane at the Battleship Alabama aircraft pavilion in Mobile, AL is said to be a CIA operated, A-12 (according to their website). 

    My USAF Academy Squadron sponsor in 1969-1971 and afterward was the SR 71 Wing at Beale Air Force Base, CA.

    Although I wasn’t crazy about Robert STRANGE McNamara,  I wanted to put his decision to cancel the F-12 production into some context that may have justified it.

    We needed the SR-71, regardless of the affordability but couldn’t afford and didn’t put a priority on an advanced interceptor aircraft at the time.

  6. Yes sir!  Indeed, Robert STRANGE  McNamara hugely impacted history.

    I would agree with those that  said that a force of YF-12’s as USAF Air Defense Command Interceptors would have been prohibitively expensive to operate and maintain and operationally impractical due to the complexity of the plane, the crew having to don and wear what amounted to space suits, the resources and time involved in launching the planes, etc.

    I was at the Air Force Academy at the time. We were taught a lot of information about capabilities, limitations of the Air Force, including Air Defense operations, enemy capabilities, strategic war scenarios, etc.  One must put that timeframe into more perspective.

    At the time, the Air Force was very strapped for funding and had higher priorities than more advanced defense against enemy bombers, which were mostly propeller driven “Bear” aircraft. ADC was shutting down radar sites and bases and consolidating their command and control centers, shifting to satellite detection systems, etc. We had F 106’s as the prime Interceptor fleet with some F-101 sites.

    Viet Nam and NATO were sucking up most of the total Air Force and DOD budget along with with the Strategic Air Command missile and bomber resources, nuclear submarines, etc.

    Defense Interceptors would have to be capable of quickly launching and perhaps relocating ASAP if there had been a missle launch.  Air Force bases were listed targets. Many ADC aircraft sites were co-located at B52 and other SAC bases. An SR 71 or F12 couldn’t operate out of just any conventional, alternate airfield for survivability between missile attacks and Arrival of Soviet Bombers.

    SAC was so strapped for cash that many base support organizations didn’t have sufficient funds to effectively operate. Our snow removal fleet barely limped along throughout the long Upper Michigan winters with lack of spare parts - we had hangar queen snowplows and big blower trucks that were stripped down to the cabs and frames each year and had to be completely rebuilt - we couldn’t afford to scrap them because there would have been no replacements. The Bomb Squadrons even had a couple of Hangar queen B-52’s! SAC facilities, which were already essentially basic concrete block buildings didn’t get maintained, military housing was in the same boat. Then there was the energy crisis with skyrocketing energy prices. Priorities shifted to save and convert energy sources. I discovered that Redstone Arsenal, for example, covered many of their brick and block buildings with insulated, corregated metal sheeting in the 70’s to save energy.

    We often have a perspective from the Reagan years, starting in 1980. He literally spent the Soviets into near bankruptcy and breakup. 

    i agree that Kelly Johnson and the Skunk Works were geniuses and an American Treasure. But before Reagan tripled the Defense Budget in two years, the Air Force was  literally cash broke. With widespread opposition to the Vietnam war and with other national priorities during the 1970s there was no will to adequately fund The Department of Defense, especially with the huge cost of the war, nuclear Air Force and Navy needs, soaring energy costs, inflation, etc.. Thankfully, Nixon essentially doubled military salaries, which were pitiful as of 1971 but that further strained the Defense budget for other needs. 

    The answer to hypersonic flight might be technically available to us based upon the 60 year old capabilities of those planes.  They depended upon large quantities of titanium due to the expansion, contraction and heat  capabilities needed for high speed flight. The leading producer countries  of titanium are -  China and Russia, followed by Japan..  Bob, you may have written about how the US obtained enough titanium to build the planes by deception and by using cloak and dagger means... 


  7. Wonderful analysis and story,  Bob. I once read an article where it was said that we couldn’t recreate a Saturn V rocket and deploy it without re-engineering it because the original design documentation had been destroyed. There are, of course, some Original examples still in existence. Once upon a time, my neighbor in Hartford, WS was a design engineer at the Chrysler Outboard factory down the street. He told me that he quit to go to work at Harley Davidson because all Chrysler did was to buy Johnson, Evinrude and Mercury outboards and reverse engineer them.

