By Steve Kelman

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DoD: Focus on Performance

Shay Assad, the seniormost contracting policy official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, spoke at the acquisition research conference at the Naval Postgraduate School. It was a really good presentation, and what I liked most was his discussion of how DoD will be reacting to the GAO report from a while ago about award fee dollars being paid out for contracts where contractor performance had been indifferent.

Instead of the kneejerk reaction, "So let's get rid of incentives," Assad's response has been very different. It is a) good performance is critical, b) incentives can be a powerful way to encourage outstanding performance, and c) incentives need to be tied to specific cost, schedule, and performance objectives. With buy-in from the entire DoD contracting leadership, this is the direction where DoD will aggressively be moving.

This will not be easy. It will require discipline about establishing requirements and not constantly piling on new ones before the old have been accomplished. The Department will need to figure out how to take account of funding instability. As I mentioned to Assad after his talk, this is going to need sustained attention from senior leadership and not just be a one-time announcement.

Shay Assad is a really really impressive guy. He is soft-spoken, unassuming, and very likeable, with a lot of integrity. After a career in the Marines and then with industry, he decided he wanted to come into government, but not as a political appointee in the way that is most common for people coming to government from senior industry positions, but as an SES career civil servant. He is 100% devoted to advancing the interests of the government -- those who have their bugaboo stereotypes about the "revolving door" would never recognize those prejudices in his behavior.

Why was a senior government official presenting at a research conference? This annual Naval Postgraduate School event is an interesting mixture of academic researchers and practitioners. It's fun watching the two cultures: academics refer to "presenting papers" and practitioners to "briefs."

Posted by Steve Kelman on May 19, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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