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woman leading business meeting with 4 other people in conference room woman working at desk two men working with machinery man in uniform scanning items in warehouse room of officers speaking at meeting NORFOLK (Jan. 10, 2020) Lt. Joseph Dejunco, from Atlanta, Georgia, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) air department, trains on a flight deck virtual-reality simulation trainer in the Carrier-Advanced Reconfigurable Training System (C-ARTS) located at Naval Station Norfolk.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. looks on as Staff Sgt. David Ahn, Kessel Run 3D program manager, demonstrates how to fix code in minutes versus days during a tour of Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Detachment 12, Kessel Run, at their headquarters in Boston, Feb. 16.


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Nuclear Triad Gets an Upgrade with GBSDstring;#/News/Nuclear-Triad-Gets-an-Upgrade-with-GBSDNuclear Triad Gets an Upgrade with GBSD2022-03-01T17:00:00Z GBSD - News Story Banner.png, GBSD - News Story Banner.png GBSD - News Story Banner.png<div class="ExternalClass7877A902A1B443FCA493185FDBD4A731"><p>The second DAU webcast to focus on Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) featured several speakers from the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (AFNWC), Hill Air Force Base, Utah, who discussed the Air Force’s modernization of its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system, which comprises the land-based segment of the U.S. nuclear triad.<br> <br> The panel of experts talked about the next-generation GBSD ICBM system and its vast portfolio replacing the Minuteman III ICBM that currently provides the nation’s most responsive global strategic deterrent capability. The portfolio includes the replacement of the weapon system and the task of changing 400 missiles at over 45 launch centers and 600 facilities.<br> <br> Colonel Jason Bartolomei, Director, AFNWC GBSD Systems Directorate, delivered opening remarks and explained the journey of the program that will span about 25 years.<br> <br> “GBSD is a full system replacement of the Minuteman III weapon system that has been on alert for more than 50 years,” he said.<br> <br> Bartolomei is responsible for the development, deployment and sustainment of the new GBSD weapon system. He described the novel concept of owning the technical baseline and creating an architectural framework to share with the warfighter as the optimal approach, which aligns succinctly with system engineering.<br> <br> “The collaboration between GBSD’s warfighter, intelligence and acquisition communities is the best that I’ve ever seen,” he said.<br> <br> Many of the critical requirements the speakers honed in on were functional capabilities that need to be delivered within a decade.<br> <br> Phil Jones, Deputy Chief, ICBM Requirements Division, Air Force Global Strike Command, reminded the participants that stable funding and requirements were critical in understanding the data.<br> <br> Additional takeaways from the 90-minute discussion were:</p> <ul> <li>Air Force needs to secure a contracting team that understands the dynamics of the GBSD nuclear mission</li> <li>Requirement reviews ensured the technology was sufficiently advanced to sustain the baseline of the program</li> <li>AFNWC’s top priority is to deliver the required capability with time certainty through use of digital acquisition tools</li> <li>GBSD was also featured in a recent episode of Let's Talk Agile. Collectively, these episodes provide engineers, acquisition professionals and program managers an understanding of the criticality of GBSD's impact to national defense, how it aligns acquisition strategy with customer requirements and its model-based systems engineering.<br> </li> </ul></div>string;#/News/Nuclear-Triad-Gets-an-Upgrade-with-GBSD
DAU Undergoing Reaffirmation of Accreditationstring;#/News/DAU-Undergoing-Reaffirmation-of-AccreditationDAU Undergoing Reaffirmation of Accreditation2021-05-10T12:00:00Z - News Banner - COE.png, - News Banner - COE.png - News Banner - COE.png<div class="ExternalClass9451BF26795A42FA9046E43293D31B1A"><p>Like many of you, DAU has spent much of the past year figuring out how to do things differently, but maybe not for all the same reasons. While we certainly had to make a lot of quick changes to accommodate remote work and virtual learning on a timeline thrust upon us by the pandemic, we were already starting down a path to transform the way we train, equip and support the Defense Acquisition Workforce. </p> <p>This transformation echoes other efforts happening in the Defense acquisition community. The Adaptive Acquisition Framework (AAF) empowered the workforce to make smart decisions with a wide array of new tools. The Back-to-Basics initiative will help create a foundation for customizable training. To help you succeed in this new, dynamic environment, DAU is transforming into a modern learning platform to deliver career-long learning tailored to your needs.</p> <p>While DAU is currently undergoing significant changes in how we support the Defense Acquisition Workforce, we are committed to doing so while maintaining the high standards required of an accredited institution. </p> <p>DAU has been accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE) since 2002 and undergoes periodic reviews to maintain this status. This year, we are seeking reaffirmation of accreditation and will host a virtual team visit June 1-2, 2021. Anyone wishing to make comments related DAU’s qualifications for accreditation can submit them online at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, or write to:<br> <br> Executive Director,<br> Commission of the Council on Occupational Education,<br> 7840 Roswell Road, Building 300, Suite 325,<br> Atlanta, GA, 30350. </p> <p>COE will accept only comments accompanied by the submitter's name and address.</p></div>string;#/News/DAU-Undergoing-Reaffirmation-of-Accreditation



