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Everything posted by General.Zhukov

  1. In my agency, less than 5% of all contract actions are competitive using trade-offs. Less than 1% are competitive using FAR 15 procedures. There may be GS-13 FAC-C III 1102s in my agency who have never done a FAR 15 action. I'm speculating here, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were true. OK, some tactical advice. The main issue, as I understand it, is that the Program side doesn't want to spend a lot of time and effort on the low-value task of reviewing lots of proposals when the contract will most likely go to the LPTA offeror anyways. This is a common issue, and there are some common methods to deal with it: 1) Avoid complication: a) Do not use FAR 15. b) Use one of the the many, many, many IT service acquisition vehicles out there, rather than going open-market. GSA has a list of 43 of them. Probably hundreds more that aren't tracked by GSA. c) Do not use FAR 15, seriously, don't do it. 2) A two-phase evaluation. Phase one should be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to evaluate and screen out all but a handful of most promising offers. DHS's PIL has a clever version of this - advisory down-select. 3) Performance Price Trade-Off (PPT) Process is what you are proposing to do in one of your comments. If you use this method, then for the sake of everyone involved, do what Vern has said many times, and do not have an elaborate "technical proposal." Caveat: In my experience, I cannot and would not do a quasi-LPTA for IT Services, but that's me. 4) Directly solicit from a few good sellers, rather than posting a public solicitation open to anyone. Although, you gotta follow the (complicated) rules about how to do this. 5) I have nothing to say about Sealed Bidding. Never done it. Never seen it done. No clue about it.
  2. I have had to do something like what you are describing. Basically, for system reasons, I couldn't add funding to a CLIN that needed more funds. Do not recommend except as last resort. We created a new CLIN just for funding. Its description was something like 'CLIN 2 replaces CLIN 1 as of date. No change except for funding.' It was actually quite complicated to do this, since we had to transfer over the incomplete work to the new CLIN, close out the funding for the old CLIN, update a bunch of stuff since CLIN 2 didn't exist nor was anticipated at time of award, etc. We tried to clearly and repeatedly describe what was going (for invoicing/payment, auditors, new people on the project), but that didn't work. Everyone else was confused forever, up to and including contract close out. That said, I think creating a new contract/order would be worse. Maybe, technically, a starting over would be less key strokes. But it would be a review/approval/audit nightmare, covered in red-flags, and attracting interest of people you want to stay away - legal, IG, irate competitors who see something sketchy on FPDS-NG, etc.
  3. Hmm, yes, you are right, I change my mind. Do it commercial, so long as I can make the contract reflect the inherently very-high-risk nature of that type of work. For example, ensuring (contractual) hellfire will reign down upon the contractor in the event of a data breach. Honestly, I don't know why federal contracting has such a bright line between commercial vs. non-commercial (although I am 100% sure somebody reading this does know why).
  4. In all seriousness, there are thriving markets for any and all types of cyber attacks and information collection - tools, methods, data, techniques, Cyberwar-As-A-Service, you name it. That joke about spying on Mexican narcos? That's a commercial service. Hacking into encrypted iPhones? Cellebrite (private company) can do it, but not the NSA. Its all commercial. My guess is anything 'investigation' related or otherwise that involves gathering and/or analyzing digital information is commercial. I also think we (GVT) should not treat these services as commercial, even if they are.
  5. I've both received and (self-servingly) presented this argument, which is false. Its not the classification (labor category) of the workers that matter, its the thing being worked on. Counter-factual 1: Let's say the service is off-the-chart obviously non-commercial. Updating the on-board guidance system for the AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile in response to recently discovered PLA ECM tomfoolery. We agree this is non-commercial, right? Well, it so happens that the AMRAAM guidance system is written in the software language ADA. So you hire someone to write the code. Computer Programmers, even those who specialize in ADA for avionics, and have TS/SCI, exist on Schedule 70. This fact, rather than making this project a commercial service, is irrelevant. Counter-factual 2: Are there any IT services which don't have the applicable IT categories on schedule 70? I think the answer is no. No matter what you are doing, you can find a generic broadly scoped LCAT somewhere on FSS 70 that's a fit. You want to exploit a CNI-planted backdoor in Mexican cellular networks to geo-locate narcos based on their social media uploads? What you need is a SME IV, available on FSS 70. Commercial.
