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How to structure for a phase-in period for KTR clearances at PoP start, but still pay the contractor?


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9 minutes ago, Voyager said:

For a quick, typical example in order to further our learning I am going to hypothetically call them IT help desk services (jesshere's CO may apply the example later).  These are professional services with a PWS that specifies a monthly deliverable report of "Number of Tickets Opened" and "Number of Tickets Resolved", plus details and statistics.  

I’m hesitant to bring this up but we need more information to discuss “transition.”   We don’t know if “one size fits all” works for all offerors like paying a set reduction.  In addition one offeror may be able to bring a large share of cleared workers on board quickly while another may not.  Transition may involve more than just clearing workers.  Depending on the nature of the work, offeror may perform a study of work and identify and propose different ways to perform that can be more beneficial.  

 

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48 minutes ago, C Culham said:

I wonder is the service commercial?  If so then what does the market research suggest is done with regard to on-boarding?

Wouldn't the market research on this specific topic just be the government chasing its tail, since security clearances are not required in a typical B2B market?

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15 minutes ago, Voyager said:

Wouldn't the market research on this specific topic just be the government chasing its tail, since security clearances are not required in a typical B2B market?

This could be just background investigations rather than security clearances.  Lots of commercial business conduct investigations of contractor staff which are very similar to the government.  Plus market research shouldn’t just limit itself to the commercial sector - it should include how other agencies do the same or similar efforts.

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1 hour ago, Voyager said:

For a quick, typical example in order to further our learning I am going to hypothetically call them IT help desk services (jesshere's CO may apply the example later).  These are professional services with a PWS that specifies a monthly deliverable report of "Number of Tickets Opened" and "Number of Tickets Resolved", plus details and statistics.  I am thinking unit rate is "month".  So, the number of months that these pros are uncleared may vary in the base year.  Once the last one is cleared the alternate CLIN may begin being invoiced.

@VoyagerMay I assume that you want the help desk people on site during working hours?

Do you know how many help desk people you will want on site during those hours?

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1 hour ago, Voyager said:

Wouldn't the market research on this specific topic just be the government chasing its tail, since security clearances are not required in a typical B2B market?

Maybe.  I will agree the OP is probably speaking of security clearances as one part of on boarding but it is not stated.  Yet, what does the company do in on-boarding do with regards to pay. What do Nike, Boeing, Institute, Amazon, etc do?

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6 minutes ago, C Culham said:

Maybe.  I will agree the OP is probably speaking of security clearances as one part of on boarding but it is not stated.  Yet, what does the company do in on-boarding do with regards to pay. What do Nike, Boeing, Institute, Amazon, etc do?

After thought...how about Loomis?

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1 hour ago, Voyager said:

Wouldn't the market research on this specific topic just be the government chasing its tail, since security clearances are not required in a typical B2B market?

I still feel like we're selling the potential benefits of market research short if we're only addressing the commercial B2B market (although I get that FAR part 10 is heavy on the commerciality aspect of market research). The Federal Government writes a lot of contracts with security clearance requirements, and lots of contractors live the process of onboarding personnel and getting them cleared every day. I suspect that some of those companies know a lot about the process (honestly probably more than any single agency does, since they see how multiple agencies do it, not just your agency); have a lot of experience with the different approaches the government has tried, both good and bad; and would love an opportunity to provide as much input as you'll let them in developing an approach to transition. You'll know that they want to shape the transition process to benefit them (maybe by tailoring it to their company's strengths, by prejudicing it against the incumbent, and/or by balancing the risk/profit decision in industry's favor) but that doesn't mean the information won't be useful.

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Maybe I do not understand, but the problem seems pretty straightforward. I don't think its a hard problem.

One question to ask industry during acquisition planning is: How long does it take to clear someone from scratch?

  • According to my research a DOD confidential or secret clearance currently takes 1 to 2 months.
  • A top secret takes 4 - 8 months.

Suppose that you want performance to begin on October 1. Supposes further than you want a workforce of 50 persons, all of which must be cleared.

Do you want them all on Day 1 of performance or are you able to phase them in? Can you provide a schedule to prospective offerors? If so, you can structure your line item prices accordingly.

If you can phase them in, then another question is: If we award the contract on September 1 conditioned upon availability of funds, what percentage of the full complement of 50 persons could you have on October 1? October 15? October 30?

Same question, but we award the contract on August 1. And so forth.

