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FCW : August 15, 2016
HOW IT WORKS model, but other agencies are already expressing interest. Federal Emergen- cy Management Agency CIO Adrian Gardner, who was in the audience on July 21, asked whether such sig- nificant change could be successfully implemented when there’s so much turnover in the CIO ranks. But he told FCW after the event that he has already instructed his team to read the report and has scheduled a meeting to discuss what it might mean for FEMA. “I hope this becomes a movement in the federal government,” McKinney said, adding that he feels a sense of urgency to help make that movement happen. “I think this is our last chance to get this right,” he said. “If [we] can’t make FITARA and this [IT] COST Commis- sion successful...things will get radi- cally more difficult with the Hill.” Having testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, McKinney said, it’s clear that lawmakers are getting impatient for hard data on results when it comes to IT savings. “My patience is a little thin,” he added.” n “It’s...the shared rituals that we do as a community that make all the difference in bringing the team together.” — DAVID BRAY Understanding the not-so -scary state of bid protests BY MARK ROCKWELL If it seems as though multibillion-dollar federal IT contracts always get hit with protests from bidders that didn’t make the final cut, it’s because they almost always do. But that’s nothing new, said Dan Gordon, a senior adviser to George Washington University’s Government Procurement Law Program. Gordon, who served as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and spent almost 20 years in the Office of Gen- eral Counsel at the Government Account- ability Office, said the recent chorus of com- plaints about the rising number of protests is based on conjecture rather than data. Lawmakers and others perceive pro- tests as roadblocks to effective procure- ment. Therefore, in the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the House and Senate Armed Services committees pro- posed drastic changes to the bid protest process. Those changes included imposing costs on companies that lose their protests. Yet the perception that bid protests threaten to disrupt the federal acquisition process is inaccurate, Gordon said. “The number of protests goes up and down, but it is always below 2 percent of procurement,” he added. And that percent- age has remained pretty much the same for the past 40 years, he said. Several things can make it seem as though protests are multiplying, however — including the fact that hundreds of thou- sands of government contracts are awarded every year. And almost all major contract awards — those worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars — are protested. Those huge contracts, although rare, are noticeable. Gordon likened them to zebras in the herd of the thousands of workhorse contracts the federal government awards every year. “People are saying that there’s a high risk of a contract [worth] more than $1 billion getting a protest,” he said. “That was true 20 years ago.” The way GAO keeps track of protests doesn’t help. Multiple filings against the same contract are counted as separate cases, so although there might be a dozen or more protests, only one procurement is being delayed, Gordon said. GAO rejects most protests almost immediately because they can’t be support- ed by the company. “Protests are mostly noise,” Gordon said. “The great majority of them are not disruptive to the system.” That doesn’t mean there are no prob- lems with protests, however. Gordon said better data could help Congress gauge protests’ true impact on the procurement process. It’s unclear, for instance, whether the number of protests against bigger contracts has actually risen in the past decade. It’s not an easy number to understand because a “big” contract for the U.S . Forest Service is simply a year ’s supply of printer ink for the Defense Department. Gordon said understanding what’s hap- pening with those contracts would require an in-depth, agency-by-agency look. And so far, no one has crunched that data, he added. n “Protests are mostly noise. The great majority of them are not disruptive to the system.” — DAN GORDON 24 August 15, 2016 FCW.COM 0815fcw_014-024.indd 24 7/27/16 8:37 AM
July 30, 2016
August 30, 2016