Is there a "sunshine" or "checks and balances" clause that can be inserted into contracts that will require the manufacturer to disclose all modifications / other changes to design and manufacture of finished products?
Examples we have encountered in recent months:
- Changes to adhesives / adheasals used in the seam-sealing of protective garments. Quality inspections reveal poor adhesion. Manufacturer responds that adhesive formula has been changed.
-Component of a protective mask is significantly altered, giving the mask a different appearance, and resulting in confusion / concern within the user community.
There is really no particularly useful "boiler plate" contract phraseology for configuration management (CM), because requirements, authority and responsibility would likely differ from one acquisition program to the next; however, verbiage that precisely spells out CM requirements, authorities and responsibilities should be a part of every well written procurement contract. Configuration management is also impacted and controlled to an extent by performance standards for configuration items (CI). Most CI, even for non-performance based life cycle product support contracts, will have QA standards and performance metrics imposed that will help define component configuration, as would have been the case with the substitute adhesive mentioned in your question. The outcome of any configuration management process will be as directed by the associated contracts, and specific wording for a given contract to assign CM authority and responsibility would be unique to the given program and the intent behind the contract. For example, the CM wording and requirements would likely be different for a Commercial Off-the-Shelf item as opposed to equipment having no civilian application. As there also could be service unique requirements, the best option would be for the program contracting officer, in conjunction with the program Manager (PM) and Product Support Manager (PSM), and with reference to the FAR, the DFARS and any USAF Supplements to ensure the unique program needs are spelled out clearly, for the specific program at that point in time, as opposed to fitting 'boiler plate' standardized verbiage. That said, as a starting point, for examples of such phraseology, the USN has a site, that includes sample generic phraseology for configuration management issues that could be modified for use in contracts and SOWs (http://nawctsd.navair.navy.mil/Resources/Library/Acqguide/cmadvise.htm).
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For the topic in general, the Defense Acquisition Guidebook (DAG), is a good place to start (https://dag.dau.mil/Pages/Default.aspx). The Systems Engineering section states that configuration management is "...the application of sound program practices to establish and maintain consistency of a product's or system's attributes with its requirements and evolving technical baseline over its life. It involves interaction among government and contractor program functions such as systems engineering, hardware/software engineering, specialty engineering, logistics, contracting." The PM should use configuration management to establish and mature the technical baseline throughout the acquisition life cycle, and to control product attributes and the technical baseline across the total system life cycle. This approach should identify, document, audit, and control the functional and physical characteristics of the system design, track any changes, provide an audit trail of program design decisions and design modifications, and be integrated with the Systems Engineering Plan and technical planning.
Chapter 5 of the DAG talks Life-Cycle Logistics and states that configuration management decisions are to be based on "...factors that best support implementing performance-based strategies throughout the product life cycle".
It goes on to state an effective configuration management program should include configuration control over the functional and allocated baselines as well as the physical baseline. The approach and responsibility for maintaining configuration control will depend on a number of program specific factors such as design rights, design responsibility, support concept, and associated costs and risk. Nominally the government maintains configuration control of the system design specification and retains the authority and responsibility for approving design changes impacting the system's ability to meet specification requirements. The DAG also references the ANSI/EIA-649-B National Consensus Standard for Configuration Management as a key joint government/industry document providing further guidance on Configuration Management Planning.
Configuration management requirements apply to traditional legacy programs as well as performance-based product support contracts and public private partnerships. DoD logisticians track CM impacts since they potentially influence sustainment strategies; when design control is lost, product support package efficacy is degraded, adversely affecting availability and program costs. So, along with the PM, the Product Support Manager's involvement in the configuration management process is vital throughout the system's life cycle.
In commercial support strategies, it is not uncommon to delegate broad Class II (no change in form, fit, function, or testability of an item) Configuration Management to either the product support integrator (PSI) and/or the product support provider (PSP), as permitted by contract. Since the provider is tasked to deliver performance outcomes with broad flexibility regarding how to provide those outcomes, it is consistent to also provide flexibility to implement configuration changes (with government knowledge) stemming from investments to improve reliability, availability, and repair processes that benefit both the government and the PSI/PSP. However, planning for technical and configuration data is vital to the PM; specific clauses must be included in the contract to ensure the government retains access to or takes ownership of the necessary data to duplicate the existing configuration if the support provider changes or the contract is re-competed.
The DAG also refers to the MIL-HDBK-61A Configuration Management Guidance Military Handbook for info about configuration management and changes. That handbook, (https://acc.dau.mil/CommunityBrowser.aspx?id=142238), has some outdated acquisition terminology, but offers excellent guidance on "...objectives, typical metrics, activities, actions, benefits and risks, decisions to be made and criteria for making them.", for each of the phases. It contains a wealth of info, including a clear depiction of the various configuration audits and baselines, plus checklists, definitions, etc.
In summary, MIL-HDBK-61A is still the latest approved DoD guidance for configuration management, and is often used in conjunction with the equivalent civilian industry standard, the ANSI EIA-649-B National Consensus Standard for
Configuration Management (https://acc.dau.mil/CommunityBrowser.aspx?id=32215). These sources describe in detail the Configuration Management process and best practices, helpful considerations when folding CM issues into procurement contracts.