John Klossner

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Klossner: The bucks stop here

As I've written here on numerous occasions, I live in a small town. The size of the town, and our proximity to the town center, allow us and our children to have many unique pedestrian experiences. We walk to school. We have numerous, everyone-with-a-desire-and/or-a-bicycle-welcome, parades. Our little burg recently had its Halloween parade, where costumed children and partially-costumed parents meet at the town fire department and are given a police escort through the one block downtown, ending at the elementary school where the police department gives out bags of candy (which also serves as the official notice that town-wide trick 'r' treating has begun).

As far as I know, everyone here enjoys our stabs at Rockwellian living. Everyone, that is, except drivers. As we walked in our recent Halloween parade, I noted lines of traffic at each intersection we snaked through. When we walk to school in the morning and back in the afternoon, there are long, long lines at every entrance to town.

I don't have sympathy for those drivers slowed down at school times. Our town is not a main byway in the region, and anyone who drives through regularly should have figured out that at 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. every day during the school year traffic will be slowed in town.

But I do have sympathy for those folks who run into a Halloween parade without any warning. As we passed lines of cars the other night, I could almost see the clouds of frustration hovering over people who were minding their own business when -- wham! -- a parade appeared out of nowhere. (For the record, I am fond of parades appearing out of nowhere.)

I thought of these people as the traffic equivalent of contracting officers, with the GAO's recent move to allow protests of large task order awards serving as the parade. The officers didn't do anything wrong -- they were merely driving along on personal business when a parade in the form of an easier protest process appeared. In the past task orders were awarded without a lot of fuss, any problems being aired during the contract awarding process. However, as larger scale task orders have been handed out, the line between a contract and a task order has been blurred.

Of course, it might be argued that this added oversight will result in more clearly defined and written contracts, and improved communication between agencies and vendors. Nonetheless, this makes for a nervous group of contracting officials. Agencies might as well include protest applications in contract bid packets (do they already?). If I were a vendor, I know I'd have my protest ready in the event of a contract or task order loss.

The bottom line here is that this effort to improve the acquisition process will also slow it down. There was no mention of whether GAO now has the jurisdiction to expand the hours of the day to 36. Need a fast procurement? I hope you are creative.

And, if you know any contracting officers, I'd suggest the following:

  • Do not walk up behind them unannounced.

  • Avoid using any words that begin with "pro," e.g. professional, progressive, protect, protractor, prone, etc.

  • Excuse their new lunch habit of eating alone in their office closet.

  • Equally excuse their new habit of taking the back stairs or the service elevator.

  • Ditto their new habit of eating lunch alone on the back stairs or in the service elevator.

  • When talking to them, allow them the space against the wall; also allow them the booth facing away from the door in restaurants.

  • Don't act out of the ordinary when you talk with them while they are hiding behind their desk.


Posted by John Klossner on Nov 07, 2008 at 12:18 PM


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