    Too bad that those “guys” are now all retired and possibly dead. Most all of the Saturn program designers and technicians are, including my ex-father-in-law. 😁

  8. It is helpful to clarify how there were “two different methodologies”. The “best value continuum” includes both the “trade off”and the “lowest-priced, technically acceptable” selection methods. This was made clear in the 1996-1997 FAR Part 15 Rewrite. 

    Thus, both methods described here to select the winner in the solicitation appeared to fall within the “best value continuum” at FAR 15.101.

    The actual problem was that the solicitation described both the  Best Value, “Trade-off” method and a form of the Best Value, Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable” method. It would be helpful to clarify that both the Best Value Trade-Off process and a form of Best Value LPTA process were specified in the solicitation.  

    Quoting from the Decision:

    “First, section E.10 of the RFP states that award will be made to the offeror whose proposal is most advantageous to the government, considering price, technical capability, and past performance, where technical capability and past performance, when combined, are approximately equal to price.  RFP at 45.  Section E.11, on the other hand, provides that “award will be made to the responsible offeror who submits an acceptable proposal, as determined by a technical evaluation, and has [the] lowest price for satisfactory completion of all contract requirements.”  “

    Thus, from the limited information in the Decision, there appears to have been a conflict or patent ambiguity in the stated basis of award. However, both are forms of “Best Value” methodology.

    Best value terminology, as used by non-government organizations, such as the Design-Build Institute of America and others, means that BOTH quality (such as qualifications, quality of product or service, delivery terms,  etc.) and price are considered, not just one. Thus, for example, “qualifications- based selection” would be distinct from “best value selection”. 

  9. Sometimes, industry lobbying groups propose legislation concerning their specific areas of interest, which is poorly conceived or drafted, without a full understanding of the bill's impact or ramifications.  The Congressional staffers often don't understand the subject matter, either.  When the DoD and/or civilian agencies' so called subject matter experts weigh in during coordination reviews of the legislation, it sometimes backfires on the industry originators.  

    A couple of years ago, industry initiated legislation intended to limit the use of the "One Step, Turnkey Design-Build" method in 10 USC 2862.  However, after the DoD's engineering and construction agencies responded to the draft language, it ended up expanding the allowed use of One Step D-B for more types of projects beyond new construction, such as repair and renovation projects.

    Recently, industry D-B lobbyists have been pushing again to limit the dollar limits of projects that could use the one-step method.  However, they are proposing to impose the limits under Title 41, which doesn't even authorize the use of the one-step D-B method.  By adding the limitation language under Title 41, it would effectively introduce its use under that Title!! When I asked one of the staff members of the industry coalition group proposing the legislation why it was drafted for application under Title 41, he said that the coalition had been working with congressional members and staff under one of the Civilian committees or subcommittees, rather than the Military side, where the authority for one step design-build is specifically authorized.  One or more agencies, such as the Coast Guard have been able to obtain specific authorization for One Step D-B under a Title or Titles other than Title 41 but it hasn't been mentioned under that general Title before.

    In another instance, the NDAA for FY 2018 included language under Section 823, "Exemption from design-build selection procedures".  It amended section 2305a of Title 10 to exempt solicitations issued pursuant to an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract from the statutory limitation on the number of offerors that may proceed to step two of the procurement selection process when that D-B process is used.  It was drafted by a House Committee staffer who used to work for one of the Military Services' engineering and construction agencies.   (Sorry about the Font change)

  10. Requiring PPQ's is the lazy way out for the government procurement office in my opinion.  Having been bombarded by requests for PPQs, even for the same information on the same firm for other source selections, that is ridiculous. Yes, the FAR should be changed. However, the change should be a requirement for a repository of those questionnaires or to use the past performance rating assessments that are already required and are filed, in lieu of a separate PPQ. 

