DOD plans to release agencywide metrics

The Defense Department is preparing to issue procedures for collecting and using past-performance information about its contractors that will be tailored to a dozen "business sectors" such as information technology.

But like their civilian counterparts Defense acquisition policy-makers are struggling with the best way to rate vendors' performance on IT services and integration contracts. "It is harder to define crisp metrics and to implement those " said Paul Kaminski undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology during a press briefing last week.

He said it could take "a couple of years" to fully employ past-performance ratings for all types of services-oriented contracts including IT research architecture and engineering and construction. By contrast Kaminski said the department will quickly adopt an existing Air Force rating system the Contractor Performance Assessment Report to evaluate vendors of major weapons systems.Although the past-performance plan will not be ready until the end of June Kaminski said he wanted to report on its progress before leaving the government to return to private life. He said he had no firm plans following his final day in office which was expected to be May 16.

Leantha Sumpter an aide to Kaminski said the plan would be put into place over two years. She said policy-makers are exploring various forms of official guidance including memoranda changes to Defense acquisition directives and new regulations.

The plan is designed to create a single past-performance measurement system that would be used by every branch of the military. This approach Kaminski said was developed based on comments from vendors that there were too many differences among the services in how they were being judged. The department decided however to tailor its metrics to the different types of products and services it purchases to reflect the differences in the requirements of such contracts.

"DOD efforts are going to take us a giant series of steps forward" in using past-performance information said Steven Kelman administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

Among the major challenges to employing past-performance ratings across the federal government Kelman said is creating a system to collect "report cards" on contractors and using "common definitions of data elements."

He said that although DOD has lagged behind civilian agencies in using past-performance data for procurements other than weapons systems he thinks the department is now "committed to trying to make those metrics as governmentwide as possible."

Kaminski said the team of about 20 representatives from each of the services also will recommend an approach to automating the system so contracting officers have easy access to vendor ratings. Eventually DOD may share its past-performance database with other agencies but Kaminski said it should be tested within the department before it is made available externally.

Meanwhile he said DOD's use of past-performance information collected by civilian agencies "will be pretty limited " though "for commodity categories we do have the ability to query informally."


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