Clarifying the Language of Acquisition Innovation the Language of Acquisition Innovation2021-06-21T16:00:00Z,<div class="ExternalClassD2A7E60EDC5A47239F8E9DDF5835D703">As the United States shifts its focus back to great power competition, ambitious and revanchist peer adversaries position themselves to challenge U.S. dominance in nearly every domain. Maintaining our technological edge requires a faster, more agile, and more innovative force. In response, new organizations such as the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), AFWERX, SOFWERX, and many others have stood up. However, these small organizations are not designed to replace the roles of every traditional product center and program office. We need to capitalize on benefits that come with certain economies of scale by educating, training, and equipping the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition workforce of more than 170,000 professionals. However, driving a cultural change in such a large and well-established organization is a monumental task.<br> <br> Caught in the undertow of the consistent leadership push to “accelerate change” and innovate, acquisition professionals are re-evaluating how they fit into this new way of doing business. Most perplexed by leadership messaging are the middle managers—those tasked with keeping an organization running, guiding inexperienced junior acquirers, and implementing the myriad federal, departmental, and command-level instructions. A clearly articulated strategy is necessary for a manager to adjust the modus operandi. However, the signal often gets lost in the noise of buzzwords and jargon.<br> <br> Innovation is not a magic dust that is sprinkled over a program to sprout better ideas. Repeated admonitions to “innovate!” leave troublesome ambiguity concerning both what to innovate and how to go about it. Recent changes to acquisition rules, including Section 804 authorities and the Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA), benefit managers by providing more room for tailoring—but how should managers use this new breathing space? Some have embraced the new opportunities, but many find themselves perplexed or worse, threatened.<br> <br> Furthermore, evocative terms like “innovation” often serve as the catch-all for a group of related concepts such as creativity, speed, agility, and other desiderata. These attributes, while related and sometimes mutually-reinforcing, are different concepts. As such, they may require different operational approaches and management cultures. The first step in instituting foundational changes in our organizations is to understand the desired end-state and, therefore, to define our terms. This article takes a foundational step toward broader cultural change in the acquisition workforce by examining the distinction and interactions between innovation, speed, and agility—setting the stage with precise language for proposing organizational changes.<br> <br> Essential Attributes: Innovation, Speed, and Agility<br> <br> <strong>(1) </strong>Innovation is deceptively difficult to define. The term appears neither within the Defense Acquisition Glossary nor the June 2020 edition of the DoD Glossary. The Department of the Army’s “Innovation Strategy 2017-2021” uses the term 186 times without defining it, though it references the “U.S. Army Operating Concept,” which defines innovation as “The act or process of introducing something new, or creating new uses for existing designs.” We prefer a more succinct definition that captures these ideas: innovation is “useful novelty.” Writing in 1992, U.S. Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd echoed this idea, concluding that novelty is vital for organizations to meet changing conditions. Jeff DeGraff, noted author and thinker on innovation, expands on this broad definition by explaining that innovation “enhances something, eliminates something, returns something from our past, and eventually reverses into its opposite.”<br> <br> The value of an innovation has a time component since any novel idea has a lifespan. However, innovation is measured not only by the speed of its introduction; it also has a magnitude component. This combination of time scale and magnitude yields different categories of innovation. For example, an innovation might be a small, predictable improvement to an existing product. Such capability increments are termed “evolutionary change”—for example, a software update for a laptop that causes programs to use less memory.<br> <br> Improvements might also take the form of a significant increase in capability that changes the way users interact with a system. These changes are termed “revolutionary change” and are often transformational and irreversible. For example, consider the transition from spinning disk drives to solid-state memory and the associated impact on the laptop’s speed and size.<br> <br> Historian and U.S. Military Academy professor Clifford L. Rogers adapted the biological concept of “Punctuated Equilibrium” to demonstrate how evolutionary and revolutionary changes coexist and interact similarly in natural and technological ecosystems. He explains that military history often exhibits long phases of incremental evolutionary development, interrupted by brief periods of numerous, rapid changes that have revolutionary effect.<br> <br> Some readers will mistakenly identify revolutionary change with the ubiquitous term “disruptive innovation,” coined by innovation expert and Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen in the mid-1990s. However, in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, he explains that both evolutionary and revolutionary change are part of the same spectrum of “sustaining innovation.” Such changes continue to add value to an existing product with an existing customer base.<br> <br> <img alt="" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/May-June2021/DEFACQ-DATL_MayJune2021_article05_figure01.jpg" style="width:800px;height:401px;" /><br> In contrast, disruptive innovations are new technologies (or unforeseen combinations of technology), originating with a fringe user base, that eventually displace existing products in an unexpected way. For example, consider that the smartphone has largely replaced the role of the laptop computer for many users, with more than half of all Web traffic now originating from phones. By the time laptop manufacturers realized their loss in market share, it was too late for them to break into the cellphone market. (Ironically, the smartphone only represents a sustaining innovation in the cellphone market, albeit a revolutionary one.)<br> <br> In established acquisition offices staffed predominantly by engineers, managers, and other optimizers, changes are typically small and incremental—that is, evolutionary. Economist Theodore Levitt characterized this mature stage in organizations: They possess large investments in the existing way of doing business and resolve to make only predictable, easily controlled improvements. The downside is that they often fail to fend off more innovative new competitors. This stagnating behavior results in the typical life cycle, shown in Figure 1, which has been found to apply on the scale of products, companies, and even macro-economics. Revolutionary change is needed to start the life cycle anew and continue to progress.