The administration’s top procurement policy official issued a memo Wednesday encouraging more constructive talks between government and industry, as part of a larger initiative to debunk myths about the acquisition process.
In a 13-page memo to senior procurement executives and chief information and acquisition officers, Gordon stressed the importance of “early, frequent and constructive engagement with industry,” especially for high-risk procurements and large information technology projects. The government spends more than $500 billion on goods and services, and “our industry partners are often the best source” for the latest information on pricing and efficient technology, the memo said.
Under the administration’s 25-point IT reform plan, issued in December, Gordon is heading the “myth busters education campaign” to help increase communication with the private sector through awareness.
Here are the top three misconceptions:
1. Myth: “The government cannot meet one-on-one with a potential offeror.”
Fact: Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.
2. Myth: “A protest is something to be avoided at all costs – even if it means the government limits conversations with industry.”
Fact: Restricting communication won’t prevent a protest, and limiting communication might actually increase the chance of a protest – in addition to depriving the government of potentially useful information.
3. Myth: “Conducting discussions/negotiations after receipt of proposals will add too much time to the schedule.”
Fact: Whether discussions should be conducted is a key decision for contracting officers to make. Avoiding discussions solely because of schedule concerns may be counter-productive, and may cause delays and other problems during contract performance.
The memo also reiterated deadlines set in the IT reform plan.
This month, Gordon and his team will launch an online dialogue to help identify additional misconceptions and concerns about policy conflicts, as well as success stories.By June 30, chief financial officers at the 24 large agencies must create and submit a vendor communication plan to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The plans will outline how agencies will” reduce unnecessary barriers, publicize communication opportunities, and prioritize engagement opportunities for high-risk, complex programs or those that fail to attract new vendors during re-competitions,” according to the memo.
The Federal Acquisition Institute is charged with developing a continuous learning module for contracting officers, program managers, procurement attorneys and other groups to better understand acceptable communication.