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Vern Edwards

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Everything posted by Vern Edwards

  1. @WifWafWifwaf, that was a GREAT post!!! Thank you!
  2. Government commercial acquisition is nothing like what you do, not even superficially, and the purchase card program is trivial in the overall scheme of things. I don't want to argue with you about the analogy that you want to make. Even if I agreed with you, it would not contribute to this discussion. You are welcome to your opinion. My question is whether the Federal acquisition system is a complex adaptive system and, if it is, whether that might explain why acquisition reforms based on rule changes have, by widespread consensus, failed.
  3. @General.ZhukovI should point out that comparison of our system with those of other countries must take into consideration differences in the structure, content, and processes of government. Great Britain, for instance, has a parliamentary system, which is very different from ours. The doctrine of strict separation of powers does not apply. The two systems are different, operate differently, and must cope with different kinds of emergences. (That's emergences, not emergencies.)
  4. What you are asking is a different question than the one I have asked. I suggest that you start your own thread.
  5. @Don MansfieldI think you know that the definition you quoted is too narrow. Besides, you quoted only a very small part of the American Heritage Dictionary definition. Here's the complete definition: And see DOD Directive 5000.01, The Defense Acquisition System (September 9, 2020). I agree though, that the Federal acquisition system could be called a system of systems.
  6. Here is one description of a complex system that appeared in an oft-cited article in the November 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review: Snowdon and Boone, "A Leader's Framework for Decision Making." One article on complex adaptive systems in military analysis stated that a jet fighter is a complicated system, but not complex, while a Navy SEAL team may exhibit characteristics of a complex adaptive system. Another source categorized systems as simple, complicated, and complex.
  7. @C CulhamSo let's say that, conceptually, buying is buying. But when the government buys something significant, several different functional offices within an agency, each of which has its own rules, processes, and procedures, must coordinate, and that can be difficult. If a service wants to buy a new aircraft, they have a multitude of technical and administrative communities to deal with, as well as political and business interests, each of which is pursuing its own objectives, is following its own course, and is subject to external forces that it cannot direct or control. Moreover, they have to keep their eyes on prospective opponents and allies. None of those can be easily controlled, and developments among them are highly unpredictable. In short, the analogy between what you do and what the acquisition system must do is very, very weak. Acquisition reformers have focused on changing the rules. The have failed time and again in their attempts to fix the system using that approach. I wonder if it's because they have used an approach that might work for a merely complicated system, but not for a complex adaptive system.
  8. @General.ZhukovHow about the changes to the Federal Supply Schedule program and the surge in the use of GWACs and MATOCs? How about the (failed) push for performance-based contracting? How about cybersecurity issues and AI? How about the focus on supply chain security? How about the surge in IT requirements and staff augmentation ("professional service") requirements? How about the emergence of SpaceX and Blue Origin to displace legacy launch vehicle contractors? How about Amazon's apparent tactic of trying to change agency acquisition strategy through use of extended protest litigation at the COFC? (They succeeded with JEDI. Now they're trying it against NASA.) How about wars? Aren't those emergences? And haven't they affected the strategies and conduct of acquisitions and the predictability of acquisition outcomes? Haven't acquisition personnel had to adapt? Remember, I'm asking about acquisition, not just contracting.
  9. How is that responsive to the question? I am trying to determine whether acquisition reform efforts have failed because the reformers have thought of the acquisition system as merely needlessly complicated, when in fact it is unavoidably complex and adaptive. Thinking that it is merely complicated, they try to simplify it through rule reform. But if it's complex and adaptive, then simplification and rule reform won't work, in part because complex and adaptive systems are subject to emergence, which defeats rules. I want to see if anyone else here has thought along those lines, and I want to learn what if any conclusions they have reached. Because I think that my thinking about this has been, in the words of Dylan, "limited and underfed."
  10. Let's stick to the question. By "acquisition system" I mean the concepts, rules, principles, standards, organizations, personnel, processes, and procedures that must work together in order to acquire supplies and services by and for the Federal government.
  11. Is the Federal acquisition system complicated or complex?
  12. No. See Chapman Law Firm Company, LPA, GAO Dec. B-296847, Sept. 28, 2005. What else can they do if they have a requirement that must be met?
  13. You have to flowdown to commercial suppliers of the products that will go into the products that you are supplying to the Buyer. You don't have to flow down to all of your commercial suppliers. I do not think you have to flowdown retroactively to suppliers who furnished products in inventory. I don't think it will affect your other business unless buyers want to flow down the clause down to you and you don't want to accept it or flow it down further. Then you will have effectively taken yourself out of that market.