<br> <br> However, disruptive innovations require an entirely different way of thinking. The introduction of nuclear weapons and stealth technology were not merely advancements in existing systems; they fundamentally and irreversibly changed the calculus for how military forces are employed. Their adoption required accepting a gargantuan amount of risk. They only succeeded because the DoD recognized an emerging technology’s potential and capitalized on opportunities before our enemies.<br> <br> Though it is compelling to be a part of the next Manhattan Project or something akin to Lockheed’s Have Blue stealth program, can we simply command these types of revolutions into existence? Notably, since innovation is defined by novelty, it is not possible to tell someone what to innovate, or to predict the emergence of the next big idea. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the influential book Black Swan, this difficulty is due to the “law of iterated expectations.” If one knows what they want someone to invent, then at some level, they must have already invented it. Commanding a team to innovate is merely equivalent to saying, “I have a problem, and I need a solution.” Empowering? Perhaps—but not instructive.<br> <br> What is most necessary for innovation to occur is a culture that rewards novelty while carefully accepting and managing risk. Middle managers play an exceptionally large role in establishing this culture. Of course, predictability and accountability are desirable to some stakeholders (e.g., Congress). However, the innumerable processes designed to eliminate program risk, though individually prudent, have the cumulative effect of weighing down programs and stifling their ability to innovate. Comfort with novelty will allow disruptive innovations to emerge more frequently; comfort with well-managed risk will allow us to capitalize on them. Managers must strike a careful balance between innovation and accountability. The current trajectory of risk-averse evolutionary innovation traps much of the acquisition enterprise in the “mature stage” with only incremental changes to postpone inevitable technological obsolescence.<br> <br> <strong>(2)</strong> Speed is a measure of distance traveled over time. In the product cycle context, it is the rate at which some process (procedural distance) marches along. Speed is increased by reducing the time to perform individual steps, by parallelizing steps, or by eliminating steps, thereby increasing efficiency. These optimizations, often made under the umbrella of Continuous Process Improvement (CPI), are a form of sustaining innovation and can have dramatic effects on speed. However, since novelty (especially surprise) is generally the enemy of efficiency, a balance is required here, too. This notion is best illustrated by the idea of a production labor “learning curve,” as illustrated in Figure 2.<br> <br> New processes take longer to perform until workers gain familiarity, and any procedural changes will cause a regression to some previously overcome level of inefficiency. While speed may increase due to innovation (production capital investment, a new contract type, CPI) speed also increases due to a lack of changes (experience and practice). Both forces contribute to the time required for development and production. Note that in real-world learning data, touch labor is commonly reduced by between 20 and 90 percent as manufacturers produce additional units. Of course, this concept does not apply only to manufacturing. A contracting officer with significant Federal Acquisition Regulation-based expertise may take significantly longer to award their first Other Transaction Authority contract, thus eliminating any supposed speed advantage. Process innovation must unlock significant long-term efficiencies to justify a temporary (but significant) increase in production time.<br> <br> For these reasons, efficient processes increase speed when applied to well-defined (and well-planned) tasks. The fundamental objective of any process is to increase consistency and repeatability by turning large tasks into a series of smaller ones and fine-tuning performance.<br> Given this definition, it is interesting that acquirers sometimes blame the acquisition processes for program sluggishness when these processes should increase efficiency. Two reasons account for the apparent disconnect. First, many regulations attempt to optimize for cost or risk, not speed. Shifting the focus to produce systems in less time necessarily means taking greater risks elsewhere. Second, the development of a complex weapon system is not perfectly predictable and, therefore, not entirely subject to optimization. The typical management response to unpredictability and surprise is to “patch” the problem with more process. This increase in process adds novel tasks, creates increased complexity, and hinders speed (increasing exposure to additional surprises).<br> <br> Innovation is necessary for an organization to remain relevant, but managers retain the essential tasks of planning thoroughly and executing quickly. Even the new DoD Instruction 5000.80, governing MTA efforts, requires managers to produce a cost estimate, a budget, and an acquisition strategy. Innovation at an inappropriate place in the program life cycle may negatively impact planning and speed. Simply asking an organization to perform its traditional function faster is not necessarily a call for revolutionary change and certainly not a call for disruptive innovation.<br> <br> <strong>(3) </strong>Agility allows organizations to maintain speed while dealing with novelty like new requirements, unplanned rework, or process change. The Oxford English Dictionary defines agility as the “ability to think and understand quickly,” and also the “ability to move quickly.” Both definitions are appropriate and are unified in Col. Boyd’s famous OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop. Often referred to in the special operations community as “pivot speed,” agility is a measure of time it takes a team to adapt to an unplanned situation. Agile organizations suffer minimal penalties to their learning curve when an innovation or surprise is introduced. Agility enables innovation (high novelty) and process speed (high efficiency) simultaneously by overcoming the paralysis that occurs when a situation does not correspond with any predetermined process.<br> <br> Unfortunately, agility has (like innovation) become a buzzword. In fact, it has become so fashionable to affix the word “agile” to software development efforts that the Defense Innovation Board (DIB) published a guide with the provocative title Detecting Agile BS. Nominally agile software development may follow one of the myriad prescribed frameworks (Lean, SCRUM, Kanban), all attempting to add clarity to requirements and accelerate user feedback. However, agility is not a process or framework; it is a mindset.