Government Contracting Automation?

Recent survey results of federal acquisition senior procurement executives and chief acquisition officers provide a window into the world of government procurement and what should occur over the next few years, according to Kraig Conrad CEO of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), who conducted the survey. (Federal News Network, January 7, 2020)

According to NCMA, the three major findings from the survey are:

  • The role of the contracting officer is changing
  • The business of contracting is changing.
  • The workforce is changing.

The survey found that respondents are looking to shorten the procurement cycle while giving the Contracting Officer the ability to be less restricted and able to focus on providing solutions as opposed to getting mired in the routine administrative tasks. According to Conrad, the acquisition professional should see their role as a solution maker and not a compliance “police” officer, which ultimately limits the Contracting Officer’s impact. (ibid)

One element that threads itself through all of the findings is the need for top cover from agency executives to allow contracting officers as well as program managers the leeway and freedom to try different things and bring new ideas to the table. Conrad gives the example of the Air Force pitch days, in which 51 contracts were awarded to companies that have little or no experience with the military. The service doled out $3.5 million to those small businesses on a Wednesday — each in 15 minutes or less. The first installments of the companies’ contracts were in their bank accounts almost immediately. (ibid)

Conrad noted, “we heard from a lot of our senior procurement executives that in an environment where they feel they have top cover, the risk aversion conversation is easier to overcome. Otherwise, you will go right back to the same old model where everyone is trying to protect themselves. That top cover really only comes when someone in a leadership structure is not afraid to get in trouble. You run into situations where the senior leadership doesn’t feel they are covered or protected. It will take leaders stepping out and leaning over these challenges to be able to open challenges for their workforce.” (ibid)

Another area of impact on federal acquisition is technology. The survey white paper states “Several senior leaders even described a future in which an encyclopedic knowledge of the rules and regulations will be devalued as artificial intelligence further automates their application to acquisitions or incorporates regulatory provisions and requirements into contracting app algorithms.” (ibid)

According to Conrad, “we need to get better at how we train into the workforce. Those that have data science understanding need to tell a really good story with data. How are the contracting officers the solution makers? That really comes down to competency. What is those balance of skills that will allow someone to be competent as a business leader in this function? That is one of the areas, because of technology advances, that the technical components will soon be outweighed by the software skill needs.” Conrad feels the “softer skills” include a baseline knowledge of the actual problem/mission, products, and their related markets. (ibid)

Most senior leaders interviewed expect a shift from tactical to strategic work as technology is used for repetitive or routine tasks. It’s expected that many administrative tasks, for example, contract modifications, will become fully automated. Some senior leaders look to AI to further automate regulatory provisions and requirements into contracting app algorithms. (ibid)

Conrad expects to meet with federal acquisition leaders to discuss the survey results and begin the process of changing the role of the contracting officer.

Wondering if this will affect how you work with a Contracting Officer? Give us a call.

 

Wanna Connect a Hybrid Cloud?

The Department of Defense (DoD) wants a hybrid cloud environment to serve as the cornerstone for department-wide use of artificial intelligence. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) issued two sources sought notices from all business that can provide system engineering and integration “to support the procurement, implementation, and operation of a hybrid and multi-cloud deployable development and production platform for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) solutions.” (Fedscoop, November 25, 2019)

This hybrid cloud environment will form the basis of the Joint Common Foundation (JCF), a DoD/Government  AI/ML development platform, containing Data, Tools, and Processes. JCF will include shared data, reusable tools, frameworks, and standards. Additionally, it will include cloud and edge services to develop, secure, test and evaluate, deliver, and sustain capabilities. “The JCF will incorporate the architecture and software artifacts of the Enterprise Development, Security and Operations (DevSecOps) initiative and evolve toward enabling the DoD Artificial Intelligence Strategy.” (ibid)

Proposed vendors answer specific questions about past experience integrating multiple cloud providers at scale with continuous development and integration while meeting security compliance standards. A solicitation conference will be held in early 2020, followed by a request for quotation, and award by the end of September 2020.

The award of JCF will move swiftly. Give us a call if we can answer any questions or assist with your proposal efforts.

CMMC RFI

The Department of Defense (DoD) has issued a request for information for the “long-term implementation, functioning, sustainment, and growth” of the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). (FedBizOps.gov, October 3, 2019)

Last month, DoD issued version 0.4 of the CMMC. Contractors may now see the cybersecurity standards required when working on projects with controlled but unclassified information. CMMC will assist DoD to secure more than 300,000 organizations. (Fed Scoop, October 4, 2019)

The accreditation body does not directly perform the assessments but manages third-party organizations that do. It is  a nonprofit that utilizes “revenues generated through dues, fees, partner relationships, conferences, etc.” to fund the work.  The deadline to submit feedback is October 21, 2019. (FedBizOps.gov ibid)

We’d be glad to discuss this RFI with you. Just give us a call.

FAR Changes

With the end of the Fiscal Year looming, the push is on to exhaust agency budgets. In an effort to make acquisitions move through the process more quickly and smoothly, DOD, GSA, and NASA have issued an amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). The amendment fine-tunes the  FAR and eliminates a step in the acquisition process. (Fedscoop, July 15, 2019)

Per the FAR, agencies were required to justify the best procurement approach when using GSA’s IT Schedule 70, Governmentwide Acquisition Contracts, or assisted acquisition solutions. As of June 5, the new FAR amendment allows agencies to skip that step. Agencies are now able to quickly find GSA IT category contracts and acquisition solutions. (ibid)

According to Bill Zielinski, assistant commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition services office, agencies “can now identify and quickly use GSA IT Category contracts and acquisition solutions, especially as they embark on their end-of-year IT spending and acquisition efforts.” Zielinski feels the new change to the FAR reduces the administrative burden for agencies procuring through GSA’s IT Schedule 70 or through GWACs such as 8(a) STARS 2 and Alliant 2, as well as through assisted acquisition programs. (Federal Computer Week, July 15, 2019)

Curious about the new FAR language and how it affects your GSA schedule? Give us a call and we can review it with you.