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Mike Twardoski

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Everything posted by Mike Twardoski

  1. Great list, @Vern Edwards! I may pluck a few of those titles and add them to my list.
  2. That's a loaded question, @Vern Edwards Right now, I'm bouncing between Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond, by Deepak Malhotra and Max Bazerman and The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifdean Ammous (Christmas present from my brother who's nudging me to invest in Bitcoin). Just about finished with the latter, so I have An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination, by Sheera Frankel and Cecilia Kang on deck. Not too long ago, I revisited your Recommended Books for Government Contracting Professionals, so I have Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads by Joel Best in my queue at the library. By the way, the Recommended Reading discussion on this forum is easily my favorite, if only because it feeds into my insatiable need for reading more books.
  3. @Vern Edwards No doubt the author viewed the Boeing-Douglas merger as the focal point of the path to the crashes. I do, however, think he painted the political decision-making by whomever was in the Oval Office (Clinton's policies were good, those of Reagan, Bush 2, and Trump were bad) as blameworthy as well. The Trump bashing was a typical journalistic crutch, as well. It detracted from a truly compelling story. I would've liked to have seen more context on the merger. Obviously, we've seen plenty of mergers in the Government contracting world over the last 25 years, and I think a semi-deep dive into industry amid this environment would've been enlightening. Either way, the Government's relationship with Boeing post-merger was undeniably incestuous. In terms of that acquisition official who awarded billions in contracts only to be hired away by Boeing, it seemed to highlight the downright corruption that existed between both agencies. That particular story should be a huge spotlight on what you mentioned above: a decline in the quality, but not quantity, of American government. So I'm suspicious of any hypothesis that suggests more regulation is the antidote to bad regulation. Personally, it was difficult to read it without wearing my federal contracting lenses. Government contracting has become enormous, to the point in which it's easy to see how this tragedy developed. To me, that's the biggest issue at play. Corruption exists, to be sure, and some regulation is warranted. But how much? Many discussions on this board center on the monster that's the modern-day FAR. Do we need more of that? I'd argue no. I also say that I wish I had a solution to offer. I don't know what the answer is. Writing-wise, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Vern: Michael Lewis could've knocked this story out of the park! I'm actually amazed that someone who worked the Boeing beat could only offer semi-general perspectives and the occasional anecdotal story as he fleshed out the story. It was an interesting read either way, but I expected more from an "insider," at least in the journalistic sense. Maybe my expectations were too high
  4. Thanks for the suggestion, Vern. I got around to reading this during the holidays. Once you get past the author's obvious ideological biases (Republicans bad, Democrats good! Capitalism bad, unions good!), the book does pose an interesting question: is more regulation good or bad? The author's answer is a resounding yes, but those of us who work in the Government contracting world may disagree - and some of us, vehemently. Safety regulations are one thing, but how do you execute that oversight successfully? Would greater vigilance by a better-staffed FAA actually have averted the 737MAX disasters? Possibly. It certainly couldn't have hurt. How much regulation is too much? And how are you going to staff accordingly? Is a "bigger" FAA the solution? I'm wary about quick and easy answers to complex systems, which the author seemed to reach fairly easily within a 262 page book about one company. The book seemed to veer straight into the well-worn concept that government oversight will cure all ills. To Vern's point above, if anything, it should make you question any idealistic notions one has about government (most people already question corporations/industry as it is). The internal business pressures faced within Boeing that, in the author's opinion, led the company to cut corners on safety aren't unique. I'd hazard a guess there are similar pressures faced with many companies. To say that's the driving force behind two fatal crashes would be to overlook the more mundane causes (negligence being the greatest factor, in my opinion, with complacency and incompetence not far behind). Unfortunately, those themes are prevalent everywhere in the business world, and I'm sure they existed even before the author began his beat at Boeing, contrary to the "good ol' days" sub-narrative. Again, how you mitigate those themes in an industry that literally holds people's lives in their hands is something that requires a more comprehensive investigation. Overall, it was a decent book with good details about the financial and cultural shifts at Boeing in the years leading up to the crashes. However, toward the end, the investigative narrative (which was compelling) lost steam before it drifted into the emotional, which unfortunately allowed the author a soapbox at the very end ("It would say Boeing got away with murder.")