<br> <br> <img alt="" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/May-June2021/DEFACQ-DATL_MayJune2021_article05_figure02.jpg" style="width:800px;height:401px;" /><br> <br> Perhaps the best description of this mindset emerged as the Agile Manifesto—the result of a team of software development gurus attempting to identify the concepts at the core of the disparate agility frameworks. The four “values” of the manifesto are referenced and expanded in the DIB’s Detecting Agile BS guide. We believe they make up a good starting point and apply to any program seeking to increase agility: <ul> <li>Individuals and interactions over processes and tools</li> <li>Working software [alternatively, products] over comprehensive documentation</li> <li>Customer collaboration over contract negotiation</li> <li>Responding to change over following a plan</li> </ul> The common thread through all four values is fluid, real-time interaction with customers and contractors, coupled with a laser-focus on the end product. These are crucial guideposts to keep programs on track as planning departs from reality. Planning and its products are valuable to a point but may become overly constraining.<br> <br> Separating this agile mindset from agile strategies is an important distinction because, while those strategies may not scale to large monolithic programs, the mindset can. Even a 10-year shipbuilding effort with a waterfall program structure can be robust in the face of innovation and surprise. Notably, this mindset involves an increased tolerance for risk. However, risks taken to create an agile organization represent a far more lucrative bet than one that a well-engineered process will never break down. To have any hope for capitalizing on innovation or carrying out large programs in an increasingly complex world, agility must emerge as a core competency of acquisition teams.<br> <br> <strong>Conclusion</strong><br> The phrasing of USAF Gen. Brown’s “Accelerate Change, Or Lose” directive is clever. For the reasons discussed above, achieving useful change quickly—especially if the change is highly novel—is perhaps the most challenging organizational feat to achieve. Fortunately, experience in business suggests it is attainable.<br> <br> Even so, it is important to remember that none of these attributes is a replacement for an overall strategy. A more solid understanding of the relationships between innovation, speed, and agility is the key that enables managers to achieve tactical and operational objectives within the time required to make an overall strategy effective. Even a cursory consideration of these attributes reveals that accepting some risk is necessary, however uncomfortable, though such risk needs to be balanced appropriately with accountability and efficiency.<br> As the threats against the United States proliferate, it becomes ever clearer that taking bold risks is justified. Speed, innovation, and agility are not silver bullets that will lead to continued U.S. dominance. But as the complexity and pace of the world have increased, all three are now essential. In our next article, we will utilize these definitions to provide actionable tips for infusing a culture of innovation, speed and agility into real-world programs.<br> <br> Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Air University, the U.S. Air Force, the DoD, or any other U.S. Government agency. <hr />DeNeve is an Air University Fellow, teaching in the Department of Joint Warfighting at the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). He has master’s degrees in Systems Engineering and Military Operational Art and Science, as well as experience with various USAF Special Operations Forces, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and Nuclear programs.<br> <br> Price is a former Silicon Valley executive, holding a B.A. in political science from University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in military history from the University of North Texas. At ACSC, he teaches courses on War Theory, Joint Warfighting (JPME I), Airpower, and courses within the Joint All-Domain Strategist (JADS) concentration. Under a contract with Naval Institute Press, he is completing a book on USAF modernization in the post-Vietnam era.<br> <br> The authors can be contacted at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a> and <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>.</div>string;#/library/defense-atl/blog/Clarifying-the-Language
Contract Award Protest Rulings - Highlights From the GAO Report for FY 2020 Award Protest Rulings - Highlights From the GAO Report for FY 20202021-06-14T16:00:00Z,<div class="ExternalClass7E4EA58FBF6C411E90B50F1508A3B2D2">Every year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports to Congress on its most prevalent basis for sustaining protests along with the identity of any agency failing to follow its recommendations. The GAO reported this year that all of its recommendations were followed and that it issued all protest decisions within 100 days from protest submittal.<br> <br> The GAO “sustains” a protest when it recommends that the protestor receive some form of relief. The GAO’s report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 revealed that the rate by which the government sustained protests decreased by 2 percent from 2019.<br> <br> <em>Note: The GAO rulings for FY 2019 were reviewed in the May-June 2020 issue of Defense Acquisition magazine. The FY 2018 rulings were reviewed in the July-August 2019 issue. Those for FY 2017 were examined in the May-June 2018 issue of Defense Acquisition’s predecessor, the Defense AT&L magazine; and rulings for FY 2016 were reviewed in the January-February 2018 issue of Defense AT&L.</em> <hr />GAO’s most prevalent grounds for sustaining protests in FY 2020, were: <ul> <li>Unreasonable technical evaluation</li> <li>Flawed solicitation</li> <li>Unreasonable cost or price evaluation</li> <li>Unreasonable past performance<br> (Note: Items 1 and 3 above are the same prevalent grounds as those in the FY 2019 report.)</li> </ul> GAO provided examples for each of its most prevalent grounds in the following cases. <h3><strong>Unreasonable Technical Evaluation</strong></h3> GAO cited Leidos Innovations Corp., B-417568.3 and B-417568.4, as its example case of an agency performing an unreasonable technical evaluation.