Policy changes may be limited in their ability to drive improvements in cost, schedule and performance. Many of the root causes of the chronic underperformance in defense acquisition stem from the culture that exists around who is buying. As such, results from policy changes alone without a cultural overhaul will inevitably fall short of the mark.
The list of human capital problems in the acquisition community begins with a misguided incentive structure. Few institutionalized benefits exist for edging away from the DoD 5000.02 Acquisition Lifecycle– the elaborate roadmap that directs DoD purchasing. In the words of a 25-year Air Force veteran with significant budgetary experience, acquisition officers are encouraged to focus on the “near rocks” (immediate challenges) and lean on reliable—though potentially sub-optimal—strategies. Locking in on the status quo can only serve to smother technological innovation and suppress adaptive business practices.
This issue is compounded by both internal and external misperceptions about the acquisition process. A 30-year Navy officer noted bluntly that some active duty personnel avoid or quickly seek to move out of acquisition assignments since they do not look at buying goods as the work of a warfighter. Additionally, a former Army Program Manager complained that legislators on the Hill appropriate dollars to DoD acquisition hubs without knowing “how the sausage is made."
The acquisition function’s relationship with industry is another pain point that policy changes cannot easily cure. As my former Navy colleague remarked, DoD acquisition leaders and their partners in industry use similar language in handling acquisition activities, but often mean different things. For example, a DoD-generated ‘should-cost’ modeling exercise on a particular program doesn’t decompose cost components with the granularity and analytic rigor that industry uses when conducting a similar exercise. A dollar is a dollar no matter how it is spent, yet the different ways that government and private industry evaluate cost leads to communication breakdowns and inefficiencies.
Going further, the Pentagon continues to commit substantial financial and human resources to internal Research & Development efforts even as procurement specialists habitually look first to private industry to meet their technology and management needs. DoD-wide policy can certainly nudge the department’s procurement arms in the direction of healthier, more efficient relationships with their suppliers. However, organic partnerships will only truly evolve when leaders in the acquisitions community start re-examining this dynamic and better articulating roles and responsibilities to industry on their own, program-specific terms.
To go back to incentives, the emphasis for rank-and-file procurement specialists is on designing briefings, not developing technological capability. In some cases, colleagues in the Pentagon have heard of acquisition managers presenting nearly 80 separate briefings to over 100 people… on a single program in a single year! Already restricted by weighty procedural obligations, a distressing trend of budgetary uncertainty and the resulting focus on the execution year alone further limits the procurement function’s ability to exercise foresight and creative thought.
If Ashton Carter can inspire a new wave of cultural norms along these lines, broad-based acquisition reform might actually amount to more than just a bureaucratic Band-Aid.
Labels and Tags
Accountability (66) Adequate documentation (5) ADR in procurement (3) Allocation of risks (5) Best interest of government (11) Best practices (19) Best value (14) Bidder prejudice (11) Blanket purchase agreement (1) Bridge contract (2) Bundling (6) Cancellation and rejection (2) Centralized procurement structure (12) Changes during bid process (13) Clarifications vs Discussions (1) Competence (9) Competition vs Efficiency (28) Competitive position (2) Compliance (32) Conflict of interest (28) Contract administration (24) Contract disputes (1) Contract extension or modification (8) Contract terms (2) Contract types (6) Contract vs solicitation dispute (1) Contractor responsibility (18) Conviction (3) Cooperative purchasing (3) Cost and pricing (13) Debarment (4) Determinations (8) Determining responsibility (32) Disclosure requirements (7) Discussions during solicitation (9) Disposal of surplus property (3) Effective enforcement requirement (34) Effective procurement management (3) Effective specifications (35) Emergency procurement (14) eProcurement (5) Equitable tolling (2) Evaluation of submissions (22) Fair and equitable treatment (14) Fair and reasonable value (23) Fiscal effect of procurement (13) Good governance (8) Governmental functions (26) Guam (14) Guam procurement law (12) Improper influence (11) Incumbency (12) Integrity of system (29) Interested party (7) Jurisdiction (1) Justification (1) Life-cycle cost (1) Limits of government contracting (5) Lore vs Law (4) market research (6) Materiality (3) Methods of source selection (28) Mistakes (3) Models of Procurement (1) Needs assessment (11) No harm no foul? (8) Other procurement links (14) Outsourcing (31) Past performance (12) Planning policy (33) Politics of procurement (46) PPPs (6) Prequalification (1) Principle of competition (88) Principles of procurement (21) Private vs public contract (15) Procurement authority (5) Procurement controversies series (75) Procurement ethics (17) Procurement fraud (27) Procurement lifecycle (9) Procurement philosophy (15) Procurement procedures (29) Procurement reform (57) Procurement theory (11) Procurement workforce (2) Procurment philosophy (6) Professionalism (17) Protest - formality (1) Protest - timing (10) Protests - general (35) Purposes and policies of procurement (9) Recusal (1) Remedies (16) Requirement for new procurement (4) Resolution of protests (3) Responsiveness (11) Restrictive specifications (4) Review procedures (12) Scope of contract (16) Settlement (2) Social preference provisions (59) Sole source (46) Sovereign immunity (2) Staffing (7) Standard commercial products (1) Standards of review (2) Standing (5) Stays and injunctions (6) Structure of procurement (1) Substantiation (9) Surety (1) Suspension (6) The procurement record (1) The role of price (9) The subject matter of procurement (22) Trade agreements vs procurement (1) Training (32) Transparency (59) Uniformity (5) Unsolicited proposals (2)
Monday, January 12, 2015
Cultural change is a procurement problem, too
Attacking the root of the problem in DoD acquisitions by Alex Haber, a business analyst in the national security practice at Censeo Consulting Group.