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FCW : November 30, 2013
Procurement 18 November 30, 2013 FCW.COM private and public sectors. Agencies "may not be as particular- ly nimble as the commercial market because of the size and scope, but they need to stay up with that commercial market," he said. "So I don t believe ignoring agile or a more enlightened approach to development is possible. What I believe needs to happen is a process of looking at how to give a procurement of cer the tools neces- sary and educate the custom- ers effectively so that they can indeed manage risk while at the same time producing a higher- quality outcome." The rules Depending on which federal procurement expert you ask, HealthCare.gov s meltdown either shows that the govern- ment needs a completely new way to buy high-tech services and gear, or is it a picture-perfect example of how not to use a mostly adequate set of procure- ment rules. "It s a teaching moment for procurement," said Waldron, echoing VanRoekel. Forget policy differences, technical glitches and custom- er overload. At the heart of the failure, some say, is a mess of a procurement system. HealthCare.gov was not assembled under a competi- tive, overarching development and integration contract like those used on many big federal IT projects. Instead, it was cre- ated with task orders placed on indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts, which can be seen as something of a shortcut for large, complex proj- ects. SBInet was based on IDIQs, and its failure profoundly shifted DHS internal acquisition strat- egy away from technically com- plicated made-to-order systems and toward proven off-the-shelf capabilities. Some procurement experts say the government has long needed to focus on the contracting basics, beginning with the description of what it wants to accomplish with the purchased good or service. "Requirements development has been an Achilles heel for 20 years now," Waldron said. "The best, most effective way for the government to acquire high-level, best-value contrac- tor performance in support of agency Bungled launches didn t start with HealthCare.gov. After an initial deployment showed that the technology was far from integrated, DHS pulled the plug on SBInet in 2011 and distributed the funds to more conventional border security programs. a task order worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which is part of our business." The resulting imbalance gives the advantage to contrac- tors who have more advanced training in negotiations and pro- curement and who know their products better. "We pay a price as taxpayers when we don t let our acquisition workforce get the same top-level training that private industry s people have," Gordon said. When he talked about gov- ernment contracts at an annual procurement conference earlier this year, all the attendees were from the private-sector side of the business. "Traditionally, the audience is a good mix of government employees and contractors, all of whom work in the fed- eral procurement arena," Gor- don said. "This year, I was disappointed that there were almost no federal attendees. One result was that the open lines of communication that a conference can foster couldn t function because the govern- ment people were absent." Rob Frazzini, leader of Deloitte Consulting s federal digital practice, pointed to another weakness for the fed- eral acquisition workforce: too much of an incentive to avoid risk, which makes employees embrace the legacy waterfall acquisition model instead of an agile model. He said the more uid agile approach results in products that coincide with cur- rent technology. "These are not uneducated people. These are not uncaring people," Frazzi- ni said. "These are quality, talented indi- viduals who I believe lack the support of the organization and lack the tools necessary to allow them to change into a more agile environment." He added that a lack of training con- tributes to a growing gap between the
November 15, 2013