<br> <br> In Leidos, the agency issued a Fair Opportunity Proposal Request (FOPR) seeking task order proposals to provide logistics support for a rotary wing aircraft. The agency’s solicitation provided the period of performance, the primary performance location, and directed offerors to submit separate volumes for their technical and cost/price proposals. The technical proposal was to be an oral presentation with PowerPoint slides in which each offeror was given 2½ hours to present their technical approach, and then was given a break followed with a question-and-answer (Q&A) session. Additionally, the solicitation allowed interchanges between the agency and the offeror through interchange notices (INs). The solicitation clearly provided that an offeror’s response to an IN would be considered in making the source selection decision.<br> <br> The agency videotaped all of the presentations and Q&A sessions from the six offerors who submitted proposals. In evaluating the proposals, the technical evaluation team used the video recording, the in-person oral presentation, response to government questions during oral presentations, clarifications submitted within 24 hours of the oral presentations, and the PowerPoint provided with the proposal submissions. The non-cost/price factors were considered of equal importance and together, more important than cost/price.<br> The GAO recommendation focused on two offerors: the lowest-priced offeror and the protestor, which was the second lowest-priced offeror. The protestor initially was selected for award after the first technical evaluation because the technical evaluation team assessed weaknesses against the lowest-priced offeror. These weaknesses were said to exist in its Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) reachback capability to bring broad external assets into play and its Performance Work Statement’s requirements for accessing and transferring its maintenance management information system). It was later discovered that the lowest-priced offeror’s OEM reachback capability was impacted by pending litigation between the offeror and the OEM. In contrast, the technical evaluation team assigned multiple strengths to the protestor, primarily because its repair facility provided cost and schedule savings to the government.<br> The agency discussed the strengths and weaknesses with the offerors in the Q&A sessions. The agency then amended the FOPR to clarify the performance period and the date to submit pricing proposals. The initial contracting officer determined that protestor’s proposal justified the $181 million price premium and that awarding to the lowest-priced proposal would increase the risk of unsuccessful contract performance. The lowest-priced offeror responded by protesting to GAO (which had jurisdiction since the matter concerned a task order exceeding $25 million). However, GAO dismissed the case when the agency took corrective action, which included the agency re-evaluating technical proposals and leaving open the possibility of additional interchanges. The contracting officer amended the FOPR to require verifiable assurance of OEM support (amendment 5) and to disallow revisions to the previously submitted price volume (amendment 6). The lowest-priced offeror responded to the amendments by filing another protest to the GAO asserting in part that its settlement with the OEM should have disposed of any concerns it had with its OEM reachback capability. The GAO dismissed this second protest when the agency elected to take corrective action.<br> <br> The agency appointed a new contracting officer who in turn appointed a new technical evaluation team (re-evaluation team) and amended the FOPR to discard of amendments 5 and 6. The proposals were re-evaluated along with the videotapes of the oral presentations and copies of the PowerPoint slides. The re-evaluation team assigned new ratings, which resulted in the protestor remaining the highest technically ranked. The contracting officer then determined that the technical superiority did not justify paying a price premium and that the award should instead go to the lowest-priced offeror (ln.k.a. awardee). The decision to award to the lowest-priced offeror, which was a switch from the initial determination to award to the second lowest-priced offeror, was documented in the contracting officer’s fair opportunity decision document (FODD). The FODD also noted that the newly assigned technical evaluators reviewed the Q&A and determined that it lacked significance regarding the re-evaluation.<br> <br> The protestor, who was the second lowest-priced offeror and initially selected for award by the first contracting officer, subsequently filed this protest to challenge the agency’s failure to consider information that the protestor provided during its Q&A session. The agency confirmed that it did not consider the information from any of the Q&A sessions, that it did not review a few of protestor’s revised slides that were submitted after the oral presentation, and that it did not provide the re-evaluation team with information obtained from INs with awardee. The agency believed that the interchange information obtained after the protestor initially won the contract award would “taint” the re-evaluation. The agency boldly asserted that any errors in the re-evaluation did not prejudice the protestor.<br> <br> The agency’s claim of no prejudice to protestor even in light of possible errors in the re-evaluation prompted GAO to request the record—specifically, the recorded Q&A sessions for the awardee and protestor. The agency was unable to provide the Q&A recordings because they were deleted by what the agency described as an “unintentional technical oversight.” The agency also submitted a correction of the record to GAO to reflect the fact that the video of the Q&A sessions was not reviewed; rather, the Q&A summary within the initial contracting officer’s FODD was reviewed, with the current contracting officer then concluding that the Q&As were irrelevant. GAO elected to conduct a hearing in this case, held as a transcribed telephone conference as a COVID-19 precaution.<br> <br> Protestor supplemented its filing, stating that the agency failures to consider the Q&A and subsequent INs with awardee were unreasonable and contrary to the terms of the solicitation, specifically to the provision that “offeror responses to INs would be considered in making the selection decision.” The GAO agreed with protestor, concluding that the agency failed to comply with the solicitation provisions by not considering the information from the Q&A sessions and the INs.<br> <br> The GAO stated that it will generally leave evaluation of proposals in a fair opportunity process to the agency’s discretion but will question an evaluation that is not reasonable or consistent with the solicitation. In this case, the GAO found that it was unreasonable for the agency to exclude certain portions of some of the proposals and to exclude responses to agency questions when the solicitation stated that the responses would be considered. It was also found unreasonable to conclude that a prior issue was resolved on the basis of excluding known information from consideration. Despite the brief summary provided by the initial contracting officer, the erasure of the videotapes of the Q&A sessions prevented establishing the scope or substance of those discussions. GAO pointed out that competitive prejudice is an essential element of a viable protest and that it was present here because the flawed evaluation process prejudicially resulted in the protestor losing its initial award.