    We used to provide a form for providing relevant experience, including any performance rating received by the owner and a reference to contact in the event that we needed to verify information.  We reserved the right to contact the reference but did not commit to, if we already knew the information  we also used the contractor ratings in our database.  The offeror could submit rating information from non-government projects.  

    It is stupid to keep requesting the same information time and again from previous customers.

    Worked fine  


  11. Here are some quotes that I had previously copied from some GAO decisions.


    Matter of: North Wind, Inc.; Earth Resources Technology, Inc.

    File: B-404880.4; B-404880.5; B-404880.6

    Date: November 4, 2011

    …In summary, while we note that NASA downgraded Navarro's proposal because it did not specifically state [REDACTED], NASA's willingness to essentially waive the BOE requirement for Navarro, without disclosing this willingness to all of the offerors and providing them an opportunity to submit revised proposals, was prejudicial to the offerors who provided the required BOEs within the page limitation imposed on the mission suitability proposals. See Electronic Design, Inc., at 10-11 D&M General Contracting, Inc., B-252282.4, Aug. 19, 1993, 93-2 CPD para. 104 at 3. In this regard, it is a fundamental principle of government procurement that competition must be conducted on an equal basis; that is, offerors must be treated equally and be provided with a common basis for the preparation of their proposals. Electronic Design, Inc., at 10."


    SeaBox, Inc. , B-405711.2, Mar. 19, 2012, 2012 CPD ¶ 116. The fundamental principle of federal procurement law that a contracting agency must treat all offerors equally and evaluate their proposals evenhandedly against the solicitation’s requirements and evaluation criteria, is equally applicable to simplified acquisitions.

    GAO will review allegations of improper agency actions in conducting simplified acquisitions to ensure that the procurements are conducted consistent with a concern for fair and equitable competition and with the terms of the solicitation.


    It is a fundamental principle of government procurement that competition must be conducted on an equal basis; that is, offerors must be treated equally and provided with a common basis for the preparation of their proposals. Systems Mgmt., Inc.; Qualimetrics, Inc., B-287032.3, B-287032.4, Apr. 16, 2001, 2001 CPD ¶ 85 at 8. When, either before or after receipt of proposals, the government changes or relaxes its requirements, it must issue an amendment to notify all offerors of the changed requirements and give them an opportunity to respond. Diebold, Inc., B-404823, June 2, 2011, 2011 CPD ¶ 117 at 4; Systems Mgmt., Inc.; Qualimetrics, Inc., supra; see Cardkey Sys., B-220660, Feb. 11, 1986, 86-1 CPD ¶ 154 at 2 (If it becomes apparent that the contract being negotiated differs significantly from the requirements stated in the RFP, the contracting agency must amend the RFP or, at the least, advise offerors of the change during discussions and seek new offers.) We will sustain a protest where an agency, without issuing a written amendment, materially alters the solicitation’s requirements to the protester’s prejudice. See Systems Mgmt., Inc.; Qualimetrics, Inc., supra

  12. Hi, Joel!

    You think that spot checks are OK and I agree with you.

    The oversight regime thinks that spot checks are not OK. They could very well be correct- I just don't understand why because they do spot-checks themselves. I don't know their business well enough to criticize too strongly, I just never understood this discrepancy.

    (However, I part ways with you a little on self-certification. Unwise or not, we rely on the information they provide in their reps and certs like size status.)

    Apso, i was referring to government quality assurance concerning BAA and related Legislation.

    Before coming to work for the Federal government,I learned from my boss, who owned an engineering consulting firm, never to trust or simply rely on self-certifications from contractors or from suppliers. He wouldn't accept any certification from "sales engineers" or "sales departments". He required a certification to be signed by an an official who was responsible for engineering or the manufacturing of a product. To be frank, he said that he "distrusted" (he used stronger language) sales engineers and the like. That was 37 years ago. I found his "concerns" to be well founded.

    A very good Chief Executive once said "Trust but verify."

  13. Don't put requirements in contracts that you don't intend to enforce or if you don't iintend to perform a quality assurance role, to some extent - whether that be spot checks for compliance or 100% verification or something else.

    Simply looking the other way, relying on certifications or other promises or implied compliance is unwise - in my estimation.

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