Summer is a time to think and reflect. So now that schools are open, the annual budget standoff again takes center stage and everything starts moving at a quicker pace (except the traffic).
What can we make of all the news and trends affecting contracting that will help frame the issues, decipher the larger picture, and determine what is happening and what we can anticipate?
There is certainly no shortage of issues, so what are the buzzword trends?
- Lowest-priced technically acceptable;
- Contract oversight and Department of Defense headquarters staff (along with millennials);
- Large weapon systems;
- Defense budgets;
- Sole source contracts;
- Pay freezes;
- Trade shows;
- Strategic sourcing;
- Foreign military sales;
- Conference attendance restrictions;
- GAO high-risk list;
- Federal Procurement Data System contract obligations;
- Number of government contractors;
- Aging workforce;
- Past performance considerations;
- Centralized data computing centers;
- Integrated acquisition environment;
- Cost analysis skills;
- GSA Schedules;
- The words "alignment," "synergy," and "on-site working";
- Professional Services Council President and CEO Stan Soloway.
- Acquisition innovation;
- Government/industry interaction;
- Government shutdowns and sequester;
- Program management skills;
- Category management;
- The Under Secretary of Defense for Business Management and Information;
- Small business participation;
- Contractor diversification;
- Supply chain management;
- Cloud computing;
- Agile acquisition;
- Internet of things;
- Disruptive technologies;
- Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act;
- Silicon Valley participation;
- Contract purchasing system reviews;
- Contracting cyber security;
- Global supply chains;
- The "Uber-ization" of government services;
- Program management;
- Younger workforce;
- Stan Soloway, who — regardless of role — will remain a recognized acquisition leader.
- Congressional condemnation;
- Acquisition reform;
- Acquisition professional development;
- Procurement process;
- The Federal Acquisition Regulation;
- DCAA audit backlog;
- Hard-working individual contract and program managers, along with visionary executives, performing best practices action by action and day by day.
As agencies struggle to keep up with changing demands from citizens and lawmakers, the contracting process again moves into the firing line and everyone wants immediate solutions. The recent compilations of such proposals into drafted Hill legislation indicate this must be an iterative process. There is no single, grandiose solution.
For example, cyber contracting (as opposed to what, just contracting?) has captured the attention of everyone affected by recent high-visibility breaches, as well as the public at large. Whether it's large commercial retailers or the government's national security or human resource apparatus, the deficiencies leading to these still-emerging problems and their widespread implications are still being digested. Short-term solutions, reactions, and finger-pointing is well along, but with regard to contracting policy and process, the answers lie in already well-discussed, well-documented, and well-known existing procedures, processes, and education.
Problems identified in recent large weapons system development similarly will be the subject of educational term papers, but existing best practices are either not recognized, short-circuited, or simply ignored. Answers will not be found by reorganizing or modifying oversight authority.
Whether termed modular, iterative, or agile, contracting for IT products and services certainly requires a unique technical understanding. However, all the available tools—including policy, processes, and critical thinking skills—remain unchanged to ensure customer satisfaction and mission success.
From proper identification of requirements to the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders, proper staffing, professionalizing and organizational alignment of the workforce, sound acquisition planning, and contract management principles, what needs to be done is already understood.
Through 30-plus years of periodic legislative changes, the individual, trained, conscientious, professional contract manager, working together with a designated and similarly experienced, knowledgeable program manager, is the key to program success. Along with the right team and having been granted the full authority necessary, maybe new buzz words need not replace similarly defined old ones as the answer to current challenges. Instead, reverting to and enforcing the professional competencies needed to perform the professional work required can be seen as the ultimate success model.