<br> <br> <img alt="Agencies are required to evaluate competitive proposals and assess their relative qualities solely on the factors and subfactors specified in the solicitation." src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/May-June2021/DEFACQ-DATL_MayJune2021_article06_image01.jpg" style="width:800px;height:376px;" /> <h3><strong>Flawed Solicitation </strong></h3> GAO cited Blue Origin Florida, LLC, B-417839 as its example case of a flawed solicitation because its proposed methodology was not compliant with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). In this case, the Air Force (agency) solicited for commercial item launch services for Phase 2 of its National Security Space Launch Service Procurement. The Phase 2 solicitation was a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a negotiated commercial item procurement (FAR parts 12 and 15). The RFP contemplated award of two competitive, fixed-price requirements contracts for launch services. The evaluation factors were provided in the RFP but the agency decided to conduct a trade-off based on pairing of proposals in lieu of ranking them and conducting individual trade-off determinations. As as a result, a trade-off was not conducted based on the individual merits of each individual proposal. Instead, pairings of the four separately developed and submitted proposals the agency anticipated receiving were to be made for comparison purposes. The GAO ultimately sustained the protest because the basis for award failed to provide an intelligible basis upon which offerors were expected to compete.<br> <br> In response to the protest, the contracting officer explained that the approach in the RFP was designed to allow some leeway for the Source Selection Authority to determine which pair of proposals when combined offered the best value. In the example provided by the contracting officer to GAO, it was clear that two individually ranked proposals may not both be selected if they did not have what the agency termed “complementary attributes” even though they were the highest ranked when individually assessed against the RFP evaluation criteria. The “complementary attribute” consideration might result in an overall technically weaker offeror winning an award in the event that the weaker offeror did not share in a common weakness with the highest technically rated offeror. For example, if both of the two highest-rated offerors shared a common weakness only the individually highest ranked would be selected along with a third not as highly rated offeror that did not share the common weakness. After determining the pair, the Source Selection Authority would determine which of the two offered the best individual value. The offeror that was found to provide the overall best value would be awarded the first requirements contract, which equated to 60 percent of the requirement and the other would be awarded the second requirements contract, which equated to the remaining 40 percent of the requirement.<br> The GAO stated that the problem with the approach evident in this scenario is that the second-ranked offeror’s proposal would not actually be assessed for award based on the merits of its own proposal against the stated criteria in the RFP or the relative merit of its proposal against the other individual proposals. Instead, the agency would evaluate the second- and third-ranked offerors by using a new undefined evaluation criterion as to whether they complement the highest individually ranked offeror. GAO pointed out that offerors have no control over the strategy or contents of another offeror’s proposal and would be unable to intelligently compete short of colluding with another offeror to coordinate their proposals.<br> <br> The GAO concluded that this “when combined” best-value approach failed to provide an intelligible and common basis for award since the source selection decision was not based on the evaluation of individual proposals against the RFP’s specified evaluation criteria but on an evaluation of pairings of proposals using undefined criteria. The GAO recommendation reiterated that the objective of source selection is to select the proposal representing the best value and that the FAR requires the solicitation to clearly provide all evaluation factors and significant subfactors affecting the contract award and their relative importance when using the trade-off process. Only then can an offeror know what factors are the most important. Agencies are required to evaluate competitive proposals and assess their relative qualities solely on the factors and subfactors specified in the solicitation. <h3><strong>Unreasonable Cost or Price Evaluation</strong></h3> GAO cited Sayres & Associates Corp., B-418374, as its example of an agency’s unreasonable evaluation of a cost or price. Under an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, the Department of the Navy issued an RFP. The Navy anticipated issuing a single cost-plus-fixed-fee task order with a one-year base period and four one-year options. The awardee would provide engineering services to support technical integration, management, testing, and evaluation services.<br> <br> The task order was to be issued on a best-value trade-off basis, considering the factors of technical and management, past performance, and total evaluated cost (TEC). The technical factors, when combined, were significantly more important than the TEC. The agency was to evaluate the reasonableness, realism, and completeness of the cost data provided. The Navy received proposals from two offerors. The losing bidder protested after a debriefing and notification that it was not the awardee.<br> <br> The RFP provided that there would be a realism analysis of each offerors’ proposed costs. Based on this realism analysis, proposed costs would be adjusted to derive the most probable cost to the government of performing this task order. Offerors were encouraged to propose a reasonable and realistic escalation factor for wages, consistent with company practices and estimated future increases in wages. Offerors were required to explain their rationale or provide historical information to substantiate the proposed escalation rates. The Navy would use current market data to evaluate the proposed escalation rates if historical rates were not provided.