By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Contracting update, via Web 2.0 and snail mail

I have earlier noted in this blog the increasingly interesting acquisition forum founded by Mary Davie of the General Services Administration and hosted on the increasingly popular GovLoop site, founded by Steve Ressler. If you sign up, you get updates on postings (though, unfortunately, not on topics -- can the GovLoop people do something about that?) on the forum. I try to check the forum about every 10 days or so, depending on how overwhelmed I am.

My eyes caught on an interesting discussion about requirements and the appropriations process that was initiated by Emile Monette, a contracting officer from the Executive Office of the President, who (I have learned from his Facebook page) recently accepted a job offer at GSA. Emile's basic point was that one thing inhibiting development of good requirements is that appropriations come so late and are so unsure that program folks don't want to spend time writing requirements for procurements that will never happen. By the time the money comes through, which needs to be obligated by the end of the fiscal year, they don't have time.

There were some interesting responses, but I had two thoughts. One is that there are clearly some new requirements that program people are pretty positive will be funded even before funds have formally come through, and perhaps program and contracting folks should in the first instance concentrate on those.

The second is to wonder how programs are getting approved in the first place if program folks don't have a decent, if imperfect, idea of what the requirements are. Requirements need not be complete, but more fleshed-out requirements are generally better. Requirements will change -- either due to changes in the world or because people learn more about they want after seeing a new system in action -- but often we should leave those changes until subsequent releases of the project.

***

Snail mail brought two interesting missives to my office desk. One is the new catalogue of contracting training courses being sponsored by Management Concepts. It is again really nice to see that, despite all the pressures to reorient contracting away from mission support and into policing or compliance, the curriculum -- especially the crucial basic-level courses for new contracting professionals -- keeps focused on the goals of the system.

Their first-level course is called "Shaping Smart Business Arrangements," followed by courses such as "Mission Support Planning," "Mission Performance Assessment" and "Mission Focused Contracting." Bravo!

***

Not a propos of contracting, but I also got a letter in the mail today with the following on the envelope: "Form 854-A enclosed for immediate return." This is one of many junk emails trying to pose as official government communications. In fact, it was an appeal to renew my subscription to Business Week. Another reason not to renew.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Aug 13, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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