Fixated on Firm Fixed Prices

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy may have announced plans this month to abandon its attempts to restrict how the Defense Department buys information technology services, but the issue is still alive and well. Experts are now focusing on how — or whether — OFPP should continue to fight this battle.

The issue is whether officials should place restraints on IT service buys based on time and materials.

The problem with such task orders, OFPP and procurement experts suggest, is that they do not support efforts to use performance-based contracts. Labor-hour contracts typically don't include an end goal. Instead, they essentially provide the people to work on a particular job.

But many experts question whether regulations are necessary at all.

"I'm not even sure if this is an appropriate" approach for binding regulations, said Steve Kelman, a professor of public management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a former administrator of OFPP during the Clinton administration.

The issue could be better addressed through improved management, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. and a former Air Force procurement executive. OFPP could put forward management guidelines and then instruct agencies to track and justify all labor-hour buys, he said.

Also, most procurement experts suggest that even if OFPP's ban were to go into effect, it would only have an impact on General Services Administration's schedule task orders. And they wonder why.

If the goal is to reduce the types of buys that provide power to the people, why not impose rules on all governmentwide acquisition contracts? "From a policy perspective, that's a very fair question," Kelman said.

Laptops on the Loose

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is searching for two missing laptops, including one with classified data. Both disappeared from Central Command, which orchestrates the war in Afghanistan.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at a Pentagon news briefing, said investigators have not yet determined if the computers were stolen or are simply missing.

"The good news is that they were in a single room...where access is tightly controlled," Myers said.

The laptop flap occurred just days after a Justice Department audit found that more than 400 of the department's laptop computers had gone missing or were reported stolen.

Not to worry. At DOD, it's possible to buy a new laptop using a government-issued credit card, right?

The Best Offense Is ... Vague

We've been inquiring, pleading really, for more details about DOD's evolving strategy to go on the offensive in a cyberwarfare situation.

It seems as if we have an answer...sort of. A spokesperson for U.S. Space Command, owner of the Joint Task Force-Computer Network Operations, last week issued the following: "Coordination is ongoing to develop the concept of operations for active defense; define roles, responsibilities and authorities; and establish unambiguous rules of engagement. We are proceeding with the necessary prudence and caution that this sensitive initiative deserves."

A spokesperson for DOD acknowledged that the statement wasn't exactly heavy on details, but said it was issued to keep at bay the many people who try to hack into DOD systems on a daily basis.

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About the Authors

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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