 

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46 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

@VoyagerMay I assume that you want the help desk people on site during working hours?

Do you know how many help desk people you will want on site during those hours?

Say the requirement specifies help desk operating hours of 6AM - 8PM.  It is neither a job nor a project, to quote your latest briefing paper.  It is for operations.

Say the historical number of FTEs will be provided to all offerors but not included in the resulting contract.

Again, I am describing typical acquisitions of professional services here.

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25 minutes ago, RJ_Walther said:

I still feel like we're selling the potential benefits of market research short if we're only addressing the commercial B2B market (although I get that FAR part 10 is heavy on the commerciality aspect of market research). The Federal Government writes a lot of contracts with security clearance requirements, and lots of contractors live the process of onboarding personnel and getting them cleared every day. I suspect that some of those companies know a lot about the process (honestly probably more than any single agency does, since they see how multiple agencies do it, not just your agency); have a lot of experience with the different approaches the government has tried, both good and bad; and would love an opportunity to provide as much input as you'll let them in developing an approach to transition. You'll know that they want to shape the transition process to benefit them (maybe by tailoring it to their company's strengths, by prejudicing it against the incumbent, and/or by balancing the risk/profit decision in industry's favor) but that doesn't mean the information won't be useful.

Agree, conduct the MR.  And a CO's use of or disregard for the market research respondents' advice directly affects the competition.  I don't know if anyone would bid on a CLIN schema like this, especially if the process for clearances involves government action at any point.  But this forum is a laboratory of ideas, and an experiment like this one I've described can be applied to some other problem, perhaps one where a contractor's process needs a contract's designed incentive to increase speed (and no government delay is at fault).  Just the fact that we've led @jesshere to the MR pool means she may drink freely of it now.

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17 minutes ago, Voyager said:

Say the requirement specifies help desk operating hours of 6AM - 8PM.  It is neither a job nor a project, to quote your latest briefing paper.  It is for operations.

Say the historical number of FTEs will be provided to all offerors but not included in the resulting contract.

Again, I am describing typical acquisitions of professional services here.

I’ve been involved in more help desk competitions than I care to remember.  Most don’t specify required FTEs as you stated.  Rather workload data is provided on the solicitations including extensive background.  Offerors are free to propose their own staffing but the resulting contract is fixed price with incentives/disincentives based upon performance. 

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33 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

One question to ask industry during acquisition planning is: How long does it take to clear someone from scratch?

  • According to my research a DOD confidential or secret clearance currently takes 1 to 2 months.
  • A top secret takes 4 - 8 months

I have a feeling jesshere is concerned with a non-DoD security clearance by the original 2-4 months statement.  

 

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16 hours ago, Voyager said:

Say the requirement specifies help desk operating hours of 6AM - 8PM.  It is neither a job nor a project, to quote your latest briefing paper.  It is for operations.

Say the historical number of FTEs will be provided to all offerors but not included in the resulting contract.

Again, I am describing typical acquisitions of professional services here.

@Voyager How about this CLIN in Section B or the appropriate place in the commercial services schedule:

  • Description: Help Desk Services in accordance with Section C, Statement of work.
  • Quantity: 1
  • Unit: Operation (instead of Months)

No time unit like hours or months.

In Section C you specify the number of people to be provided and the days and hours to be worked, along with the tasks to be performed and the results to be delivered. By putting that number of people here you can change the number of people using the Changes clause. You can explain in the Scope section that the number of people may fluctuate. Increases and decreases are thus within scope,

In Section F you specify the period of performance, from ___ to ___.

You insert a Section H clause entitled "Advance Agreement on Labor Pricing" inserting the wage rates to be used to price change order additions or reductions in labor during the period of performance.

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1 hour ago, Voyager said:

Someone remind me: what makes this controversial again?

Nothing that I know of. If you want a specific number of persons, then say so. If you can set a standard of performance that allows the contractor to decide how many to use to meet the standard, then it's not necessary.

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This thread is running its course.  My final thoughts.

14 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

I don't think its a hard problem.

I tend to agree.  I found it interesting that the discussion addressed pre-award matters from evaluation of proposals to configuration of contract line items but little about contract administration.  I have a nagging feeling that administration of current/past contracts might be part of the problem.  What is really broke and contractors simply live with it?  Nice to see some effort by the COR team to dig in and see if they can find a solution.

13 hours ago, Voyager said:

And a CO's use of or disregard for the market research respondents' advice directly affects the competition. 

