Thursday, September 14, 2017

Update on Section 809 Panel

It is time for an update on the activities of the Section 809 Panel, an advisory panel formed to streamline the Defense Department's acquisition regulations. The name 'Section 809 Panel" comes from Section 809 of the Fiscal Year 2016 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act). For more information on this panel, refer to "New Advisory Panel to be Formed to Streamline Acquisition Regulations". Briefly, the Section 809 Panel's overarching objective has been to make recommendations that, if adopted, will enable DoD to more consistently buy what it needs in a timely and cost-effective manner - whether that be commercial items, information technology, services, weapon systems, or the full range of tools and equipment on which war-fighters depend.

One thing for certain, the Section 809 Panel has been very active, holding monthly meetings and frequent stakeholder meetings. Its 18 appointed commissioners have been augmented by 30 or so professional staff members. Its got its own website ( with plenty of information on its activities and research. This past May, the Panel published its first interim report where it set forth the framework under which it intends to focus its work and recommendations. These include:

  1. Adapt at the speed of a changing world
  2. Leverage the dynamic defense marketplace
  3. Allocate resources effectively
  4. Simplify acquisition
  5. Enable the workforce

The one that we're most interested in is number 4, simplifying the acquisition process but all five are tightly integrated. For example, you can simplify the acquisition process now but if you are not adaptable to the speed of a changing world, the acquisition process will soon feel cumbersome once again.

There have been many failed attempts at acquisition reform so what makes the likelihood that the Section  809 Panel will succeed (or have some modicum of success). The committee recognizes the fact that past reform initiatives have not had much success. That is why one sees the word "Bold" used liberally in their publications and website. In its Interim Report, the Panel makes the following observation:
In the last 50 years, there have been more than 100 reports, studies, and analyses of how DoD acquires goods and services. From these reports, the lesson learned is clear. Tinkering and incremental approaches to acquisition reform have not provided the necessary results and are especially ineffective in today's rapidly changing environment. In fact, incremental approaches have exacerbated problems with the acquisition system by adding more layers of sign off, mountains of paperwork, and hundreds of additional regulations. DoD must implement bold approaches and bold solutions to produce true reform (underscore added).
Its not too late to get in on the action. The stakeholder meetings are open to the public and there are ample opportunities for present their reform ideas for consideration. At one recent Panel meeting, a presenter offered five recommendations for reform:

  • Give contractors a total contract price range in the solicitation. It would be helpful to know whether the Government wants and can afford a Mercedes or whether it just has the budget for a used Yugo with ripped upholstery.
  • Make GAO the only forum for bid protests. Have you ever been the awardee who has to stop work as the protester ties up the award through multiple forums?
  • GSA cannot be on the leading edge of technology because it requires contractors to have previously sold the product or service before it can add it to a GSA Schedule. So, GSA is always looking backwards and not forward.
  • Eliminate the use of cost reimbursable contracts for low tech services when the end product is just the service.
  • Post awarded (redacted) contracts to a common website rather than make people go through the burdensome process of requesting them under the Freedom of Information Act.
These are just a few of probably hundreds, if not thousands of ideas that have been proffered for consideration by the Panel. If you've got some, this is the time to let the Panel know. Spend some time on their website and see whether you can contribute.

No comments:

Post a Comment