  6. Yes, we covered it in grad school (Public Administration). As I recall, all the case studies were from UK (apparently its much more widely applied over there), EU or transportation in US. Seems to be a reasonable option when there's a large up-front capital expenditure that the government is unable or unwilling to finance, plus a predictable future revenue stream, and low interest rates. They do tend to be very expensive - hefty premium when the contractor is responsible from cradle to grave, and break-even is like 20 years in the future - but sometimes its worth it. P3's have other issues too, but I think this arrangement is no better or worse than the alternatives, just different. Close to home, I think some of the northern VA toll roads are P3s. Results are a mixed bag - the specifics of the project matter a lot.
  7. 1. There are guides about how to contract for software and address your specific issue. Not gonna link now, but they are out there. DoD has a few. Recommend using them. 2. Yes, this is the norm. Software doesn't show up in the loading bay on shrink-wrapped pallet, ready for go. Software these days almost always has supporting services integral to its operation. As they say, 'software is never done.' 3. Practically speaking, here is some advice based on when I got a SBA protest related to classifying something software-like as a product or service. If the total estimated value of the mixed product & services acquisition (which may include several different contracts) is predominantly for the product, then it is considered a product for SBA purposes. You get get very complicated about this stuff, but that's the gist of it. 4. You are hiring some folks to help you set up some fancy software. I could argue that what you describe may not be 'services' per FAR 37, which defines a service contract as "Service contract means a contract that directly engages the time and effort of a contractor whose primary purpose is to perform an identifiable task rather than to furnish an end item of supply." I'd argue that the purpose is to furnish the end item (software), so not services, technically, but I could be wrong. But I would argue this if I had to wiggle my way out of some onerous administrative process that kicked in when something is defined as a service. 5. So far as I know, there is no FAR rule saying *every* service has to have PWS, and the rest. I mean, FAR 8.4 talks about "services not requiring a statement of work." Ask 'why do we have to do this?' not 'why don't we have to do this?' 6. Here is a whole white paper devoted to pondering whether software maintenance is a product or service. https://www.esi.mil/contentview.aspx?id=721
  8. lol. Did you work at my agency? Anyways, agreed PALT has its uses and limits. At some future time when I've gotten a handle on the basics, our data may incorporate quality metrics, such as they are, things like audit findings, review & approval. Thank you @Vern Edwards for that paper. I love that stuff. For the detailed data that seems to not be available online, I'm going to reach out to our sister agencies within our Department. Thank you all, its been very helpful, I don't think I will be updating this discussion again.
  9. We have two PALTs. The Target PALTs are negotiated between two major parties - Contracting Office and the Program Office. This is one that Simplifieds are missing. The Actual PALTs how much time it actually takes. Actual PALT > Target PALT => Bad. % Target PALTs missed are a KPI. What's useful about data analysis is that this negotiation has, in the past, taken place in the absence of actual evidence. Looking at the data, we can see that our PALTS should probably be tweaked and there is room for win/win between the two parties. Another thing we can look into with the data we will (eventually) have is what factors contribute to actual PALT? My hypothesis is that I can predict most of actual PALT with just three factors: Product vs. Service Competitive vs. Other (Non-Competitive, SAP, Directed Small Biz, Single-Award TOs, etc.) Under or Over SAT (for this, $300K or $300M are the same thing, both over SAT) I'd put Commercial/Non-Commercial, but the nature of my agency's work is that this isn't an important distinction for us.