<br> <br> The Cost Evaluation Team reviewed the protester’s cost proposal and made several upward adjustments to the proposed escalation rates for the base and option years. The cost realism analysis raised the protester’s costs by 5.34 percent (more than $2.1 million), yielding a TEC of $42,785,798. This moved their proposal from the least expensive to the most expensive of the offerors.<br> <br> The protestor argued that the Navy unreasonably rejected detailed historical data, including the salaries of the protestor’s staff and their respective salary increases for the preceding five years. In response, the Navy stated that the “source of the numbers” that the protester provided were “unverified.” The Navy claimed that “[protestor] could have provided screenshots of the salaries from year to year to verify” the salary data.<br> <br> In reaching its decision, the GAO stated that evaluating the adequacy of a cost realism evaluation need not achieve scientific certainty. However, the methodology must be reasonably adequate. The methodology must provide confidence that the rates proposed are reasonable and realistic in view of other cost information available to the agency at the time of its evaluation. The GAO concluded that five years of detailed historical data in combination with accompanying supporting explanations were sufficient to meet the standard.<br> The GAO sustained the protest stating that it was uncomfortable by the ease in which the Cost Evaluation Team rejected the protestor’s data and support information. The Cost Evaluation Team records disclosed that the team’s “analysis” consisted of only one sentence that summarily dismissed the protestor’s submitted data and information. The contemporaneous record did not provide the GAO with a basis to find that the agency’s rejection of the proposed escalation was reasonable. <h3><strong>Unreasonable Past Performance</strong></h3> GAO cited Addx Corp., B-417804 et al., as its example of an unreasonable agency evaluation of a protestor’s past performance. The Department of the Army issued a Task Order Request for Proposal (TORFP) for professional and technical system support services for the Army’s Special Operations Mission Planning and Execution (SOMPE) program. Protestor filed a protest with the Army (agency) and then the GAO after being notified it was eliminated from the competition. Protestor challenged almost every aspect of the procurement’s conduct, and the GAO dismissed all but two of the challenges.<br> <br> The first challenge sustained by the GAO concerned the Army’s failure to perform and document any analysis that considered the protester’s lower proposed cost in its decision to eliminate the protester’s proposal from the competition. The GAO reviewed the Army’s documentation and concluded that Army did not meaningfully consider cost prior to eliminating protestor’s proposal from the competition.<br> The second challenge involved the evaluation of the protester’s past performance. The protester argued that the agency unreasonably failed to consider the content of its proposal and instead applied unstated evaluation criteria when evaluating past performance. The agency argued that its evaluation of the protestor’s past performance was reasonable because the protester “did not have any explicit past performance information related to the position of a Mission Planning Software Engineer or any detailed description as to how it would address and overcome this lack of explicit past performance either directly or through one of its subcontractors.”<br> <br> The TORFP required that offerors provide a past performance questionnaire (PPQ) to both the contracting officer and contracting officer’s representative for each contract identified in the technical proposal volume, and that the respondents provide the completed PPQs directly to the agency. In its proposal, the protester identified seven contracts performed in the last five years by it and its proposed team members to “demonstrate highly relevant experience of similar scope and type” to the TORFP requirements. For each contract identified, the protester also provided a narrative explanation of the relevance of the contract as compared to specific sections of the performance work statement related to the TORFP.<br> <br> The GAO recognized the facts in the case and stated that, in evaluating an offeror’s past performance, an agency must be reasonable and consistent with the stated evaluation criteria. Determining the relative merit of an offeror’s past performance is primarily a matter within the agency’s discretion, and GAO said that it will not substitute its judgment for that of the agency.<br> <br> The GAO concluded that the Army’s evaluation of the protester’s past performance was unreasonable. Specifically, the GAO found that the Army applied an unstated evaluation criterion to the protestor’s proposal when it limited past performance to only SOMPE efforts. This limitation was inconsistent with the more expansive performance work statement in the TORFP because the protestor’s past experience was similar in scope and type contemplated by the TORFP. As a result, since the Army assigned an adjectival rating of marginal and a moderate risk rating to the protester’s evaluation factors of past performance, the GAO found the ratings lacked a reasonable basis. The protest was sustained. <h3><strong>Conclusion</strong></h3> Year to year, we are faced with consistent themes on how proposal evaluations should be conducted. It is sometimes difficult to see where our evaluations may not comply with GAO expectations. The cases reviewed above are just a few scenarios that may be useful to compare with our current procurements. In avoiding the pitfalls presented by these examples, we can perhaps support a procurement environment devoid of unfair practices and reduce the protests sustained by GAO. <hr />Wallace is a professor of Contract Management at DAU at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. She is a U.S. Air Force veteran, a former litigation attorney and contract specialist. She holds a law degree from the University of North Dakota.<br> <br> Rodgers is a professor of Contract Management at DAU. He is a retired U.S. Air Force attorney and holds law degrees from the University Cincinnati and George Washington University.<br> <br> The authors can be contacted at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a> and <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a>.<br> <img alt="Two hands shaking" src="/library/defense-atl/DATLFiles/May-June2021/DEFACQ-DATL_MayJune2021_article06_image02.jpg" style="width:800px;height:360px;" /></div>string;#/library/defense-atl/blog/Contract-Award-Protest-Rulings_FY2020