  5. Thanks for sharing, Vern. The story is similar in industry, at least from what I've seen. One of first things my program lead said to me when I joined the company 2 years ago is that ~50% of our workforce is going to retire in the next 3-5 years. And the number of folks I've seen leave since has only reinforced that notion. Perhaps because of this, there's a huge focus on mentoring at my place. As for me, who happens to fall into that 0-4 years of Government Contracting experience bucket, I've embraced that focus. I'm getting so many great insights from my seasoned colleagues. That experience shouldn't go to waste once they leave. In fact, the more I learn, the more I enjoy this field. Granted, does the increasing number of new folks slow things down? Of course, and it always will. But if you make good hiring decisions, and nurture that talent, processes will begin to accelerate eventually. At least I hope so.
  6. I've attended a couple of webinars this week on the topic, and the prediction on enforcement seems to be similar to how FAR 52.223-6 Drug-Free Workplace is enforced...which from my view, isn't all that much. We shall see. I've heard my Government counterparts lament that they're busier than ever (for both COVID and non-COVID related reasons), so adding enforcement to the plate would seem to be very low priority. There aren't any reps or certs yet, so presumably, the Government will have to take a contractor's word for it when it comes to attesting its workforce is 100% vaccinated. Consequences for non-compliance? Seems like potential negative CPARS, Past Performance hits, and the possibility of whistleblowers coming to the fore.
  7. Listened to the first 2 episodes, and I'm hooked. Thanks for sharing, Don!
  8. True, but when >40% of the country as a whole isn't fully vaccinated, requiring industry to be 100% within 2 months seems unreasonable to me. Mind you, I have no beef with the spirit of the EO. I'm not a part of that >40% of the population, so it doesn't impact me on a personal level. I just think there's going to be some fierce pushback based upon my own observations. Agreed! How are PCOs going to enforce this?
  9. My company is worried as well. The DoD deviation was just released, and we're bracing for it in coming awards and mods. There's a fear that PCO's will go all in on this deviation apply it to every award and mod they issue. And I get it, given the tone of the EO. But, requiring all covered contractor personnel to be vaccinated within 2 months seems an ambitious mandate, diplomatically speaking. Feel like there's going to be some fierce pushback from industry on this...
  10. You summed it up far better than me! I finished the book last week with the sense that another contributing factor in the AI & military capabilities gap is the discord between DoD and Silicon Valley. That's certainly concerning. A recent issue of Contract Management contained an article about the Air Force putting some of their procurement folks into pseudo-internships with leading tech companies. Perhaps that is what it will take: greater active engagement, at least at the DoD/Industry level. Now all you have to do is fix Congress.
  11. This is interesting. I'm finishing up The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare, by Christian Brose (former Staff Director of the Armed Service Committee and Senior Policy Advisor to John McCain). The author's primary point of attack is how DoD needs to more AI and less platform-based systems, and needs them yesterday to compete with China. I guess someone is listening, even if this probably represents a fraction of a fraction of what the author's calling for. Not to hijack the thread, but I'm interested to hear if anyone else has read this book, and what their thoughts are on DoD's alleged stubbornness in adopting AI.
  12. Thanks, Neil. I was thinking about the undefinitized path, but hadn't thought about making it an FFP CLIN. Not a bad idea at all I appreciate the insights!
  13. Thanks for the follow up questions, Neil. The contract structure is primarily FFP (hardware), with some CPFF (engineering tasks) and Cost-only (ODC) line items. The customer routinely issues task orders for engineering tasks & ODCs off this contract using the CPFF & Cost line items to fund them. The contract contains multiple options, so new line items for each of these types have been rolled into the contract every year. The odd thing is we're approaching the final option year, so the timing of this internal cap of $10K is curious to say the least.
