Transcript: Dodging the Fiscal Sharks

 
Joanie Newhart (JN): Hi, I’m Joanie Newhart. I’m the Associate Administrator of Acquisition Workforce Programs at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Thank you so much for joining us today for this webinar. We recognize this is a challenging time for all of you. As a matter of fact, I have many years of federal service and I do not recall such a challenging time as this is now. So, we wanted to share some tips and strategies with you, things that you may be thinking about. I know you are trying to make your acquisitions better, your solutions stronger, get better pricing, all of the good things that we always talk about, and we have some friends here to give you some ideas on how to do that. This is a real opportunity for us, even though it’s challenging, to shine and really show how acquisitions can contribute to the mission of your agency, so you are very important, your leadership realizes that, and so we just wanted to provide you some things to help you on your path to better acquisitions. We have invited a stellar lineup today. We have colleagues from DoD, the Federal Acquisition Institute, small agencies, civilian agencies, award winners, you name it, and we have something for everyone. We're very mindful of your time, so I think you will find this two hours very valuable to you. If you have questions, many of our presentations are taped today so you can submit questions. There should be a box on the webcast home page that says “Submit a Question.” You can submit a question to the presenters and they will be posted later; we will compile the questions and post them on FAI. So, feel free to submit questions. I also understand there is some tweeting going on, and please don’t ask me what that is. We will be posting some of that, too. It should be a fun two hours. Today is all about you, so let's get started. Our first presenter is Bryon Young, the Executive Director at the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Bryon has been a senior executive for approximately 10 years, since November 2004. Coincidentally, he was my boss during that time. He will be telling us about DoD’s Better Buying Power. If you are not DoD, don’t worry, and please pay attention because these tips apply to everyone who does federal acquisitions. So, you will find them helpful. Besides being one of my acquisition heroes, Bryon is a wonderful person; you’ll enjoy hearing from him. Without further ado, here is Bryon some tips for you.
 
Bryon Young (BY): Hello, my name is Bryon Young, I’m the Executive Director of the Army Contracting Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground. I was fortunate enough to be one of the team members on Dr. Carter and Mr. Kemp’s the first Better Buying Power initiative teams. I would like to convey to you some of the techniques that we are using at Aberdeen in implementing the Better Buying Power initiatives and achieving positive result with them. Before I do that, I’d like to talk a little bit about the Better Buying Power initiatives and what their objectives have been. We, in the Army, over the past 10 years, we have been focused on delivering capability rapidly to our army deployed at war. As a result of that, we have often been willing to trade off higher price for that capability in accordance with an aggressive schedule. But now we are looking at having to sustain that capability and sustaining it over a period of time. In that regard, cost consciousness is becoming something that we are focusing on to ensure that we achieve that in the acquisition process. There have been a number of techniques which were highlighted in the Better Buying Power initiatives and I want to talk about six or seven of those right now that we have been using at Aberdeen. The first of those, it in competitive cost contracts, we are not allowing fees for other direct costs associated with those contracts - Travel, materials, associated, administrative leave associated with those contracts. As a result of that, on the R2 Contract at Aberden, over the course of the past year, on about 15 task orders, we have saved over $30 million. It has been an extremely beneficial result for us. We have also converted time and materials contracts to different contract types. In addition to getting off of the time and materials as the least preferred contract type, we have also seen savings associated with that that have been substantial. On average, where we have been able to do an apples to apples comparison between the previous contract and a new contract, we have saved approximately 8% of the total cost. We are also finding, as we track contractor performance to cost, on 99% of those contracts, they are performing at or near the target cost. We have also received benefits from the Better Buying Power initiatives technique where we have received only one bid of negotiating on other than certified costs and pricing data basis. In doing that, for just seven task orders, at the end of last fiscal year, we found we save approximately 1%. Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but given the environment we are in, it equaled $1.6 million. $1.6 million on seven task orders, if you aggregate that across the business base, is a substantial amount of money. 1% is not a lot individually, but collectively, it adds up to substantial funds. Increased competition is another opportunity that we have worked hard to take advantage of. Where we have been able to compete, formally sole source contracts, we have been able to see a substantial reduction in the overall cost. Those reductions typically are between 5% and 7% where we have had essentially the same level of effort. We have also received savings in other areas associated with competition but they are difficult to quantify because of changes in a statement of work or scope of effort. Another area that we think we have achieved a lot of success in is the use of low price technically acceptable as a source selection method. While it is a best value method, it is not a best value trade-off method. Sometimes there are concerns on the part of the supported activities or the customers when we say we are going to use a best value low-price technically acceptable. They often think that means what we're going to do is we are going to have minimum acceptability and then we’ll have a contractor compete on price and then potentially buy-in and potentially underperform. What we’ve been able to do to mitigate that is to make sure we set the technical acceptability bar at the appropriate level, and the appropriate level is most often is not the minimum. What I ask our folks to do in working with their customers is to talk through the source selection strategy. If it had been a trade-off, what is the point at which you would stop trading higher price for higher performance? That is the point that we seek to set the technical acceptability bar. When you do that, everyone who is technically acceptable can perform the job and we have a high degree of confidence that they can perform the job. Then, at that point it becomes a price competition. Of course, one of the other key issues with low price technically acceptable (LPTA) is, does the contractor actually perform at that level, particularly if it’s not a fixed price contract? So, we very closely monitor the performance of contractors in an LPTA environment after source selection and in the post-award environment. When we do that, we find 99% of our contractors do perform within 1% of the target cost. 
 
Finally, I’d like to talk about reverse auctioning; it’s a technique we have been able to utilize fairly substantially. We use a third-party contractor who establishes a value added network and what we have essentially done is we have identified commercial items that are at the simplified acquisition threshold that are subject to using reverse auctioning techniques. We are currently utilizing reverse auction on 39% of those actions. In fiscal year 2012, we achieve savings of $5.4 million. Not only does reverse auctioning provide a streamlined source selection process for small purchases, it saves us money, so it is a benefit to the workload on our workforce, and a benefit with respect to achieving better pricing. 
 
Thank you very much for this opportunity to address you. I would like to add one other item. We have mentioned a number of techniques that we are using here. No one of them is really a home run. This is really putting together a series of signals that cause us to achieve better affects over the entire acquisition process and has contributed to increasing the cost consciousness and the culture of our workforce in looking to achieve better results for the Army and for the taxpayers. And, we believe they have been very successful. Thank you.
 
JN: Great. I hope you enjoyed that session from Bryon. My major take away from that was that we all have to be more cost-conscious. With every single procurement, we have to look at cost, negotiate the best prices.
 