Upcoming No Cost Virtual Learning Opportunities from our Higher Education Partners! No Cost Virtual Learning Opportunities from our Higher Education Partners!2021-05-13T16:00:00Z for Offerings.png, for Offerings.png for Offerings.png<div class="ExternalClass8D72DCFEE2A74695B3BB88AADA0C9471"><h5 style="text-align:center;"><br> <strong>DAU's Strategic Partners are offering free e-learning opportunities and resources to the workforce! The list below is updated as information is received, so check back often for updates.</strong></h5> <address style="text-align:center;">If you are a partner school and wish to be included on this list, contact us at <a class="ak-cke-href" href=""></a></address> <address style="text-align:center;"> <address> <address> <hr /></address> <h5><img alt="" src="/partnerships/PublishingImages/APU_Stacked_NoSlogan.jpg" style="width:200px;height:83px;float:left;" /><strong><u>New! Lunch and Learn: Supporting Your Goals through Education at APUS</u></strong></h5> APUAMU offers 200+ programs to align with your unique professional development goals whether you work in contracting, information technology, cybersecurity, logistics, or other DoD career fields. Many of our undergraduate and master’s-level degrees and certifications are taught by highly-credentialed experts with government agency leadership experience.<br> Mark your calendar to join university representatives as we discuss online learning, career services, the tuition grant, no-cost ebooks, and answer your questions.<br> <strong>Date:</strong> Monday, June 14, 2021<br> <strong>Time: </strong>Noon, Eastern<br> <br> Please <a href="">register today</a> and Zoom information will be provided. We look forward to seeing you.</address> </address> <hr /> <h5 style="text-align:center;"><img alt="" src="/partnerships/PublishingImages/Bellevue_University.png" style="float:left;width:238px;height:45px;margin:2px 4px;" /> <u><strong> Agile Project Management Webinar – A Methodology That Generates Value</strong></u></h5> <p>The philosophy of Agile Project Management is “Motivating and empowering team members, so that projects are completed faster and with better quality”. It builds projects around motivated individuals; giving them the environment and support they need, and trust to get the job done.<br> <br> Watch this webinar with Dr. Emad Rahim, award-winning author, educator, TEDx Speaker, and Bellevue University’s Kotouc Family Endowed Chair to learn the 12 Agile Principles and how this process can contribute to successful projects in your organization.</p> <p style="text-align:center;">Link to view on-demand webinar: <a href=""></a><br> <strong>___________________________________</strong></p> <p>In the <a href="">Tuesday Take Aways</a> series, Bellevue University is sponsoring 52 weeks of inspiration, encouragement, and practical tips with world-renowned speaker, Ryan Avery. The series is designed to provide motivating, real-life tips for being THE best version of yourself. Catch the series every Tuesday at 11 a.m. (central).<br> View our additional Career resources available on-demand here: <a href=""></a></p> <hr /> <div style="text-align:center;"><img alt="" src="/partnerships/PublishingImages/UCLA%20Extension%20Logo%20(2020).jpg" style="float:left;width:300px;margin:2px 4px;height:61px;" /></div> <div style="text-align:center;">We recognize the challenges our communities are facing today. We want to help light the way forward and give back by offering professional development and personal enrichment seminars this summer at no cost. These programs give you the opportunity to learn from experts in their field and connect with others. For your convenience and safety, all programs are offered remotely. Visit <a href=""></a> for more information.</div> <hr /></div>string;#/partnerships/blog/Upcoming-No-Cost-Virtual-Learning-Opportunities-from-our-Higher-Education-Partners!
Here’s How to Maximize Your Credits & Training at American Public University’s How to Maximize Your Credits & Training at American Public University2021-04-29T12:00:00Z Q2 Banner.jpg, Q2 Banner.jpg Q2 Banner.jpg<div class="ExternalClassD59C0512EC324736BF08E3FA30A7DCCD"><h2><strong>Here’s How to Maximize Your Credits & Training at American Public University </strong></h2> <p>Like many adult learners, you may be thinking about starting a degree program having already accumulated academic credit or work experience. It’s important to understand that previously earned credits and even your career background may accelerate degree completion at the undergraduate and graduate level.<br> Here’s what you need to know to leverage what you’ve already learned—which could help you earn a respected degree for less time and cost.</p> <strong>Give Yourself More Credit – You Deserve It</strong><br> Don’t leave previously earned credits on the table. APU provides you with a dedicated, helpful team and $0 transfer credit evaluation (TCE) service. Even as a prospective student, you can request a <strong>free preliminary transfer credit review</strong>. If you have any academic credits from other universities, professional training, military service or instruction, then do not hesitate to contact APU – they’ve designed course equivalency transfer credits specifically for DAU members.<br> Here are a few questions you should consider: <ul> <li>Are you planning to start over with a new major, but have general education credits to transfer?</li> <li>Are you continuing an academic major that you started elsewhere and have core courses to complete?</li> <li>Have you attended military or federal training programs or academies?</li> </ul> If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you should explore APU’s robust transfer credit program. In fact, you’re in good company—82% of undergraduates transferred in credit in 2020.<br> <br> <strong>Less Complicated – More Transfer Friendly </strong><br> APU goes the extra mile to see if military experience, professional training, or previous academic learning counts for credit so that students have the best chance to transfer in credits that in some cases they already qualify for, but didn’t realize it. Students can potentially bring up to <strong>90 transfer credits</strong> toward a bachelor’s degree. APU will review your college credits, JST and CCAF transcripts, DANTES, POST, ACE-evaluated training, and credits by exam.<br> <a href="">APU is an educational partner with DAU, offering you additional benefits</a> to help you achieve your academic goals including the 5% tuition grant, technology fee waiver ($65 per course savings), and a book grant offering no-cost ebooks and textbooks for students earning undergraduate academic credit.<br></div>string;#/partnerships/blog/Here’s-How-to-Maximize-Your-Credits-and-Training-at-American-Public-University



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