FAA asks contractors how to improve acquisition process

FAA asks contractors how to improve acquisition process

The Federal Aviation Administration is on a mission to improve its acquisition process and has asked contractors to comment on its proposed changes.

'We have been working on a process improvement effort,' said Roger Cooley, FAA program director for process engineering. 'Our own internal processes are predictable and we have not worried about the contractors' processes so much. We need to focus on the maturity of the FAA internal and the contractors' process capabilities.'

Contractors can send their comments on the proposal to Roger.Cooley@faa.gov by Dec. 31. They should expect changes in FAA's acquisition planning, pre-solicitation, solicitation, evaluation, selection and post-contract award activities, Cooley said.

The FAA's goal is to increase the quality, predictability, performance and cost-effectiveness of products and services it gets from contractors.

Minimize risks

The Office of the CIO and the Acquisitions Program Office are working on the effort. FAA is focusing on portfolio and risk management.

'In the past, we have done portfolio management and risk management for some projects, but not across-the-board,' Cooley said. 'Now, we will.'

'Portfolio management will help us do better capital planning and more clearly put the systems and goals in place,' he said. 'With risk management, we will get to know the risks a project may have and its potential impact.'

A major problem at FAA is IT systems management, said Joseph J. Petrillo, an attorney with Petrillo & Powell, a Washington law firm that specializes in federal contract law.

'The FAA should understand its needs and get a grip on its existing systems for incremental modernization,' Petrillo said. 'The problem is not an acquisition problem, but more managing and understanding its needs and systems.'

Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said it has been frustrating to watch FAA's progress.

'About four or five years ago, FAA had a good management process,' Allen said, adding the agency tried to incorporate best business practices from other agencies and did a good job of streamlining its buying process. Congress in 1995 exempted FAA from the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which greatly speeded procurement.

'But that did not pan out well because of the internal cultural resistance,' he said.
FAA will give contractors explicit information on target performance for a project in presolicitation, Cooley said.

The agency will list performance characteristics and contractors' performance capabilities that would be critical to the project.

What's your status?

After a contract is awarded, FAA may require the contractor to provide periodic reports on its activities.

Cooley said the agency is expecting comments from 10 to 20 companies.

'We will have a cross-section of opinions and also know how these changes will impact the contractors,' he said. 'Assuming that they will not come up with major negative implications, we will look at the new programs and see how we can incorporate these changes.'

Depending where current projects stand in their development, the changes might be implemented, Cooley said.

If the contractors raise major concerns, the agency might reconsider its approach.

The changes will be effective after they go through the agency's internal clearance process and get the nod from FAA's Acquisition System Advisory Group.

Allen said he would reserve judgment on the proposal until he sees how it is implemented. 'The FAA has been talking a good game,' he said. 'But they need to do a good job internally.'

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