Frank Kendall, who is the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology issued a memo on April 24 of this year implementing Better Buying Power 2.0, the second version of Better Buying Power. That memo has some great tips for all of us, DoD or civilian agencies. One of my favorite key overarching principles for this Better Buying Power is number one – “to think.” And I think that’s really helpful. We are also busy; it is hard to take a few minutes to think about your procurement. I encourage you to do that before doing your next procurement. Give it some thought of how you could make it better every time. The other overarching principles – “Help the acquisition workforce to be more experienced, trained, and empowered.” “Apply acquisition fundamentals,” and finally, “Streamline your acquisition processes,” things that we can all work on to make acquisition better. We’re going to post that memo at FAI.gov after the webinar. Also, don’t forget, if you have questions for Bryon, go to the “Submit a Question” box at the webcast home site.  Next up we have Sharon Fernandes, who is a Contracting Officer at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Technology Acquisition Center. That Center is one of the best examples of a specialized IT acquisition cadre and that is a group of Contracting Officers, Program Managers, Contracting Officer’s Representatives, customer liaisons, and they have even added engineers to the mix. They all get together and work together to buy commercial IT better than they did before. It is a great concept and something we can all learn from, even if you do not have the resources to have such a large scale cadre, start small. Start with a few folks who can help buy the IT better. Sharon is a member of the team that won the 2013 Chief Acquisition Officers Counsel Small Business Excellence Award, so they are a team to be commended; they have done some great things. We had a lot of good competition for that award. So, let’s hear some more from Sharon.
 
Sharon Fernandes (SF): I am here today to speak with you about a strategy I put forward for small business at a contract level and at a task order level. My name is Sharon Fernandes, I’m a Contracting Officer at the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Office of Acquisition Operations at the Technology Acquisitions Center in Eatontown, New Jersey. I will tell you a little bit about some of the concerns I had moving the strategy forward, some of the challenges I had, how I overcame those challenges, and we have been able to successfully award Small Business Awards under an indefinite quantity multiple award contract. Again, small business strategies, trying to utilize the Small Business Administration's programs under multiple award IDIQ contract is not a very favored approach because it is very difficult to give government contracting dollars to small businesses under a major multiple IDIQ contract. One of the things we had to overcome was being able to apply those small business programs and set-aside considerations. One of the other considerations that we had to analyze was executing this through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs; we were concerned with the public law known as Veterans First Contracting. This is also a rule and regulation in regard to trying to give government contracts in dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses or veteran owned small businesses in priority 1 and 2, to those types of companies in order to utilize the growth in the small-business arena with the SDVOSBs and the VOSBs. Also under multiple award IDIQ contracts you are operating under a fair opportunity FAR Part 16. It was not until some recent changes in the Small Business Job Act where you were able to set aside or consider set asides under fair opportunity contracts. Under FAR Part 16, you had to give all of your multiple award IDIQ prime contract holders fair opportunity for all awards bid at the task order level.
 
Those are some of the considerations that we had to work through, and again, I will tell you how we were very successful in putting forth what is now called and part of the FAR regulations, a small business reserve strategy, not only at the contract level, but able to execute that at the task order award level. One of the most important things I would like for you to take back to your offices is doing extensive market research. It is required but it is very important. What we did at the Technology Acquisition Center is we got together and primarily support for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs the Office of Information and Technology. We got together with our customers across the entire software life cycle development - that would be software development side of the house, the engineering services side of the house, those that support the data centers, and so on. We got together with them, we were in the room with them for a long period of time, put together the PWS. I forgot to mention at the very beginning, I apologize, the multiple IDI contract that I did award is affectionately known now in Washington as a T4, it is the transformation 21 total technology contract. We got together with our customers, put the PWS together and came up with 11 functional areas. We put out the draft PWS once it was all compiled. We also put a list of very extensive questions out to the industries and wanted to try to gain from them their technical risk assessment, so we asked them to look across the 11 functional areas and tell us if they thought they had the technical capabilities either inside their organization, or would they require teaming arrangements in order to meet those requirements. We also looked at financial capabilities. In the Department of Veterans Affairs it was a bit challenging, because what we have available to us as Contracting Officers, we do not have the Defense Contract Management Agency to support us in going out to audit companies or look at their facilities, so we used the Dunn and Bradstreet to look at financial risk. We also looked at business risk. We looked at our databases, CCR, VETBIZ, and we looked at organizations business size, number of employees, annual revenue, and also what were some of the largest contracts that they had been awarded? We put the performance work statement, drafted the questions, and we put this request for information out on the Federal Business Opportunities page for quite a long time, I think for several months. I'd think we did it in December 2009 and gathered the information until February. What that market research told us was that we really could not put the acquisition aside for total small business set-asides. As a requirement of a Contracting Officer I must look to see if I can set any contracts aside, again total small-business set-asides -- also responsible to look to see if a total set aside is a strategy.
 
