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Blog Comments posted by here_2_help

  1. Bob, my father worked in the X-15 engine so I'm tickled to hear the anecdote. Thanks for that.

    But I have to take issue with your assertion that it was one man (Kelly Johnson) who made it all happen. Truly, he was a great designer and leader, but there were other factors that permitted the Skunk Works to work so efficiently. First and foremost, it was an isolated team, protected from bureaucratic interference. It was a lean team as well. Everybody knew each other and they operated as one team.

    Another factor worth considering was governmental oversight. There wasn't very much at the time; the government customer(s) trusted Kelly and his team to get the job done, and they delivered time and time again. There was a true partnership between government and contractor, which is something that rarely happens any more.

    Finally, let's discuss security. The more security the government put on the Skunk Works' projects, the harder it got to deliver them. Ben Rich (who succeeded Kelly) wrote in his memoir about the "Have Blue" (F-117A) project:


    "Ben," Kelly warned me, "the security they're sticking onto this thing will kill you. It will increase your costs twenty-five percent and lower your efficiency to the point where you won't get any work done. The restrictions will eat you alive. Make them reclassify this thing or drop it." On matters like that, Kelly was seldom wrong.

      The government felt that adding more security created an opportunity for reduced bureaucracy and oversight. In that same memoir, General Larry Welch (former USAF Chief of Staff) is quoted as follows:


    The management approach we developed was unique and marvelous. Once a month, I'd meet with Dr. Perry at the Pentagon and inform him about decisions we required from him as Undersecretary of Defense. Sometimes he agreed, sometimes not, but we never had delays or time wasted with goddam useless meetings. Because we were so highly classified, the bureaucracy was cut and that made a tremendous difference. Frankly, that was a damned gutsy way to operate inside the Pentagon, but the reason we could afford to be so gutsy was our abiding faith in the Skunk Works.

    Look at what worked. It wasn't necessarily one man that created the difference. It was one team and a partnership between government and contractor. I think one might plausibly argue that it was that same partnership, that shared vision, that led to the success of the Apollo program. At least, that's my take.


  2. Seems to me the question is whether a CO would or could use Part 12 procedures, without using any Part 15 procedures, if market research determined that at least one potential offeror was a non-traditional defense contractor ("NTDC"). If the CO thought some offerors were NTDCs but some were not, could the CO use Part 15 procedures for the others but use Part 12 procedures for the NTDCs? For some reason, I think that would be problematic. So I think that leaves our CO with the same option -- use Part 12 or Part 15 procedures, but pick one and stick with it. If the CO uses Part 15, then the NTDC would seem to be stuck with that choice.

    But perhaps I'm over analyzing this. What do others think?

  3. On 3/31/2018 at 9:14 AM, C Culham said:

    I had the same thoughts of h2h about who would adopt the "may" option and then I began thinking about the CO that does want take advantage of the "may" and played it out in my mind.  Not sure I have it right but....

    First scenario -

    1. The DoD does market research.

    2. It determines that there adequate small businesses to set aside the procurement.

    3. Most small businesses are non-traditional defense contractors so the DoD decides to use Commercial Item acquisition procedures without having to do a commercial item determination.

    4. Offers responding do not have to provide Certified Cost or Pricing Data.

    Or another-  

    1. The DoD does market research.

    2. DoD determines not to set aside and it is a procurement that does not use Commercial Item acquisition procedures.

    3. A small business responds and states it is a non-traditional defense contractor and states that it is not providing certified cost or pricing data.

    4. The CO treats the supplies/services of the non-traditional defense contractor as if they are commercial items and agrees that cost or pricing data is not required. 


    With respect to Scenario 1, Item 3, I would correct your statement to read "ALL small businesses are non-traditional defense contractors..." by statute, small businesses are exempt from CAS coverage, so that makes them non-traditional defense contractors, according to the DFARS definition.

    With respect to Scenario 2, if there is competition, the CO is prohibited from requiring certified cost or pricing data, but may request information other than certified cost or pricing data. Correct? In this scenario, I see the small business providing sufficient information to support price reasonableness, but not more. That same DFARS rule that implemented the permissive guidance that sparked Don's blog post also provided a hierarchy of information other than certified cost or pricing data for COs to use. I hope they follow it...

  4. Don,

    Yes, what you write is in line with my interpretation of the rule. It has potential benefits to small business IF contracting officers take advantage of the flexibility it offers. 

    A small business is a non-traditional defense contractor, under the new DFARS rule. So is a segment of a traditional defense contractor, if it qualifies. Contracting officers may use Part 12 procedures to acquire goods and services from non-traditional defense contractors without making a determination that the goods/services being procured are commercial items, regardless of dollar value.

    So far, so good.

    But how many COs will actually take advantage of this new rule? Even before the rule, how many COs were comfortable making pure Part 12 acquisitions without going over to Part 15 to borrow some process steps? To my way of thinking, that's the concern. That concern is exacerbated when I see the discretion baked into the language: "may" gives a lot of discretion.

