Better Buying Power Panel with Air Force Command

NCMA Dayton hosted a panel discussion on Better Buying Power moderated by Mr. Gary Poleskey with Dayton Aerospace. Today’s panel comprised:

Mr. Steven Zamparelli, Director of Contracting for Air Force Materiel Command

Mr. Thomas Robinson, Director of Contracting for Air Force Life Cycle Management Center

Col. Cameron Holt, Director of Staff for Air Force Installation Contracting Agency

The major contracting thrusts of Better Buying Power addressed by the panel included:

  • Achieve affordable programs
  • Achieve dominant capabilities while controlling life cycle costs
  • Incentivize productivity in industry and government
  • Incentivize innovation in industry and government
  • Eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy
  • Promote effective competition
  • Improve tradecraft in the acquisition of services
  • Improve the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce
  • Focus on FPIF (Fixed Price Incentive Fee) contract type
  • Navy’s preferred supplier program pilot project

One of the driver’s behind DoD’s push for innovation and competition in industry, is the need for military technological dominance. Mr. Zamparelli reminded attendees that the U.S. has been a military super power since WWII because of its technology. He challenged contracting professionals when he claimed, “we need to think,” further stating that we need to know and understand requirements. Services are 50% of the Air Force’s annual spend, yet there is no training for services acquisition and no program management credit for time spent on services contracts.

When asked what to expect in the future, Zamparelli noted that “should-cost” for services is on its way, as well, a contractor incentive program where all military services will rate the top 42 service suppliers in tiers (1, 2, and 3), with basis for rating from CPARS. He noted that the alignment of DCMA and DCAA has been an ongoing effort and we can expect to see further alignment in the future as the backlog of Incurred Cost audits decreased after DCAA’s risk-based assessment of Incurred Cost Proposals.

Tom Robinson highlighted the difference between BBP 2.0 and 3.0, shifting the focus from cost and getting the best deal toward a better technical baseline. Robinson addressed “should-cost” as it applies to military commanders – Frank Kendall is driving commands to determine what their portfolio of projects and acquisitions needs to look like within the budget cap.

Robinson talked about the shift in engagement with industry over his career. In the 1980’s, there was no talking to industry, in the 1990’s the aperature opened, in the 2000’s all were “singing kumbaya,” and a recent shift to a more arm’s-length relationship. He wants to see contracting officers sitting down with and talking to industry as much as possible (including the use of RFIs), until the RFP is released. Robinson acknowledged that industry often knows more about the topic and the need to work together to develop requirements that are good for all, not just one company. Regarding “best value,” Mr. Robinson stated that “best technical is not always the answer, and LPTA is not always the answer.”

When asked about the future, Robinson said, “I don’t see us moving back toward full trade-offs.” If TALP (Technically Acceptable, Lowest Price) were an option, where all proposals received were technically acceptable, no one would have a problem with us selecting the lowest price. He further stated that competition is going to drive where we go.

The third panelist, Col. Holt, started with the two sides of acquisition: weapons systems and current operations, and the need to understand both pieces going forward. Acquisition strategies need to address major command support, installation support, enterprise sourcing, and contingency operations.

Holt highlighted two areas he wanted to address: building stronger partnerships between acquisitions and requirements, and strengthening and expanding should-cost (a look at operational excellence). Operational excellence includes professionalizing and institutionalizing acquisition in both contracting and program management.

When asked about the future, Holt said the AF is looking forward to category management and noted Anne Rung’s (OFPP Administrator) #1 priority of category management. When addressing LPTA, he stated that requirements need to be matched with the mission and contracting officers need to realize that there are many different successful hybrid solutions out there. “We need more sophistication in our trade-offs than just LPTA.”