The fact again that we collected this information, we had hundreds of companies respond. I documented it formally and we got a lot of comments from the Small Business Administration saying how well the market research was conducted and documented to show that, unfortunately, we could not set T4 aside totally or partially to small businesses. However, what we did do is look at the utilization of a small business reserve strategy. This strategy gives small businesses the maximum opportunity to become prime contract holders of a multiple award IDIQ contract. We said we will go out and we will do a full and open competition for at least eight prime awardees. Once we set those awardees, whether large or small, we would cut the line on the competitive range, and remove our large businesses, and then we would only look at our small business companies. Again, being supportive of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs priorities, we were looking for our small business reserves to be seven, either a combination of SDVOSB or VOSB. That is how you can utilize a small business reserve strategy under an IDIQ. It gives them the opportunity to compete under full and open, however, if they do not win, we set the competitive range, we removed all of the larges, and we awarded our top SDVOSBs and VOSBs. We wound up with 8 large businesses, six SDVOSBs and one VOSB under T4. What this strategy does is it helped the VA meet its IT mission. We honestly do believe what the reserve strategy does; it relives the small businesses from having to perform the majority of the work, more than 50% of the work with the concerns of their own company. So they're able to team and bring us a breath of skill sets through the teaming because they are not required to do more than 50%. If in fact we were to set the contract aside, they would have those requirements to meet. It gives us the opportunity to meet our IT mission with a breath of large, small, teaming arrangements, so we can bring about lots of skill sets in order for the IT mission to be met and met successfully. What we actually did is, prior to the changes in the Small Business Act of 2010, who realized, under multiple award contracts, we can do a small business reserve at the contract level, but no one was really sure or how to implement such a strategy, or were the regulations really tight for Contracting Officers to be able to follow how they would do reserves at the task order level. So, those changes have been made now, but one of the other acquisition strategies that we put forth under T4, and this was in the source selection value plan, so all of our offerors understood that in the plan how we were going to move forward. That, in fact, the Contracting Officers of T4 would consider set asides to our reserves, small businesses, if in order to meet the VA’s Agency, and that was even before the Small Business Job Act put forth more proposed rules and guidance for Contracting Officers to follow at the task order level. We were already very successful. We awarded T4 in June of 2011. I cannot remember exactly the amount of protests we received, but I believe it was in the range of 14 protests. We successfully won all protests. We started awarding task orders under T4 in March 2012. We have been successfully awarding task orders under T4 for over a year. What we have done -- I do not have the exact numbers in front of me -- but we have awarded over 100 or 150 task orders at this time. I would say 75% of those have been awarded to the T4 small business SDVOSBs and VOSBs. They have been very successful. The small business strategy works well in meeting the VA IT mission, as I mentioned. It allows the large and small businesses, particularly the service disabled veteran owned small businesses and veteran owned small business T4 prime contracts the opportunity to utilize teaming and not have to perform more than 50% of the work. It is very successful in that manner. We actually embraced the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 prior to its implementation, which has been recent. We had a provision in our source selection evaluation plan that told our potential awardees that we would be looking at any particular work that came across for a task order to see if it could be set aside to our small business concerns, in order to assist in meeting the VA’s Agency's goals. We were already going to implement such a strategy at the task order level that said, although under FAR Part 16, fair opportunity to all prime contract holders under a multiple award indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract, that you can now -- or that we would already be able to look at our small businesses reserves and set work aside for them. We have been very successful. We have awarded to date probably over 150 task orders under T4. Once we successfully one of our protests in March of 2012 we have been executing task orders for over a year. I would say at least 75% of those awards have been given to the service disabled veteran own small businesses or veteran own small businesses successfully under fair opportunity. Or under the small business reserve strategy at a task order level. I also want to say a little bit about the program as far as for our smalls as well.
 
We do a couple of other unique things. We hold a monthly program review meetings with all of our primes and also quarterly. This gives us the opportunity to talk to all our T4 prime contractors at a program level. They are very open. The forum is very open. They are allowed to give us concerns that they may have with the program and then we also have an honest exchange back with them in regards to the program. Also, one thing that our executive leadership has put forward at the Technology Acquisition Center for this program is that we debrief all of our T4 primes regardless of the value dollar. This is helpful and we have received feedback back from our small business companies and this is very helpful for them to even be more successful at winning task orders. We feel the small business strategy is something that contracting officers want to look very hard at when they are looking at strategies either at the contract level or a task order level. We believe you will gain a lot of success in helping to meet your agency's goals and priorities of the government, which is trying to give government contract dollars to our small business communities. Thank you very much. If you would like any information in regards to the strategy that we utilize, my name is Sharon Fernandes. I am at the Technology Acquisitions Center in Eatontown, New Jersey. My number is 732-440-9670, or I can be reached by e-mail at sharon.fernandes@va.gov. Thank you for the opportunity to share this success story with you and, again, if you would like any further information, please feel free to contact my office. Thank you.
 
JN: I am sure you got a lot of great tips for dealing with small businesses and incorporating them into your procurement more effectively from Sharon. As you saw, market research is absolutely key and also working closely with your small business specialists. That was great, thank you, Sharon. Next, I want to introduce Jim Blades. We are going to have a live segment now. He agreed to come into the studio to talk with us. Jim, you are the managing director of contracts and grants management at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the chairperson of the Small Agency Counsel. Some of our viewers may not be familiar with the Council. Could you tell us a little bit about it?
 
Jim Blades (JB): We are a bit above 90-plus small agencies. Together, we employ 50,000 federal employees and manage billions of dollars. About 5,000 of those individuals are acquisition professionals The organization manages a wide area of federal programs. 50% are regulatory or enforcement agencies, and 50% are grant-making, advisory, or uniquely chartered organizations, much like the MCC. They include CFO agencies like USAID and NSF. The SAC procurement committee is comprised of agency chiefs and senior contracting personnel. The committee provides an effective forum to understand what is happening in the federal acquisition arena. It provides networking opportunities allowing procurement chiefs to meet each other and exchange best practices and lessons learned. It serves as an effective liaison between the small agency procurement chiefs and OMB providing a forum for discussing OMB guidance and reporting requirements.
 
JN: That is great. What are some of your challenges at your small agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, that our frontline acquisition folks can identify with?
 
JB: The small agencies often struggle to interpret how OFPP and OMB policy impacts their agency. Every agency should intend compliance. I think about compliance along a continuum from statutes to regulations to best practices. It is tough for small agencies to get to the end of the continuum and best practices. A lot of what comes out of OMB and OFPP are the best practices to comply with the regulations. Beyond the larger small agencies, the CFO Act designation agency, some agencies have three to five contracting personnel. For them to do the contracting, contract administration, develop some policy to manage their organization, it is tough for them to also hone in on the best practices. Often they are looking for insight into what applies, what does not apply, and how best they can comply with those best practices.
 
JN: Are you saying that OMB and OFPP issues a lot of guidance? Just kidding. Do not answer that. [laughter]
 
JB: At the MCC, we have 20 contracting personnel, including professionals that we contract for as well. We are still thin because our agency mission is very tightly connected to the contracts we award for due diligence and engineering oversight, so we do a good job keeping up with the work and we do a pretty good job getting to the best practices. Our goal as procurement executives should be to take what the small agency that they have inherited has. If it is a brand new agency, create something that works at first, and then build upon it. If it is something you inherit, come with a strategic plan to take it to the next level and do things in baby steps to better the organization.
 
JN: That is great and I am familiar with the small agencies. There are some agencies with five people total or even less. It must be challenging. You and I are of a single mind about collaboration. We both think it is important. How are some of the ways that you collaborate within your small agency and among the smaller agencies?
 