    Show me guidance memos and instructions directing implementation of the new "permissive" rule and I might dance a jig. Until then, I remain a bit skeptical.

  5. On ‎1‎/‎6‎/‎2017 at 10:24 AM, Retreadfed said:

    Under NAVY Directives, the modification needed to be approved by the General Counsel before it could be executed. It never received such approval.

    Interesting. Are you saying that a SECDEF appointment as principal negotiator, with Legal supporting, was superseded by Navy Directives? I find that difficult to accept.

  6. Love this. Thanks for taking the time to write it up. I've always been on the contractors' side of things and I appreciate getting another viewpoint. From the contractors' side, we work diligently to avoid litigation, which is costly and takes a very long time to resolve issues. On the other hand, I sometimes think the COs welcome litigation because it takes the burden of making a difficult decision off their shoulders. It's very interesting to me that Rule was willing to make the tough decisions; his obvious courage is admirable.

  7. I'm not sure I agree with your definition of "learning objective." From another source I read that a learning objective consists of

    1. A description of what the student will be able to do

    2. The conditions under which the student will perform the task.

    3. The criteria for evaluating student performance.

    That definition seems more practical and less theoretical than your definition.

    Given the (revised) definition, it seems that any learning that is "one size fits all" is not meeting the second part of the definition -- i.e., the learning needs to address the conditions under which the student will perform the task. Thus, it seems we need to tailor the training.

    I was also struck by your use of actuaries rather than accountants in your example. Once an accountant passes the CPA and other related tests they are good to go -- but need to document a certain amount of continuing professional education each year. (If memory serves it's 120 hours over 3 years with no more than 80 counting in any one year.) Again, though, we are talking about a rigorous examination that a certain amount of takers are expected to fail. But once over the hurdle, you are in the profession.

  8. Bob,

    All good and valid points. But it seems to me that the story is not about lying, it's about a profession that publicly declares its adherence to values such as honor and integrity. It's about a group of leaders trained not to lie, cheat or steal, or to tolerate those who do. It's about apparent hypocrisy.


  9. "It seems to be doing little more than putting the ACC on notice that someone might ask it how it knows that the contractors are complying and not lying and that it ought to have an explanation."

    Vern, yours is the voice of experience. And yet I cannot help but wonder how this situation might play out ...

    1. Hotline call to DoD OIG, alleging that Contractor A is violating BAA with respect to compliance with this DFARS clause. (Hotline call originates with disappointed bidder who thought it should have won the contract award.)

    2. OIG investigation, assisted by DCAA and appropriate law enforcement officials, substantiates the allegation.

    3. Contractor A argues that the cognizant CO and COR were obviously derelict in their duties and thus complicit in its noncompliance. Contractor A cites this OIG report for supporting its assertion that the government had an affirmative duty to assure contractor compliance. Contractor A argues that it relied on the CO and COR's duty to provide assurance to its detriment. It's a weak argument but the US Assistant Attorney doesn't want to have a jury hear it (because juries and complex government contracting issues), so the government settles quickly and for small dollars.

    4. Cognizant CO and COR receive discipline for failing to assure Contractor A's compliance with clause requirements. Their argument that their Command didn't give them the appropriate training, tools or processes falls on deaf ears. Their supervisors point out that there was a training course and they could have (and should have) attended it. Had they attended the class, they would have known how to assure their contractors were complying with the clause requirements.

    Is that how this plays out, given the IG's assertion(s)?

    Just wondering ....


  10. Don, I'm going to take your analysis at face value, without confirming your cites (the way I should). Assuming you are correct, then I don't know which is worse -- that the DoDOIG cannot interpret the regs properly, or that the ACC leadership didn't call the auditors out on their fundamental error.

    How embarrassing for the professions involved.


  11. I have to agree with Vern. I was going to post something similar to his last paragraph, but he beat me to the punch. I work with DCMA very, very often. And it's the leadership that's the issue. I'm not talking about Charlie Williams, Jr. either. I'm talking about the layers of management between the average CO and Charlie. Fix that and you fix a lot of "cultural" issues.

  12. Speaking strictly as a taxpayer, I think this practice is entirely unethical and I do not want government agencies participating in it. It taints the procurement process. Moreover, it strikes me as being contrary to President Obama's promises of government transparency.

    The Federal government should procure goods and services at a fair and resonable price, while permitting contractors to make a reasonable profit. Using phantom bids to drive down prices below what the market offers through legitimate competition is wrong, wrong, wrong.

  13. What about CAS coverage? Should CAS coverage be determined at the contract level? If so, what's the contract price for purposes of determining whether the contract is valued in excess of $650,000? Is the contract value the ceiling or the minimum amount?

    Clearly it makes much more sense to identify CAS coverage at the task order level, but that's not how DCAA sees it.

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