  10. Yes, that's right. I sometimes see contracting as a type of 'queuing system.' Work comes in, its gets done, and goes out. My favorite analogy is a car mechanic's shop or law office. I think our HCA would like to compare ourselves to 'the norm' first. Given the type of contracting work we do, is our process normal compared to other contract agencies?
  11. @Vern Edwards I'm a fed, this is work. My HCA is interested in making use of office's contract, financial and operational data. He wants us to go exploring into this data and see what we find, and to see if this data can help answer some long-standing questions. Basically, I bucket the data into three types. Outputs (contract actions), Inputs (staff, hours) and Process (PALT, stuff like that). We've got these data, but we just starting to make use of it. Analysis is descriptive, or versions of this model [Input] x [Process] = [Output]. Examples: Our data shows that an average 1102 awards somewhere between 30-45 contract actions per year (depending on how you measure, whether to include close-outs, mass mods related to COVID-19, etc.). About half of all the actions are modifications. The composition of work does NOT really change much with GS grade, but the volume increases a lot. That is, GS-13s and 14s don't work on a handful of the most complex contracts, rather, they do do much more of everything (on average) compared to our 9/11/12s. This is surprise. What does it mean? Don't know yet. Do we want to change this as an office? Probably. Does this imply we should hire more junior staff to replace our senior staff and spend that money elsewhere? Dunno. It also shows that, for PALT, actions under the SAT are late much more frequently than contracts for, say >1M$. Under SAT actions have much shorter PALTs that Contract Specialists gripe about as being unrealistic, and the data backs them up. Maybe we should change them? Does high workload or manager turn-over lead a leading indicator for new employees exiting the organization early? We all think so, but we are all just guessing. When the data is in better shape, we may be able to answer this question definitively. However, what's missing is a baseline or something to compare ourselves to. We have a sample size of one. Are our processes and metrics within the norm? Is there a norm? I have no idea, just guesses. For comparison purposes, it goes back to Input, Output, Process. That is the data I am looking for, from other agencies. At a very basic level, Output = FPDS-NG reports. Input = OPM's Fedscope (thanks @formerfed) has basic FTE stats. That's better than nothing, but I'd like to know much more. Process = nothing. Zilch. So these later two are what I am looking for.
  12. Update: Investigating these leads. Thank you. OPM has personnel data. I don't know this data, or how accurate it is, but there is a lot of it. I've found at least a few reports and publications that must have had granular acquisition workforce data, especially DoD. This data is not obviously available, like an attached Excel file. Probably going to end up emailing authors. Sigh....
  13. For a work project. Looking for open accessible data sources for data about the INPUT of contracting, especially more granular data. Data like # and grade of 1102s. Budget. Workload per employee. Any type of time-series contract process data (time b/w milestones, ALTs, stuff like that). I doubt there is much, or anything, publically available, but I thought I'd poll the audience. For OUTPUT, I know I can pull respectably detailed contract information from FPDS-NG, so I am not too concerned about that side of the box.
  14. I'm no lawyer and not an expert at anything remotely close to this topic, but I'm not sure how the GVT could terminate a contract and then use the (months old?) proposals to re-do the award, outside of a protest or something like that. But assuming this is okay... If its a GWAC, hit up the GWAC ACO. They might know something. Probably not, but worth a call. They probably would be interested to know if the buying agency is violating the GWAC ordering procedures in some egregious way. But there are lots of potential reasons for the seemingly shady behavior. You'll probably never know for sure, short of an uncharacteristically frank and detailed debriefing, or going to court. One possibility is the source selection / evaluation process had a major flaw, error or unexpected and difficult issue. Late and weird clarification questions are a hint. But it could be something totally different - I once had a SS where, right in the middle, we were informed of some pretty serious conflict of interest allegations, which took months to resolve, and given the nature of the allegations, we couldn't say much about it to anyone, had to be all mysterious and secret-agent-like.