JB: Within my small agency we try to make sure that we are meeting the intent of all of the regulations, executive orders. We do the best we can. It may not have the bells and whistles but it is pretty compliant. Across all small agencies, when I first took this role as chair person for the procurement committee, we brokered a deal with FAI. The FAITAS system was up and running, but the small agencies did not have access to it because they could not accommodate 90-plus agencies on the system. We came up with a plan to allow for certification and continuous learning points tracking by breaking the agencies into six groups. We were very successful in getting six agencies to volunteer: the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, Executive Office of the President, Corporation for National and Community Services, and the National Mediation board, all volunteered to take a role in being ‘super’ acquisition career managers. They take on all of the continuous learning points and certification requirements. It allows us to really use the system. The other thing, I am a member of the FAI Board of Directors as a Small Agency Council representative. I am the liaison between the CAOC and CAAC, forums for the larger agencies. The tool that I added to the Small Agency Council procurement committee website that somebody on my staff developed was for the OMB and OFPP guidance and policy. We put it all in a matrix. We have a column in there for the Millennium Challenge Corporation as to what applies and what does not, and I put that on the web site so that any small agency can use that as a guide to what applies to them. They will have to do some machinations, as certain things do not apply to us that they apply to other agencies. They will have to do that analysis for themselves. We established an annual schedule for the meetings. We have meetings every other month. Establishing a schedule ahead of time with the meetings allows people to plan in advance and attend. We have a lot of increased e- mail collaboration on a host of topics. The other day we talked about the small agencies, some of them got letters from a congressman talking about the Small Business Act and increased, stringent requirements and the National Defense Authorization Act, how we would address that. That was very useful. 
 
We continue to need help in a couple of areas. That is increasing the types of commodities and services that the federal government on a government-wide basis are doing in terms of strategic sourcing. We need help with that because we can leverage that as small agencies. When large agencies plan small business outreach events, it would be great to invite other small agencies, typically with similar missions, like USAID and State Department invites us to their annual events. I have four events a year and we get them done through the USAID or State avenue or we do something on our own. It is helpful if large agencies reach out and let us partake.
 
JN: That is great. If you are listening and you work for a small agency and have not heard of the Small Agency Council Procurement committee, submit a question and send a question to Jim on how to get involved. It is a great way to leverage this resource and meet some of your peers and small agencies. I believe our next meeting; the Administrator Joe Jordan will come and speak. Get plugged into this great resource. Jim, on a personal level, I’ve heard you speak before, and I have heard you say something about throwing something back. Can you talk to that for a few minutes?
 
JB: I love the volunteers across the Federal government. I love this interview back in the 1990's between Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou the poet. Oprah asked, what sort of advice could you share with us as you enter your 70th year? She said a couple of things that I really liked that I have carried through my life. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. She also said, I learned you should not go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands. You should learn to throw things back. What I take out of that is we have to be able to focus on service to others, volunteer, and throw something back that helps others. A year ago in June, when I was asked to chair this committee, that is what I was thinking. I am glad to do it, was a bit fearful of what I could bring to the table, whether I could be successful, whether I would have the right approach. My approach has been pretty practical. It is to increase networking, sharing resources, knowledge, and leveraging examples, templates of established programs, other best practices, and our best tool for -- amongst us, each one of us, throwing something back to help one another. Just practical stuff. It is working in spades along with the other stuff I mentioned. Every other month these meetings tee up topics, we share information; we are gladly sharing documents, word documents so that people can use them and not recreate the wheel. FAI and OMBMax have come up with great web sites to share these things so we can put that up for public consumption.
 
JN: Thank you for sharing that with us. We are glad to have you here. Let's turn to our next presenter. His name is Bob Namejko. You may recall within the last few years, OFPP has issued a couple of memos on mythbusters. If you have not heard of mythbusters, please come out from under the rock and do a web search for OFPP mythbusters. People and government have taken to those memos on how to promote that vendor engagement that gives you a better acquisition solution. We thought the topic was so important, we wanted Bob, a customer liaison at the Department of Homeland Security, there are two people that focus solely on this effective vendor engagement and they have an interesting program, a great way to get directly to the contracting officers to connect them with industry. We wanted you to hear a little bit about that. Let's listen to Bob and hear what they are doing at Homeland Security.
 
Bob Namejko (BN): Hello, my name is Bob Namejko. I am the industry liaison at the DHS headquarters -- I am here to talk about our vendor engagement seminars and the industry liaison counsel. Right now, in our 1102 community we have over 1400 contacting professionals. Of those 1400, nearly 30% only have one to five years of experience. Another 30% are nearing retirement age, if not already there. Most of us within the 1102 community have never worked in industry and we have little idea as to how industry operates on a continuum. DHS needed to find a way to expose our 1102s to how and why their actions affect industry during the procurement cycle. Our Chief Procurement Officer, Nick Nayak, developed a strategic plan two years ago, and one of the pillars of his plan is effective government to industry communication. In order to foster participation in this industry vendor communication, two people were hired to do nothing else but do more effective vendor communication. I am one of them and José is the other. We act as the industry liaison and procure and procurement ombudsman for DHS. Our job is to go out and meet with industry on a daily basis but we are not the only one that they meet with. All of our 1102's have the responsibility to do the same. In the spirit of the myth busters initiative, Dr. Nayak determined each component -- and we have nine different components within DHS -- should have its own industry liaison representative that will work in conjunction with the small business specialists. This over 50 person organization is set up to do something that most other agencies do not necessarily spend a lot of time doing, and that is getting out and dealing with industry. 
 
But dealing with industry is only a small part of what needs to be done. We need to collaborate better with industry, and within DHS we have 10 associations that we deal with on a regular basis. These associations comprise -- their membership comprises of over 80% of all the vendors with which we do business. We have 15,000 vendors at any particular time doing business with DHS. 11,000 of those, which are small businesses. Working through this association, our office has developed a series of seminars, chaired and presented by the membership of these associations. The seminars are conducted at our Homeland Security Acquisition Institute and are open to the entire DHS 1102 community. To date, two seminars have been conducted. The first was hosted by the Washington Homeland Security roundtable. It was entitled “Strategic Communications and Industry Perspective”. The panel spoke about the tools for strategic communications, the resources necessary, the best practices they have learned over time and the benefits to industry and DHS in the collaborative efforts. The second seminar was hosted by the Washington Homeland Security Defense of Business council. It was entitled “How Industry Assesses Risk”. This group of companies identified risks through the whole acquisition process. They talked about decision making based on risk and costs associated with risk. The 1102's learn what a business development person was, what a capture manager was, how budgets were determined, what are bid proposal costs, how do you make a bid/no-bid decision? What are the costs whenever the government takes a long time in developing their requirements and then not following through for a long time? How do they view draft RFPs, draft RFIs? Do they like industry days? All of this and more was discussed at length. 
 
