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KeithB18

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  1. Great advice. If you can wake up in the morning proud to work for the agency, it will go a long way in terms of job satisfaction. The DOD is too rules heavy for me, but YMMV. The DOD has thousands (probably) of contracting offices and they'll vary, sometimes significantly. As far as 0343 and 0431, be careful. In my experience, those jobs don't have common characteristics so you may have no idea what you're walking into. At least with 1102, the job series is well understood. That's not to say 0343 and 0431 can't be fabulous jobs, just ask a lot of questions about what you'll be working on if you're offered one. I've seen them range from doing budget work to writing the office telework policy. They often have COR duties. (Noting here that I'm an 1102; I haven't worked as a 0343.)
  2. Good point; I hadn't considered it from that angle. I wonder if anyone at GSA is considering the bigger picture: Is the squeeze worth the juice? A couple years ago I looked into how much activity the original OASIS contracts were getting and a surprising number of them had zero awards. So I even wonder if this effort is even worth it for the contractors.
  3. As these GWACs expand the number of awardees, to what extent are they just recreating open market, full and open competition? An early benefit of these contracts was the relatively small number of vendors. You could legitimately sort through the short list and assess whether those vendors could fulfill your need. That seems less possible to do as the number of awardees grows. Would we expect better offers through a 100 vendor GWAC solicitation or through a 12.6 combined synopsis-solicitation posted at sam.gov? I honestly don't know. The protest threshold for GWACs is still a major draw.
  4. All the best Vern. I met you briefly at an event several years ago...thank you for your contributions to this career field. One quick story, literally from this week. My political boss, who is brand new to government, noted that the proposals we received in response to one of major programs seemed to regurgitate the RFP back to us. I said, "Oh yes, this endemic in the field, the essay writing contest." And then I pulled out an article I have that you wrote in 1994 and said, "It's been a problem for awhile." (Also note the RFP was written before I joined the organization!)
  5. Fair point. This vendor couldn't articulate the why, but I probably could have pushed a little harder for that understanding.
  6. The b.s. evaluation factors and lengthy proposal preparation instructions do more to hinder transparency of evaluations than any other factor, in my view. (And possibly that's the whole point.) When we pick evaluation factors like, "Technical approach to the statement of work," especially for professional services, we get a proposal that regurgitates the statement of work. It's nearly impossible to identify meaningful differences between offerors. Even factors like "Management and Staffing Plan" are challenging--how many members of the evaluation team even know what a good management and staffing plan looks like? That said, disappointed offerors don't have a relationship, post-award, with the agency. If you've won the contract, proactive communication is a good practice for relationship building. Identify issues early as well. Keep the CO informed. Don't ask for a bunch of administrative modifications. (In a previous job, a major government contractor asked me, repeatedly, for administrative modifications that I told them were unnecessary.) Ask for feedback on your performance outside of the CPARS cycle. To the extent you can, be visible. In the pre-covid days, a contractor I worked with would stop by my office once or twice a month to check in. Don't overdo this though--I also had a situation where the contractor stopped by every day, and I was eventually like, "I've got things to do here." There is really no substitute for an actual, IRL relationship with someone. If you have deliverable deadlines, meet them, or better yet, beat them. Plan for the government to take more time reviewing your deliverable than they say they need.
  7. Touche'. They'll try to automate the entire contracting function eventually...smart contracts, etc.
  8. These three bullets really resonated with me. For the first bullet, I've been consistently surprised how reading something about an unrelated-to-contracting topic can influence my thinking about my contracting job. It happens all the time--something I read in the New Yorker or some such publication ends up having direct relevance to a project I'm working. Just today, in regards to the second bullet, I was writing an email to a colleague that was mildly critical of a plan that I came across. I rewrote a key paragraph several times to make sure I captured the idea correctly. It landed perfectly--she immediately understood my position. The process of writing that helped me understand my own position. The last bullet is where I see a lot of challenges. I work with a decent amount of young-ish 1102s and there are a few of them that want the respect that being a professional accrues, without putting the work into becoming a professional. Becoming a professional is hard and it isn't a task that is ever fully complete. Vern commented that he's 75 and "still hopelessly ignorant." I'm 41 and much behind Vern on the ignorance scale (or am I ahead of Vern? Point is, Vern has forgotten more about contracting than I know), but a little less so every day.
