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Improving Competition

Improving Competition

Bill Kobren

In an August 21, 2014 memorandum entitled “Actions to Improve Department of Defense Competition”, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) reminded defense acquisition workforce professionals why competition was so important, challenged the community to do better, and laid out a series of specific actions to be undertaken, saying “competition is the most valuable means we have to motivate industry to deliver effective and efficient solutions for the Department of Defense (DoD). When we create and maintain a competitive environment, we are able to spur innovation, improve quality and performance, and lower costs for the supplies and services we acquire. Over the past four years, the Department has not met its competition goals. In fact, we have experienced a declining competition rate, and we must take action to reverse this trend.” Going forward, those actions include:


·         “each quarter we will address progress to expand and improve our use of competition at the Business Senior Integration Group meetings.

·         to facilitate our analysis, we will be deploying business intelligence tools that enable us to use data to identify opportunities for improvement.

·       issuing the "Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Environment for Supplies and Services in the Department of Defense" (also available on the Better Buying Power (BBP) website)

·         publish the "DoD Competition Handbook, A Practical Guide for Program Managers" in September 2014.

·         for competitive solicitations in which more than one company expressed interest during the market research phase but only one offer or a lesser number of offers were ultimately received, the contracting officer will seek feedback from those companies who originally expressed interest to understand why they did not submit an offer. We will use this feedback to consider how we might overcome barriers to competition for future requirements.

·         contracting officers will be required to use Requests for Information (RFI) or Sources Sought (SS) notices before soliciting non-competitive acquisitions that cite FAR 6.302-1 - "Only One Responsible Source."

·         we will amend our procedures for completing non-competitive J&A documents….(and)… will require follow-on acquisitions of the same supply or service to include the previous J&A as part of the approval package.”


The USD(AT&L) memo concludes by reminding the defense acquisition workforce that “given the declining trend in competition in the Department and in light of today's limited resources, we must maximize our use of direct and indirect competition. Every dollar saved through competition benefits the Warfighter and the taxpayers. The aforementioned guidance and requirements will be incorporated in the Defense Acquisition Guidebook and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement.”


So what does this mean to me? And perhaps more importantly, just why is competition so important? As the Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Environment for Supplies and Services in the Department of Defense" states, “because it works. Competition, direct or indirect, is the most effective motivator for industry to reduce costs and improve performance.” Highly recommend reading both documents, as they each contain a wide array of useful and readily applicable approaches to achieving the outcomes discussed here.