  14. Neil, the short answer is yes, the ODCs are for materials/components. I can't speak for how the contract was negotiated, but this $10K internal cap is new to me (and apparently the customer, too, after years of putting funding >$10K for years, no questions asked). Traditionally, our company would work up a draft task order, or simply send over a written request for more ODC funding, a brief justification for the funds, and the customer would put those funds on the task order with minimal delay. The funds would be drawn from ODC CLINs that regularly contained obligated funds well over $10K. In other words, there wasn't any negotiating involved for ODCs. We asked, and we received. The customer is hinting that the only viable path for ODCs >$10K is the PIO CLIN route, which is decidedly NOT as streamlined as the "ask and ye shall receive" route. Granted, that route is probably now closed forever, but I'm trying to look for a similar path.
  15. Provisioned Item Order (PIO). The contract allows the customer to purchase up to $10M worth of material under the PIO CLIN.
  16. I'm on the industry side working on a fairly large (~$700M) production contract that includes engineering services and Other Direct Costs (ODC) work, which the Govt customer routinely uses to issue Tasking Orders to investigate issues with the hardware. However, the customer recently notified us they now have an internal cap ($15K) on how much ODC on a given TI, which is far below what's been obligated on the latest exercised ODC CLINs. In the past, the customer had no issue issuing us more than $15K for ODCs to buy components, material, travel, etc. But because many of these items have exceeded that threshold in the past, and will presumably continue to do so in the future, the customer has hinted we may need to look at a PIO buy for purchasing these tasking-related components going forward. Are there any other methods for troubleshooting the issue? My concern is going the PIO route would require negotiation, which would obviously create a greater delay as opposed to a straight purchase using ODC funds. There's nothing in the contract that mentions the $15K limit per TI.
  17. I know I'm a little late to the party here, but I really enjoyed this story. Thank you, Bob! Btw, I'm now reading Skunk Works by Ben Rich, which I've devoured over the last a day or so. What a time to be involved in government contracting.
  18. Thank you, Neil! The contract does contain FAR 52.248-1, so this is something I'll raise with my program. Appreciate the insight!
  19. Thanks, Neil. The customer is the Government, and the PCO is working across multiple Government programs. Unfortunately, the conversations I've had with my PCO asking that very question, and my PM doing the same with her counterpart, hasn't seemed to produce much headway.
  20. Vern, thank you for the feedback. I think the situation you described on PCOs working multiple programs is pertinent to mine. The PCO is overseeing more than just my program, and thus, he may not be as in the loop as the customer. I guess there's only so much I can do here.
  21. Exactly, and that's my role: contract manager. Personally, I have a good working relationship with the PCO, so no issue there. But getting him and the customer to align on this mod has been a bear. My PM is doing has a good relationship with her Government counterpart, which is why this situation is so puzzling. That's an interesting way to look at it. Maybe it's just my personality to want to solve problems, even if they're not directly mine. The proposed mod is something of a tradeoff - we don't need to do it, but if we do, it helps our bookings for the year, which is obviously an internal goal. It also helps the customer because we're giving them some pretty favorable pricing. I suppose the more responses I'm getting here, the more I realize a person in my position can only do so much. I appreciate all the feedback!
  22. Thanks for the insight, all. Without going into too much detail, I'm trying to get them to align on a mod that involves a bit of horse trading on the delivery schedule. The customer is fine with what my team has proposed, but the PCO wants more. We attempt to explain to the customer that the PCO has concerns, but they continue to say they're good. And on it's gone for a few months. Perhaps it's just my own ignorance on the government's side of the house, but I would hope there would be some dialogue between the customer and PCO to make sure everyone's aligned on expectations, especially after a couple of false starts. No doubt an in-person meeting would probably solve a lot of the problems. Unfortunately, we're still stuck in the virtual environment. Btw, I could sure go for a donut right now
  23. Does anyone have any tips on bridging a communication gap between the PCO and customer? I'm semi-new to the GovCon world, and as a contract specialist on the industry side, I have noticed a distinct lack of communication between the PCO and the customer as of late. It seems as if the only way to get them aligned is to schedule calls, and even then, sometimes one of them won't appear. The reason it's impacting me, specifically, is that the program is working on a significant mod, and PCO & customer continue to be misaligned on the expectations for it. I'm interested to hear any feedback, especially from the government's perspective on what industry can (or can't) do in situations like these.
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