Moving to reverse what he calls a “declining competition rate,” the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition chief issued strong guidance last month to the Military Services and DoD components to improve the defense acquisition competitive environment.
In a memo to the DoD acquisition community, Under Secretary of Defense (Acq) Frank Kendall said that DoD has not met its competition goals in the last four years. Calling competition “the most valuable means we have to motivate industry to deliver effective and efficient solutions for the Department of Defense,” Kendal stressed that a competitive environment spurs innovation, improves quality and performance, and lowers costs.
He emphasized that with the limitation on resources, DoD has to maximize the use of competition. “Every dollar saved through competition benefits the Warfighter and the taxpayers,” he said. Kendall’s memo described actions DoD must take to provide a more competitive environment.
The Business Senior Integration Group (chaired by Kendall to oversee the Better Buying Power Initiative) will assess the progress on efforts to expand and improve competition at its quarterly meetings. The group will determine what actions have been successful and will also deploy “business intelligence tools” to identify competition opportunities.
Contracting officers will ask for feedback from companies that expressed interest in a competitive solicitation, but did not submit an offer. This will provide acquisition leaders with important information to enable them to identify possible barriers to competition.
Contracting officers will also be required to expand the use of Requests for Information (RFI) or Sources Sought (SS) notices before issuing non-competitive acquisition solicitations. This will assist managers to better maximize the use of competitive procedures.
Kendall announced the issuing of “Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Environment for Supplies and Services in the Department of Defense.” These guideline will complement the principles of the Better Buying Power Initiative: 1) think rather than default to the “school solution,” 2) attract and train acquisition professionals; stress acquisition fundamentals; and streamline decisionmaking. Kendal said the techniques and examples in the guidelines should be considered in designing acquisition strategies that create and maintain a competitive environment throughout the product or service lifecycle.
DoD will also publish a “DoD Competition Handbook, A Practical Guide for Program Managers” that updates the Defense Systems Management College handbook (Establishing Competitive Production Sources), which is 30 years old. This updated handbook will include new chapters on technology maturation and risk reduction, engineering, manufacturing, and development, and operations and support.
In addition to these actions, Kendall said DoD will also amend procedures for preparing non-competitive Justification and Approval (J&A) documents. Current policy does not effectively track the use of possible plans to remove or overcome barriers to competition in follow-on acquisitions of a product or service, according to Kendall’s memo. To capture these missed competition opportunities, the previous J&A document for a product or service will be required to be part of the approval package for any subsequent acquisition.