We learned from our first seminar that an industry, government, give-and-take question and answer session, proved to be extremely beneficial. Our 1102s were able to ask professionals exactly “what was meant by…” and you can fill in the blanks. The information was then taken by the 1102's and they discussed it. We had surveys written, and responded to. Those surveys came back and we found the 1102 community loves talking with industry and learning about the way they do business. We have another seminar planned by the government technology services coalition entitled “Headed for the Cliff, Challenges for Small Companies that Grow to Mid-Tier at DHS. The intent of this seminar will be to discuss what the life cycle of a company is in the federal marketplace. Better yet, why would a company want to enter into the federal marketplace? What happens when a company that is a small business becomes successful and graduates to the next level? They graduate to the level of mid-tier, too large to be considered small and too small to compete with the giants of industry. They no longer have the capability to take advantage of the set asides given to small businesses, so what happens to them? The large businesses see them now as instead of partners, often times looked at as competitors. So the subcontracting capabilities they had as a small business have gone away in many cases, so what do they do? What do they do about joining joint ventures? How does that happen? All of these and many more things will be discussed at the seminar. Our Chief Procurement Officer, Nick Nayak, whenever he developed his Strategic Plan, realized the only way that we are ever going to educate our 1102 professionals is to make them better understand not only what they learned from the CON courses they are taking that we provide, but also through these industry- led seminars, we want to learn how industry really does business. We want to teach our 1102's that what they do has consequences. It is not a simple matter of sending out a draft RFP, following up with an RFP, putting out a solicitation, spending some time waiting for the solicitation to come back, evaluate it, make an award, and maybe that whole time period takes one year or more. What does that cause the industry to do? It causes them problems. We want to inform our 1102's and procurement professionals in the best manner possible so that when they go out, the decisions they make will be beneficial to the entire community. 
 
At the end of the year, over 500 of our acquisition professionals will have attended seminars outlining the private sector business practices. Our industry liaison council has been able to drive program and procurement specific industry days. In FY12 DHS hosted 472 industry days, proposal conferences, and put out 319 requests for information and draft requests for proposals. This has impacted the entire department and its industrial base because DHS CPO has made this a priority. We have developed a framework to outline a vision of how the 7000 acquisition professionals should think about communication at the department. Hopefully, this has created an understanding of how important communication is. These industry-led seminars are one of the many tools we have in our toolbox. We believe the return on investment will be increased cost savings, and a more resilient industrial base. Improve acquisition performance and working with industry to help us develop a return on investment on this work.
 
JN: As you saw, DHS is doing some great things in the area of vendor engagement and connecting industry with contracting officials and the acquisition officials. It might be something to think about at your agency; it is a pretty good model they have. It sounded very interesting to me so I hope to catch one of their sessions. Yesterday, -- I get a lot of e- mails -- I try to learn all the time. I get e-mails from executives, Harvard Business Review, to try to stay on top of what is going on. I ran across an article from Jackie Phillips, the Chief Knowledge Officer of the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Her article was entitled "11 Do It Yourself Ways to Advance Your Government Career.”
 
I wanted to share some of those tips with you. She recommends joining relevant communities of practice. We will be hearing from Donna Jenkins, the director at FAI later. Identify and mentor someone who has skills that you want to build in yourself. See what their success tips are. Sign up for relevant trade journals. Contracting, acquisition changes so quickly, it is hard to stay on top of everything, so that is one way to do that. Or become a member of a professional organization or alumni association. I have a few more tips for you but first, let's hear our next presenter. We have Terry Schooley, Deputy Chief of the Contracting Operations Division within the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Contracting of the Air Force. Terry started her career as an intern and has a lot of great and varied experience. You will learn a lot from her. You can tell she knows what she is talking about. She is talking about ways to implement the Better Buying Power initiative that you earlier heard from Bryon Young. Even if you are civilian, listen closely to her because her tips across any acquisition. You will get a lot from this presentation.
 
Terry Schooley (TS): I am Terry Schooley, the Deputy Chief of the Contract Operations Division for the Air Staff Contracting Office at the Pentagon. I am here today to talk about examples of how the Air Force is using Better Buying Power across the Air Force not only for acquiring our weapons systems but also at the installation and operational level. Today, since we only have limited time, some of the things we will be talking about is focused power, trying to make our programs more affordable, how we are trying to control costs throughout the product life cycle, how we are trying to promote effective competition across the Air Force, and finally, give an example of how we are trying to improve the professionalism of the acquisition work force by centralizing lessons learned and examples of Better Buying Power and how it has been used in other areas across the Air Force to instill that culture change, of Better Buying Power.
 
The first example I will start with is the KC-46 tanker. One of the primary issues we are trying to resolve for this tanker is how can the Air Force stabilize the affordability of this program throughout the life cycle of the program itself? What became very clear was that we had to start from the beginning and plan for the program and sustainment up front, so we were planning for the entire life cycle of the program from the beginning. We need to hold contractors accountable for what it is they actually proposed and hold very tightly to that line throughout the life cycle of the program. Also, how can we make investments today in the program that continues to maintain competition and lower costs tomorrow to get that best value for the taxpayer? The KC-46 tanker, if you are not familiar, was a competition for a new tanker for the Air Force that included not only the engineering, manufacturing, and development aspects of the program -- so it would take a commercial platform and modify it to a tanker formation, but also would include the full rate production, entire full rate production, for the aircraft. So for the EMD phase, the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development, in order to cap the government's contingent liability for the future for that phase, we are doing a fixed price incentive contract. Our contingent liability is capped at that ceiling price. It requires discipline not only from the contractor’s perspective but also the government's perspective to maintain that liability cap. Because the contract also includes production, we included 175 aircraft in the production for this contract. We included what we call variable quantity matrices that allowed us to buy different lot sizes and get economic order discounts for those larger lot sizes. It also allowed -- it also gave us the ability to be able to react to different budgets from year to year. Other features of the contract is we are using limited government furnished equipment, so the contractor has to bring all resources to the table to be able to do this work. They are not dependent on the government in any form or fashion. We are also using extensive -- we are buying extensive data rights and license rights, up front, as part of the competition, and including the cost of those data or licensed rights in the evaluated price of that initial competition, in order to keep prices low and manageable. We have also included, made it clear up front, that there was the potential for third-party modifications to the platform, so those third parties have to have access to the data rights as well. We also include fuel burn clause, almost like the mpg clause. A minimum amount of mileage per fuel fill that the aircraft had to be able to maintain throughout the life cycle of the aircraft. And it was clear that the air crew and maintenance contracts would have to be separate competitions outside of the initial competition for the aircraft buy. And we used competition to our best advantage. For example, as I talked about before with regard to the technology data and pricing the technology data to that extent that we did at the initial competition and giving us all of those rights throughout the life cycle of the aircraft helps us ensure that competition will be available throughout the life cycle of the aircraft through sustainment to the end. And building in those competitive options upfront will help us maintain that competition throughout. It helps with not only tech data rights, the variable quantity matrices for the production, and interim contractor sustainment, but also establishing commercial parts pools helps to maintain the competition throughout the life cycles. We're also working on holding contractors accountable for what it is that they propose. Like I said, in the contract, but also in production plans. There were price plans that were priced initially as ‘not to exceed’ plans so we could see prices for also included in the evaluated price, so we could use competition to keep that price low. We are also working on Source Selection strategies that are focused on what really matters in differentiating the offerors and making that decision process as easy as possible. We were also very deliberate in the tanker program at reaching out across DoD for anyone's expertise to help us achieve what we wanted to achieve. 
 
