Monday, August 25, 2014

DoD's Decreasing Number of Contracts Based on Competition

The Department of Defense (DoD) is very concerned about the diminishing use of full and open competition for awarding contracts. Over the past four years, DoD did not meet its competition goals, and in fact, has experienced a declining competition rate. According to DoD, a competitive environment;

  • spurs innovation
  • improves quality and performance, and
  • lowers costs for the supplies and services we acquire

Last week, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, signed out a memorandum bemoaning the failure to achieve its competition goals, and announcing a new five-part program to improve the Departments performance.

Its first order of business is to form a committee and hold meetings (that should really help). The committee will identify best practices and deploy business intelligence tools (can't wait to look into that toolbox).
Each quarter we will address progress to expand and improve our use of competition at the Business Senior Integration Group meetings. We will collaborate to understand best practices that have successfully employed to either achieve direct competition or realize the benefits and efficts of indirect competition. To facilitate our analysis we will be deploying business intelligence tools that enable us to use data to identify opportunities for improvement.
The second action is to issue new guidelines to "provoke thought" (like anyone has time to read more guidelines and mull things over). You can read those guidelines here.
These guidelines are intended to provoke thought about the various approaches that may be used to competitively fulfill DoD requirements. The techniques and examples should be considered in developing acquisition strategies to tailor an approach that creates and maintains a competitive environment throughout the life cycle of a given product or service.  
Thirdly, DoD wants to compile feedback from companies who expressed interest in bidding but ultimately chose not to bid.
...the contracting officer will seek feedback from those companies who originally expressed interest to understand why they did not submit an offer. We will use this feedback to consider how we might overcome barriers to competition for future requirements. 
Fourth, DoD in trying to limit the use of non-competitive actions, will require contracting officers to use RFIs (Requests for Information) or SS (Sources Sought) before soliciting a sole source. Who knows, mayber there are sources out there that the Government is unaware of.
This technique is already used in many instances, but expanded use will inform our ability to maximize use of competitive procedures. In certain limited circumstances, it may be inappropriate or unnecessary to use an RFI or SS notice as a market research method for a particular acquisition; therefore, waivers to this requirement are permitted.  
Finally, the Department wants to make sure that contracting officers follow up on things they have promised to do. The J&As (Justification and Approvals) for sole-source procurements must describe actions to take to remove or overcome barriers to competition for subsequent acquisition of the same supplies or services.
Current policy makes certain that these action plans go to the dead letter file. There's never any followup. Now however, those plans must accompany the follow-on procurements and the contracting officer will need to justify why it didn't follow through.
To address these missed opportunities, we will require follow-on acquisitions of the same supply or service to include the previous J&A as part of the approval package. To the extent the planned actions cited in the prior J&A were not completed, the subsequent J&A must be approved at one level above the prior J&A. The approving official has the discretion to determine if the planned actions were completed, and J&As approved at the Senior Procurement Executive level will remain at that level. 
The thing that's missing in this course of action is any detailed comprehensive analysis as to why the number of competitive procurements is decreasing. It may be for reason(s) that have nothing to do with this new DoD program.

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