  14. I wrote a piece about 16 years ago about pricing service contracts. I made a distinction between input pricing and output pricing: "Pricing Service Contracts," The Nash & Cibinic Report (May 2005). I'm going to have to think more about this.
  15. @WifWaf What bothers me is the use of hours as units of delivery, because the concept of a unit is that every unit is like every other unit, but that is rarely the case in staff service contracts. Using hours as units of service performance and payment when there is no uniform specification for what the government gets in an hour and the level of quality provided is convenient, but not logical. And it flies in the face of your emphasis on performance measures. Do I make sense?
  16. @RF-SAFirst, read the definition of "commercially available off-the-shelf item" in FAR 2.101. Okay, so the "Buyer" is your customer and you are the "Supplier." I think FAR 52.244-6 is in the Buyer's contract with the government. I presume that the Buyer considers you, the Supplier, to be a COTS subcontractor. FAR 52.244-6 tells the Buyer to include the clauses paragraph (c)(1) in all COTS subcontracts to the extent that each is applicable, and to require you, as a COTS subcontractor, to include those clauses in their own contracts for commercial items that are to be delivered to the Buyer, and to flow them down to their own COTS subcontractors. You asked two questions: FAR 52.244-6(c)(1) and (d) applies to COTS subcontractors. You are a COTS subcontractor to Buyer, and Buyer has effectively included FAR 52.244-6 in its contract with you. As a COTS subcontractor, you must flow the clause down to your own commercial item subs that will provide anything incorporated into the product that you sell the Buyer, to the extent that they are applicable. According to the language Buyer included in its contract with you, you must include the clauses listed in FAR 52.244-6 in your subcontracts. However, you should check with your customer ("Buyer") to ask how they interpret the clause, because FAR 52.244-56 says "awarded under this contract." Bottom line: You should talk this over with Buyer.
  17. Yes. The first paragraph of the clause: You have to read paragraphs (a) and (b) together.
  18. I think the clause quoted by RF-SA is from a private buyer's contract or order, not from a government contract.
  19. @WifWaf: Are you suggesting that hours (or "productive" hours) are a good units of delivery for service contracts (as opposed to staff augmentation contracts)? An FTE is just a number of hours.
  20. @Constricting OfficerI think that the value of a certification depends on the basis for earning it. Test-based certifications can establish that a person knows certain things, usually things they studied to prepare for the test. But if the work requires more than just knowledge, then I don't think they're worth much. The bar exam for lawyers tests knowledge of law, a prerequisite for a license to practice, but that does not mean that someone who passes the bar exam can prepare a good appellate brief in a capital punishment case or a patent infringement case. It takes years to achieve that level of skill, but fewer for some than for others. If the heart of the work is to apply knowledge creatively and effectively in the performance of a task, then, in my opinion, tests that rely on multiple choice questions are of very limited worth. What would interest me about a person who pursued a voluntary certification, like a CPCM, is that they had the ambition to do that. I would not assume that they possess any particular level of knowledge or skill. Professional associations love certifications, though. They bring in dues and fees and provide them with a raison d'être, which ensure their staffs of continued employment. You can judge the quality of a professional association by the quality of its official publications. I belong to several professional associations. The Society for Risk Analysis produces Risk Analysis, its peer-reviewed official journal, which regularly publishes high quality articles. Another society that publishes high quality articles is the American Historical Society, which produces the American Historical Review. There are many such first-rate professional associations. What do you think of Contract Management magazine? How about the Journal of Contract Management? In the days of the medieval craft guilds (as opposed to merchant guilds) an apprentice had to study under a master for some period of time in order to earn journeyman status, which was prerequisite to master status. Master status required that a journeyman demonstrate to masters the knowledge and skill of a craft master. In contracting we talk of OJT rather than apprenticeship. Unfortunately, we have few masters. Far too few to provide all trainees with good OJT. That's why cut and paste, rather than true creativity, is the driving force in our field.
  21. Such pricing as described in Guest103830's now deleted opening post reflect agencies's amateur attempts to use variations of the standard contract "types" described in FAR Part 16 to contract for government employees. Contracting for employees is one of the worst kept secrets in American government. The government has long been contracting for employees, and is doing so now more than ever, but has not yet faced up to it and been open about it from an acquisition policy standpoint. So contracting offices are making it up as they go along. That's how you get situations like what happened in Pacific Coast Community Services, Inc. v. U.S., 144 Fed. Cl. 687 (2019); 147 Fed. Cl. 811 (2020); aff'd --- Fed. Appx. ---, No. 2020-1815, 2021 WL 1712270 (Fed. Cir., April 30, 2021). Whether they know it are not, many COs are now in the human resources business. This has been going on for a long time. See also the thread that started today about certifications. Congress and the Executive Branch are lying to the public about the size of government. But all of us know that, or should.
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