  15. A seemingly easy question for which I can't seem to find a definitive answer. Orders. Their competition information is reported in FPDS-NG. I am trying to verify the correct values for "Extent Competed" for three types of orders. I think the Extent Competed depends on how the parent contract (IDIQ) was competed, and whether the parent contract (IDIQ) is single-award or multiple-award. 1) Multiple-award IDIQ. Competitively awarded IDIQ using full and open. Competitive Delivery Order or Non-Competitive Delivery Order (needs an justification for exception to fair opportunity- JEFO) Full and Open Competition 2) Single-award IDIQ. Competitively awarded IDIQ using full and open. Not Available for Competition Full and Open Competition 3) Single-award IDIQ. Non-competitive IDIQ. Not Available for Competition Not Competed Non-Competitive Delivery Order Is this correct?
  16. The major risks that come to my mind are more IT than contracting in nature. Will your computers even work? If you project needs access to a GVT network or IT resource, I would double check whether CFE computer can get that access. In my org, no CFE laptops allowed. The same concern for data. Do you need GVT-provided data? (Avoid hearing this: "you want us to export to you our database of confidential reports full of PII so you can test with real data? lol, no.") Check with CO first. Software costs. If you intend to purchase any type of software, this is a separate cost element than the hardware. Check with CO first. IT departments frown upon contractors purchasing, and then invoicing for, software already in the GVT inventory. Or buying Tesla-grade software, when Hyundai-grade suffices. Also, if software is non-trivial in cost and/or valuable for whatever reason, who owns and takes possession of the stuff at end of contract? As CO, if I am paying for the software (or hardware), the GVT will own it outright.
  17. This is actually covered by one of the little known contractor commandments. Thou shalt get permission in writing from the Contracting Officer, not the COR or a PM or anyone else, when deviating from the contract.
  18. This is a type of usage-based contract, which is a thing I do. I am writing this relatively lengthy example here, but will use it outside of Wifcon. Background Contract is for a new call center. Pricing is $1/call - or some FFP measure of actual usage. We expect to get somewhere between 3,000 - 36,000 calls over a year, with point estimate of 12,000. Call volume may fluctuate a lot from month to month. The funding office is unwilling to obligate $12,000 (let alone $36,000), wait a year, and maybe get some back. You want to avoid this call: "Oh no, the ceiling will be hit in a few days, we missed that email, and we must get additional quantity immediately. No, we don't yet have the funds, but please start exercising the option now, we promise we'll get you the money before the lights turn off." Plan for periodic reconciliation and modification of contract to account for uncertain usage/demand Contract has a pre-planned agreed-to schedule of periodic bilat modifications, to account for actual usage and changes to expected future usage. Set up these periodic reviews like options, even though they aren't options. So they have dates, and quantities, and the rest. Otherwise, it gets confusing. Start with low end of usage estimate, since its easier to increase quantity and $ over time. Line Items 1) Licenses. [Quantity 3,000] [Call] [$1] [$3,000 FFP] This is enough licenses for 3,000 calls. Covers low end of usage estimate. Only obligates $3,000 at time of award. 2) Option 2nd Quarter. Q 3,000 3) Option 3rd Quarter. Q 3,000 4) Option 4th Quarter. Q 3,000 5) Option Reserve. Q 24,000 Optional line 2-4 are for additional quantity, and are planned to be 'exercised' quarterly. These aren't options, but set up as-if they were. Option line 5 is for an additional 24,000 calls, a sort of strategic reserve in event that demand is high, and so that the contract incl. options total value = $36,000. Quarterly Reconciliation based on Usage Each quarter, actual usage of current period and forecast usage next period are reconciled to produce a Net Quantity. The Q on the 'option' for that quarter is changed from 3,000 to this Net Quantity, which may be more than or less than 3,000. Then the option is 'exercised' via bilat mod. Net Quantity calculated like this: Net Quantity = [3,000] - [Unused $ from prior quarter, which roll forward] + [forecast increase in demand over and above 3,000/period] If Net Quantity > 3,000, then the excess quantity is deducted from CLIN 5 so total contract value does not exceed $36,000. Net Quantity should not be less than zero, except at end of PoP maybe. Annual Reconciliation At end of the year long PoP, the government very likely will have paid for un-used services that will expire (if the call center is considered a severable service, and the funds are annual, and no trickery). For example, the GVT paid for total of 13,500 calls, but on December 31, has only gotten 13,100. So $400 over. If the contract has another PoP, the contractor 'credits' the GVT at the start of the next PoP (which is common, if not necessarily compliant with federal regs), so at the start of the new PoP the GVT pays $2,600 but gets 3,000. Otherwise, deob.