Another example in a slightly different environment in the use of Better Buying Power is the F-22 Raptor. We're looking at this from a sole source perspective in making modifications to the F-22. The main concern in the F-22 is how can the Air Force can gain greater efficiency and productivity at each milestone and keep those costs manageable, if not cheaper. What the team did is conduct a bottoms up multi-functional should-cost analysis and used that to help inform the negotiations they did with the contractor. And then to continue the effective use of that should-cost analysis at actually managing the contract once we had completed negotiations as opposed to actually using the proposed price, or what I would call the will-cost analysis from the contractor. Helping to reduce the overall cost and still getting with the Air Force wants for a cheaper price. As an example, there are two modifications that I want to talk about with the F-22. The first is increment 3.2a and 3.2b. Both of these are primarily software modifications, and using that should-cost analysis. We had several findings with 3.2a that were interesting. 
 
First, it became apparent that the program management oversight ratio was too high. For the simple pass through costs, they were estimating about an hour for hour cost in program management versus actual work. It was too high. If it is a simple task, there is probably no time spent in overseeing the completion of that task. We were able to drive down the cost of program management. Something else we found was their extensive use of the parametric analysis model was based on using novice-level engineers as opposed to more experienced engineers. We were able to save costs by employing more experienced engineers. We did a should-cost base analysis on the engineers that we knew they had available. More experience means less time to do the same action. We were able to bring those engineering hours down and save money. Ultimately, they were able to save $32 million on increment 3.2a. 
 
On 3.2 b, using the same should-cost analysis and using that for negotiations, it became clear that the productivity factors for software coding were set lower than the industry standard. I should say, they did propose more time in doing that coding than what the industry standard would have afforded. We were able to negotiate a lower price for that coding. It also became clear that they overestimated the amount of code unit testing and program management activities were much higher than what other DoD programs have experienced. We're able to negotiate those down -- we were able to negotiate those down. Like many contractors, there were always going to have a higher fee, however the fee was much larger than what the DoD average is, so we were able to negotiate that down. Again, getting more bang for our buck, we were able to save $34 million for increment 3.2b. The bottom line is having that greater insight and doing the should-cost analysis and applying that to the negotiations helped us to apply and drive a better bargain for the taxpayer. 
 
I want to share some examples of how we used Better Buying Power at the operational or installation level. Using examples from both U.S. Air Force Europe, and the U.S. Air Force Academy, one of the concerns very often for the operational level is how the Air Force can provide motivation to its contractors on things that we have been doing for years, and yet still reduce costs in our budget reducing world. There are several things that the U.S. Air Force Europe is doing. One of them is early industry/customer involvement. That early involvement allows them to scrub the surface requirements using the expertise of both the customer and the industry and comparing that with an analysis of what the predecessor contract actually did and are able to lean out that work performance work statement. We are getting bottom line what we need and the contractor prices out that bottom-line requirement. They’re also streamlining their evaluation processes for source selection -- the source selection, focusing the criteria on exactly what is needed and what will differentiate one contractor from another, and simplifying the process for the source selection authority. Garnering the dedication for the entire acquisition up front throughout the life cycle of the contract makes everything flow easier. You can see the savings. On the ATLAS support, 40% savings. The European buses, 25% savings. UK Custodial, 53% savings on contracts we have been doing for years. 
 
Some examples from the Air Force academy, they actually took some of their larger what normally would have been sole source construction or civil engineering projects and made them into what we call price performance tradeoffs source selections. In garnering that competition, they were able to save $183 million over four years, which is a lot of money. They were also able to reduce the acquisition lead time from an average of 180 days down to 77 days. That is a huge savings in time as well as money. And they were able to do that by tailoring their source selection and their instructions to the criteria, to the specific things that they actually needed from the contractor, and that they actually needed to evaluate in order to differentiate the offerors, making the source selection simpler for all involved groups, including the offerors. 
 
Finally, I want to talk about something the Air Force is doing to help instill the Better Buying Power culture change across the Air Force by collecting and sharing the success stories and best practices and lessons learned across the Air Force into what we call a Better Buying Power tool. It helps increase the competency of the workforce in all aspects of Better Buying Power, and helps increase the work force buy-in and instilling that culture change. Some of the things that are key about making this tool effective are that it gives folks a centralized location where folks can go to identify good techniques that reflect those Better Buying Power key parameters, and how it relates to not only contracting, but program management. It is based on a powerpoint tool, and you can go into one of ten different areas to look up examples and lessons learned. It is a great tool that we build on over time. And it allows collaboration with pricing, contracting, services, and program management, which is what Better Buying Power is about, instilling all of those communities with the ability to better acquire all of our programs and acquisitions at a cheaper price, which is more affordable for the taxpayer and the Air Force. Thank you.
 
JN: Terry provided us with some great ideas for achieving affordable programs, which is so critical in this environment. She talked about improving competition, improving negotiations, contract management, all key to better acquisition outcomes. That is great. I was exchanging e-mail with her this morning and she mentioned that DoD has a great website about Better Buying Power. I want to share that link with you. That is BBP.DAU.mil. We'll also post that link, plus the slides from the webinar today. We will also post the answers to your questions. If you have a question, click on the "submit a question" box. Do not be shy about that. We have four more tips for you. Take advantage of your organization's internal learning management system resources. Even at my office we have a resource for taking classes on a variety of different things, to get books on a variety of topics. We do not always take the time to look at those resources, but you may have one at your agency that you would like to check out. Look for free MOOCs, massive open online courses. I'm intrigued with the idea of free and open online courses for anybody. I will check that out when I get back to the office. Develop your own peer cohort for specific topics. Get together and talk about these things. And last but not least, return to materials from past courses or past webinars. Again, the resources from this webinar will be on the FAI website. I hope you found those tips helpful. This is Rob Burton from the Executive Office of the President's Office of Administration. He is currently the Chief of Acquisition Integrity and Contract Oversight for the CIO there. Welcome, we're glad to have you.
 
Rob Burton (RB): Thank you.
 
JN: I understand you have some full-time contracting officer’s representatives. That is a bit unusual – can you share with us why you decided to have full-time CORs?
 