By the OP's own words one place that is broke is the CO's involvement but I wonder if the CO is really the one to use or disregard the market research?  I have long been under the impression that market research should be used by the program people (and in this case the COR team) to craft a requirements package that goes to the CO.  And that market research would support to the CO what recommendations for Section B, C, H, and  L and beyond (or the counterparts in a commericial solicitation/contract) are being made by the program/COR team.  

7 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

If you want a specific number of persons, then say so. If you can set a standard of performance that allows the contractor to decide how many to use to meet the standard, then it's not necessary.

So how about the overlooked element of the process the RFI?  Communicate wants and constraints, ask about how we can do this, get industry feedback and then put great ideas it in solicitation/contract language.

Finally do not forget about negotiation.  The end game is to find a solution that meets the best interests of all involved.  It is not a hard problem it just takes effort beyond handing it to a contractor and implying it must be done this way. 

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11 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

Nothing that I know of. If you want a specific number of persons, then say so. If you can set a standard of performance that allows the contractor to decide how many to use to meet the standard, then it's not necessary.

I found the controversial principle, at FAR 37.602(b)(1), and - full disclosure - I used to advocate it in my early days of Performance-Based Acquisition (PBA) requirements development.  The residual effect of the training curriculum around it still bends my thinking at work, despite my attempts to broaden my horizons.

Quote

(b) Agencies shall, to the maximum extent practicable— (1) Describe the work in terms of the required results rather than either “how” the work is to be accomplished or the number of hours to be provided (see 11.002(a)(2) and 11.101)

I have been made wise to the history of this PBA policy thanks to you elsewhere on WIFCON, Vern, and have found that the conclusion it is inapplicable to professional service (staffing) contracts is unavoidable.  But I want to make one additional point to yours, found in the statute that led to FAR 11.002(a)(2) policy.  Look at the "types of specifications" listed in 41 U.S.C. 3306(a), and, remembering your engineering courses, tell me, do these look like they originate from a systems engineering requirements owner or from a COR-led (no-PM), staffing requirements owner?

Quote

(3) TYPES OF SPECIFICATIONS.—For the purposes of paragraphs (1) and (2), the type of specification included in a solicitation shall depend on the nature of the needs of the executive agency and the market available to satisfy those needs. Subject to those needs, specifications may be stated in terms of—
(A) function, so that a variety of products or services may qualify; 
(B) performance, including specifications of the range of acceptable characteristics or of the minimum acceptable standards; or 
(C) design requirements

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33 minutes ago, Voyager said:

Look at the "types of specifications" listed in 41 U.S.C. 3306(a), and, remembering your engineering courses, tell me, do these look like they originate from a systems engineering requirements owner or from a COR-led (no-PM), staffing requirements owner?

@Voyager I'm not sure what you are asking me.

Are you asking whether one of those types of specification should be developed by a system engineer or a by a COR-led customer team ?

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@Vern Edwards No, my apologies - I was unclear.  I am asking if the genesis of PBA policy arose from policymakers recognizing system engineers were overusing design specifications, and then concluding that functional specs would have promoted better competition.  If so, I think this furthers the argument of its inapplicability to help desk and other staff support contracts.  The idea of a lone COR in need of staff designing any kind of specifications for the work they manage is ludicrous, to me.  They are typically management analysts, not engineers.

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5 hours ago, C Culham said:

I found it interesting that the discussion addressed pre-award matters from evaluation of proposals to configuration of contract line items but little about contract administration.  I have a nagging feeling that administration of current/past contracts might be part of the problem. 

Carl, you might be on to something here.  A problem many contractors have is that once they get employees cleared, the government hires them away from the contractor requiring the contractor to start the process over again.

Looking at Vern's research results on how long it takes for contractors to get a clearance for employees, time is only one factor.  Another is the number of contractor employees the government will clear at one time.  If the contractor needs six employees cleared, the government may give the contractor a quota of only 2 which means the contractor has to wait until 2 employees get cleared then submit two more for clearance.

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6 hours ago, Voyager said:

I am asking if the genesis of PBA policy arose from policymakers recognizing system engineers were overusing design specifications, and then concluding that functional specs would have promoted better competition. 

No.

PBA (PBSA) originated from OFPP's attempt to find a rational way to effectuate OMB Circular A-76. OFPP was influenced by an Air Force study and program of the late 1970s.

The preference for functional and performance specifications predated PBA.

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