  9. I don't think you can characterize something that is a necessary part of one's job as a "delay." Negotiating fee is part of a contracting officer's job. If that is a delay, then everything a contracting officer does is a "delay." I would want be careful in making generalizations based only on my experience, but negotiating fee for R&D is often pretty easy. You do a weighted guidelines (and as Vern points out, you can make those say whatever you want), propose that as a counter offer and then meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe you get a little more than you wanted or vice versa. Again, my experience only, but a lot of people involved in R&D are involved much more for the R&D than they are for the profit. The really big payoffs for R&D projects isn't the profit on one particular contract, it's the possibility of commercialization and/or future sales to the government. You gonna walk away from a deal for 0.5% on profit? Unlikely for either party. As a result, you can typically negotiate fee fairly quickly. Maybe it takes a week because you're working on a bunch of other stuff too, but I wouldn't call that a "delay" either.
  10. My agency has been using Q&As for a few years now. An example is here: https://sam.gov/opp/fb3fe7ea18b942d7b05bc060a9588f1a/view. I will say I made some mistakes in that solicitation and learned some lessons. You'll probably be able to spot some flaws. The Q&A is on page 21. I think I got the idea from the Source Selection Bootcamp. You may or may not be surprised how many contractors could not reasonably answer the questions, even with weeks of time to prepare an answer. In that regard it worked.
  11. Totally agree and one thing that I think has been lost over the years is how a supervisor actually used to teach a junior employee how to do the job. We've outsourced all of that and think that because a person has been to 4 or 5 Management Concepts classes they are "qualified." It takes a lot of time to train an employee--we've basically given up that mission, to the benefit of the training companies and the detriment to the average citizen. I would note that I don't spend enough time training and coaching my folks, so I live in a glass house here.
  12. @Vern Edwards "Utopia of Rules" Are you referring to this book by David Graeber? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MKZ0QZ2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1 It's certainly not for everyone--Graeber identified as an anarchist and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement (he died a couple of years ago)--but I found myself nodding along with it routinely. (Admittedly, I was sympathetic to his argument at the outset.) I wouldn't say this is his best book, but it certainly is relevant for us working inside the bureaucracy.
  13. A bit of a different angle on this: A few years ago I found myself in a situation where I had 24 direct reports. Some with warrants, some without. It was too much, obviously. During that time I did a little internet research on how many people a supervisor could realistically supervise. It won't be surprising that the consensus is that it depends on what is being supervised, but if you consider contracting to be intellectual and complex work like I do, then the 6-8 direct reports is a rule of thumb. Beyond that is too many. The articles on this subject that you'll find online aren't contracting specific, but I do think 6-8 "feels" right to me, based on my experiences. Your mileage may vary...supervising an unwarranted contract specialist is a different challenge than supervising a fully trained, confident, and competent GS-13 or 14.
  14. I didn't think this warranted a new thread, but I have taken on Vern's challenge to read widely about relational contracting. I came across an article titled, "The Many Futures of Contracts: Moving Beyond Structure and Safeguarding to Coordination and Adaption" the other day. The article is full of jargon and I think of limited use, but it does have some insightful nuggets. I thought this one was important, "With increasing transactional complexity (e.g., interdependence between parties), we should not observe more complex contracts; instead we should see more clauses in contracts that give broad decision rights to one party or specify procedures for centralized or consensual decision making." It struck me as something that was worth thinking about.
  15. Another roadblock I keep coming to, mentally anyway, is that most of our large and traditional business partners are as ill-suited for relational contracting as the Government is. They are as stuck in existing model just as deeply as we are. Even if you could find a partner willing to engage in the forming a relational contract, I can just imagine the corporate lawyer saying, "Where is clause X, Y, or Z?" I might be overstating that, but I routinely have big contractors ask me for pointless modifications.
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