RB: With the Executive Office of the CIO, as you can well imagine, it is very dynamic. The battle rhythm that we keep is at an exponential pace all the time. Because it is an environment where there are multiple larger contracts, and smaller contracts as well, but a multi-vendor environment. Probably in 2010, 2011, the decision was made to create a branch within the Chief Information Officer office dedicated to pre-award and post-awards, basically the contracting officer’s representative function. It has been growing and developing. We have found it to be most successful. Most of the staff are originally IT professionals that have come up through the ranks. We are a branch that focuses totally on the care and giving the contract management and administration for those. It has been very successful so far.
 
JN: it sounds like a great model. What do you and your CORs do to affect better requirements development in the process?
 
RB: Good question. We have a program office procurement package. It was recently signed into internal CIO policy. It allows us to affect, control, and manage how the process works. Within the document, we line out for the program office representatives whether you are a requirements owner, which could be one of the engineers, project managers, etc. We call them requirements owners, and we call our CORs acquisition integrity leads. Our contracting officers are in the process very early. Those folks come together and they manage that process in the pre-award. They make sure that they work very closely with the requirement owner to make sure that it is clear and understandable for a potential offeror. That includes the market research, the independent government cost estimate. These are all subsequent to the clear requirements done. And then eventually, our acquisition strategy and plan. Following that process up through contract award has been quite successful. We have been able to foresee and fill a delta that was in the program office and have made sure that requirements are clear; our acquisition integrity leads are an important part of that.
 
JN: That sounds great. I know a lot of agencies struggle with how to improve their requirements development. That is a great idea. On the other end of the acquisition process, how do you affect better contract management?
 
RB: Once the contract is awarded, it is the integrity lead that I mentioned before that becomes nominated as the COR for the program. We have a couple of structured discipline processes after contract award. Things where we work hand in hand with our program management office. We also watch the triple constraint and cost-scheduling scope. We watch the indexes, including risk and quality that we adding to our triple constraint, which gives about five different areas. If the contract has some challenges or trouble, our CORs will do a weekly program review, which includes all aspects like contract management, challenges, priorities, things like that. We do this on a weekly basis. That keeps it going well. If the program is in its option year, or does not have many challenges and is in a steady state contract, we will do a biweekly review where we still have the same information. The CORs are very active in all the contracts and the care and feeding of the contracts and working hand-in-hand with program management. If you could picture our project managers, our CORs, and our contract managers including the funds manager, always working together and managing the contract on a regular basis whether weekly or biweekly, that allows us to handle the program itself. That way, we control the ebb and flow. Sometimes things pop up and we're able to manage that effectively and provide actionable information to our Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, or our Chief Procurement Officer.
 
JN: That sounds great. I love the idea of putting resources where they will have more value. Finally, I understand you have set up special IT acquisition cadres. Can you tell me who those folks are to get better IT outcomes?
 
RB: We found that if we are able to charter early on what we call the IP acquisition cadre, we charter that, the engineer will have that acquisition integrity lead as well as the contracting officer. We’ll have representatives from all branches, departments, directorates that have a stake in that game and have buy-in, and those principal folks that this requirement will affect. Once we are able to charter that and identify that, the leadership signs that and empowers people and let them know their role. It is a collateral duty, but it is one they manage throughout their schedule. This has been very successful because all the way through the requirements phase, those individuals have a very good thumb over the pulse of what’s going on for that requirement and we manage that whole phase of the requirements, where we are doing quid pro quo with the procurement contracting officers, with the engineers, to make sure everything is crystal clear. We are able to answer questions from the leadership in the interim. They have a group, I call it a belly button, to be able to ask that question. We have a chair of that cadre that answers questions for leadership and provides the guidance and direction, both horizontally and vertically. We have found that to be very successful. But I would say if you’re trying this, do create a charter of the organization initially so as to empower that organization.
 
JN: Who normally chairs the cadre or the IPT?
 
RB: Usually, it is one of the folks out of my branch. It does not have to be, but we have found that the acquisition integrity lead is the person who has a good handle on what is happening on the programmatic side as well as the contractual side and can interface with the contracting officer.
 
JN: That also strikes me as a great way for developing your people into a leadership role.
 
RB: Absolutely. The individuals who chaired that particular board, they have to branch over other directorates. They may have to deal with people who are senior to them. And they're balancing all of their regular work day responsibilities. And they are managing back and putting that together and keeping leadership informed. We have a fantastic staff of highly skilled people at EOP that I am proud to serve with.
 
JN: I think you would agree with me to advise our listeners, don't wait for problems to happen to get to know your budget or IT folks. Build those relationships often and early, so when things come up, you know who to talk to. It makes things go much more smoothly.
 
RB: It has so far for us.
 
JN: Thank you for that helpful information.
 
RB: Yes.
 
JN: Now we will turn to our last presenter of the day. It is Mr. Charles Yook, and he is our strategic sourcing program manager at the IRS. I think his focus on IT services acquisition will hit home with some of you. It is a very good effort. And he was the 2013 Chief Acquisition Officer Council Acquisition Award winner. That is a mouthful. This is a great story. I think you will enjoy it.
 
Charles Yook (CY): Hi, I’m Charles Yook, and I am with the IRS. I am the program manager of the strategic sourcing program. I will talk to about a project that we recently did called IT services. Technically, in the industry, there are two models for procuring IT services. One is, the Traditional model, which is leveraging systems integrators. The second model is the Staffing Solution model, which is looking for specific skill sets. At the IRS, IT services are a major-spend category. We spend over $400 million a year on IT services. And we typically use the first model for procuring the services, which is leveraging systems integrators. We have a great contracting vehicle for leveraging those services, which is called TIPSS, which stands for total information processing support services. It is a great vehicle for procuring IT services for complex projects, which we have several of at the IRS. However, it does have certain shortcomings. For example, if you're looking to fill short-term needs, you do not need a whole project. But you might need a tester for four months. Or you might need an Oracle programmer for a few months. With the IT services vehicle that we currently have, it is not well suited to that because it is geared more toward larger, complex programs. 
 