  19. I highly encourage you to look up the "Advisory Down Select" method, from DHS PIL. Typically, the low rated offerors are eliminated via the down-select, and are ineligible for phase two. Instead, using an advisory down-select, low rated offerors remain eligible for phase two. Instead of being eliminated, they are advised that they are unlikely to win the contract should they decide to proceed to phase two. But they can proceed if they want to. Encouraging voluntary withdrawal of low-quality proposals, rather than tossing them out yourself, may solve your problem, and is (imo) a brilliant idea. Its fair, relatively easy to do, eliminates the grounds for a lot of pre-award protest, simplifies the SS, and saves the offerors time and money. Wins all around.
  20. Interesting, never read this difference b/w FFP & LH, - who determines the hours - but it makes sense. "Field Marshall of the Soviet Union Zhukov" seems a little pompous.
  21. True. With a few caveats For a new call center, my guess is straight FFP is not appropriate, I'd guess there is unknown and/or unpredictable call volume, or whatever, aka you cannot accurately estimate anticipated costs with any degree of confidence. A call center is very much a 'commercial item,' so I would suggest follow commercial pricing practices to the extent possible. Which, I would guess from what you wrote, is LH. If it is, and all is well with FAR 12.207, and you get approval to do it that way, by all means, do it that way. If its Call Centers As a Service (PSC DC10 & DC01) it probably uses typical 'As A Service' pricing - which is pay-for-usage. Which is often T&M. Or if-necessary to comply with some mandate to used firm fixed price, some complicated pricing monster that is legally FFP, but sorta works for cloud services, and makes everyone unhappy (one of my specialties). The real experts may weigh-in here, and I pre-emptively defer to them.
  22. What you describe here is, in effect, Labor Hour. If it were actually FFP, the number of actual hours worked would be irrelevant. FFP = Do job, get paid agreed to sum in full, whether it takes 5 hours or 20 hours. My understanding is FFP LOE is only for R&D, so no. Most of the contractors I have dealt with love Level of Effort and Labor Hour because it has minimal risk for them. Government pays for the input, not the output. Easy to plan and/or max out revenue. If you ever have a conference call with a contractor, and like 5 extra contractors are on the phone contributing nothing, they've got quotas to meet for their billable hours. That said, I have used LH a lot, and opinions of competent and honest people will differ on what, exactly, is a " reasonable degree of confidence." Comes down to trust, relationships, and negotiating prowess. From what you've written, it reads like a pretty clear-cut case for FFP.
  23. Federal contracting, like many professions, starts off with a common basis, and quickly branches into specialization. The certification process Levels I, II, III are very general, and don't account for specialization (aka, 'reality'), and therefore I don't think they are particularly useful. There are other better ways of quantifying levels and types of expertise and experience. Don Mansfield's take ('performance based certs') is a good one. I also find inspiration in software/IT world, where there are many types of certs across domains and expertise. Some IT certs are niche, some are broad. Some are basically evidence of 'I am not a total idiot' while others are really, really difficult, prestigious, and valuable ( check out 'AWS Certified Solutions Architect').
  24. Probably yes. My first thought is that this type of set up would be quite simple to do with a BPA. There are probably creative ways to do this with an order, maybe, if all the stars in in alignment. However, I wouldn't do it, I'm aggressive, but not that aggressive.
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