DOD wants its contracting offices under one roof

Editor's Note: The story was corrected to state that Defense Department organizations will keep their systems but instead link to a new service that will standardize contract clauses across DOD.

Defense Department officials have ordered the department's organizations to link their individual contract writing systems to a single, enterprisewide contracting service that will standardize contract clauses and provisions.

Developing the Web-based, central system “is critical to the future of contract writing in DOD,” Richard Ginman, DOD’s director of defense procurement and acquisition policy (DPAP), wrote in an Aug. 31 memo.

For years, contracting offices across the department have interpreted provisions and clauses from the Federal Acquisition Regulation and DOD’s regulatory supplement with a lot of variation. Ginman said it was a carryover from the days of when contracts were written on paper. The result has been duplication and redundancies in systems that agencies across DOD have built through the years. There are roughly 10 legacy systems used by DOD organizations.

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“It is anticipated that all target DOD and legacy systems performing contract writing functions will utilize this service, rather than develop and maintain similar capabilities within their own applications,” according a document attached to the memo that details the transition.

Officials are planning to base the new system on a service-oriented architecture approach, which provides a Web-based service.

The Air Force will lead the new program because of its experience with building contracting writing systems, such as Standard Procurement System. The transition will happen over several years.

To be uniform, the transition will likely also affect agencies that help DOD with acquisitions, according to the memo.

Officials will have to work with DPAP to negotiate schedules for adding their DOD-wide service to their legacy systems.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Tue, Sep 17, 2013

I think this entire conversation is confusing. Most DoD contract offices use a contract writing system call Procurement Desktop Defense (PD2). This system is being sunsetted (currently 9/30/2015 for new awards and 9/30/2017 for modifications). Each activity has been left to their own discretion to choose a replacement which must interface with wide-area work flow (WAWF) and now the DPAP contract clause selection system. This strikes me as potentially an extremely expensive solution to the problem. I would encourage DoD to take two steps. 1. Petition congress to simplify the Federal Acquisition Regulations and 2. Conduct a competitive procurement for a single ERP to control the entire business process, provide realtime reports and reduce the per user cost.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011

Too often I have found laws, policies, and implementing regulations are not clear enough in their prescription of requirements that ultimately must be translated into solicitation provisions and contract clauses. This includes the requirements for flow-down, or not, to subcontractors at one or more tiers. Where a particular law or policy may be unclear, the councils too often settle for passing it along virtualy verbatim rather than drafting regulation language that enables reasonable users to consistently, predictably, and correctly decide with confidence whether to incorporate a particular provision or clause. When laws, policies, and regulations evolve in this manner, government contracting officials and contractors are confounded with an inconsistent understanding and application of the regulation system and the underlying statutory or policy requirement. THis serves nobody's interests. No training can eliminate this conundrum. The solution depends upon enactment of of laws and promulgation of policies and regulations that are unequivocal as to their intent. Let's mean what we say and say what we mean. This will facilitate clause logic and promote the purposes of the lawmakers and the policy makers at the solicitation and contract levels.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011

They are missing the forest for the trees-DoD, and for that matter the entire Fed Gov, needs ONE agency doing all the contracting. That would get rid of all the N+1 differing interpetations, not to mention all the duplicative contracts for all the same goods and services.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011

The previous commentor is quite correct, Mr. Ginman's memo only addresses the need for a common clause logic system, not a complete contract writing system. In my 30 years of contracting experience I have seen many clause logic systems used to write contracts - from crude hard-copy "boiler-plate" pages to sophisticated computer logic systems. The problem with all of them has been varying interpretations of clause requirements by end-users (i.e., contract writers) whenever the system offers clause selection options. Rather than yet another clause logic system, I would prefer that the money be spent on education of the contract writers (contract specialists and contracting officers) concerning the correct interpretation of clauses and clause requirements.

Tue, Sep 6, 2011 Clauses aren't contracts!

Having been both in procurement and software, one error I think FCW makes in this article is not defining what "Contract Writing" means in the context of software. The system that the DoD is developing is actually more like an automated clause library - to my knowledge, it does not take over creation of line items or funds management functions... This is both good and bad. I have concerns about the concept, which in general I understand with the rapidly shrinking procurement workforce and impending retirements of many senior contracting officers and specialists - but on one hand, if you don't make it an end-to-end contract writing system, then people will work around it.... but if you do make it end-to-end, then you're forgetting that the DoD tried once to create a one-size-fits-all non-integrated contract writing system, and it didn't fit everyone and it did not, in the end, work for anyone as intended... and people still worked around it, writing contracts in MS Word and retroactively loading them into the system. I understand the desire and the concept - I just have serious doubts about the ability to execute. Frankly, I'd rather see the funds being expended on this project utilized for more training on upgrading and training people on existing systems, which in my experience is the biggest barrier to success with any application.

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