Also, we saw an opportunity for cost savings. The TIPSS vehicle, while it has different categories, it does not differentiate them by skill area. For example, there is a programmer that we would typically pay the same price for a Java programmer as we do for an Oracle programmer, although the rates in the marketplace are significantly different for those two. We want to address those issues. In terms of our goals for the IT services BPA, one was to achieve cost savings which I will talk about in a little bit.  But also, we wanted a very expedient acquisition cycle. We accomplished this in several ways. We conducted significant market research. Typically, with market research on a lot of different projects, it tends to be quick and simple. You are looking for a number of vendors to provide the solutions are looking for. But we actually spend a significant amount of time looking for vendors. One of the reasons is that we are interested in meeting small business goals at the IRS and we wanted to find vendors that could meet our HubZone and service disabled veteran owned business goals, while not compromising the services that we need at the IRS. We also developed a Q&A-based RFP. The way that is different from a traditional RFP is that traditionally, you typically ask for a technical approach as well as management capabilities, things like that. And the responses you get from the vendors are varied and across the board. It typically involves looking through pages and pages of documents to understand the technical capabilities and approach to see if they can meet your needs. When you compare the proposals against each other, having to fish for that data makes it very difficult. The Q&A-based RFP did away with all of that and instead we asked a series of questions. I think we had 14 questions total. These were very specific questions about vendor capabilities that we were very interested in. For example, we ask questions like, are you able to provide resources with specific skills within 5 business days? Does your company currently have a database that captures specific skill areas along the lines of the skill areas that we're looking for? And we had a list of those questions and got the same responses back from each vendor. It made very easy to compare and do the evaluation for the technical piece. 
 
We also did an excel based pricing sheet that we formatted ourselves. Again, typically with traditional procurement, what you often see is that vendors will provide their pricing sheets in a variety of formats. Sometimes you'll get a word document. Sometimes you get a PDF. And if you're lucky, you might get an excel sheet. We created our own pricing sheet in excel and locked it down so they could not manipulate it. We pass those on to the vendors and each of them provided their prices on this pricing sheet. The benefit is that we got a standardized pricing sheet from each vendor. It may not only easy to compare, but because it was already in excel, we were able to easily compare the information. Part of the benefit of this process is the ability to provide specific feedback to the vendors. We were able to give them very specific feedback in a skill area in a labor category and the pricing for that category. That enabled us to conduct negotiations with 11 vendors within 48 hours. We had significant results that I will share with you in a little bit. 
 
In terms of talking about the results, as I mentioned, we had two goals. The one was financial in nature, and we did save quite a bit of money, $32.2 million per year. That came from the two different models that I discussed earlier. Typically, when you are getting IT services from systems integrators, you're not only paying for the resources, but the overhead that comes with those resources. Systems integrators typically employ their resources on a full-time basis. They have a lot of overhead attached to those employees. When you go to more of the staffing model, what you get are the resources without all of the other overhead put in. And really, the $3.2 million came from a reduction of those labor rates in the skill areas. Also, in terms of the efficiency of the acquisition process, we were able to complete this process from conception to award in less than 12 months, which at the IRS is quite significant. We passed through our legal and internal reviews very quickly because everything was well documented. And we only needed two amendments, which were administrative in nature during the final award. The entire analysis was completed in 14 days. We were also able to award this specifically purely to help HubZone and service disabled veteran businesses. 
 
I’ll talk about the graph to give you an idea of what these results look like. If you look at the far left of the graph, you see the last price paid. That is essentially what we paid for the resources in our last contract. Right off the bat, going to this new model for IT services, we save $22.9 million, which dropped down to our RFP price of $80.5 million. And through our negotiations, we were able to achieve an additional $9.3 million, which equates to the $32.2 million that we saved. We were able to save a lot, specifically with customers who were frustrated with the old kinds of contracts since they only needed a finite number of resources for a very limited time frame. That is the presentation that I have. Thank you for your time. If you have any other questions, further information will come to you with regard to how to submit your questions. Thank you.
 
JN: I think that was a great effort. Thank you, Charles. It shows that we should all take a step back from our acquisitions and think about how to save money, streamline the process, while still achieving our small business goals. I'm think I’m hearing a theme in these presentations. I am pleased to welcome Donna Jenkins, the director of the Federal Acquisition Institute. Donna is going to share some tools and tips and strategies with you. She is all about helping you. Pay close attention.
 
Donna Jenkins (DJ): There have been some great presentations in this whole Acquisition Learning Seminar. Good tips, ideas, and a lot of sharing going on. And I am about collaboration. At the Federal Acquisition Institute, we are here to serve the individual acquisition workforce members meet their goals and help the agencies managing them. I will talk about one of the tools that we have implemented. The federal acquisition institute training application system, or FAITAS. We always talk about FAITAS in terms of how it benefits the agencies and how they can forecast their training needs better. But I want to focus here on how it values or benefits the individual. We're all responsible for managing our own career, and at the same time we are responsible for our workload and mentoring and supervising. We want to help you through the FAITAS system to alleviate some of that burden and help you with getting the mission done and growing the next generation of workforce professionals. If you do not already have it, go to fai.gov and click the FAITAS tab and make yourself a profile. It allows you to enter general demographic information about yourself to be counted as an acquisition workforce member. You get to select your career field or identify yourself as a COR and then we can know that you're there. Then we can begin helping you. The second thing and it's an original intent of FAITAS was as a training application system, so you can register for training, much like this ALS. In addition, any courses that FAI offers, or an agency that uses FAI as its registration system are open and available through the system as well. With our great partners and developing continuous learning modules we have over 400 continuous learning modules available at no cost online through the FAITAS system. The next thing that is very important to the individual in the FAITAS system is to apply for and maintain your certifications. If you’ve taken a class through the system, it automatically updates your certification and training history. If you did not take it through FAITAS, there is the ability to upload additional documentation to support your educational background and experience. Once you are approved, it acts like an alumni system. There is no more carrying around like in the days we started, the paper training certificates and certifications.
 
JN: (laughing) Speak for yourself.
 
DJ: If you just switched from one agency component to another or you go to a completely different agency, your record follows you wherever you go. That is very exciting. If you are proactive and move from agency to agency, you can just change your e-mail address, which is your unique identifier. And then you can automatically see your certifications and your training history and needs. The next module that we launched in FAITAS that is extremely powerful is the continuous learning module. What this portion does is it actually tracks your progress in your continuous learning to meet your 80 hours. About 12 months out, if you have not made any progress, it sends you an e-mail reminder of where you are in the process and how long you have to complete that. It also helps you by notifying your supervisor of record in the system so that they can be aware of this requirement as well and either allow you to sign up and register for training, or perhaps, mentor you to help get meaningful work assignments and to help you meet your needs. Two things coming up that I’m really excited about; the first is an end-of-course survey. We are piloting that with our friends at Homeland Security. It will go live on June 1.  
 
Upon the end of you taking an FAI sponsored course or course sponsored through FAITAS, you will complete an end-of-course survey electronically. We will receive feedback immediately. The intent is to improve and monitor your learning experience. We want to make sure we are meeting your needs. The next thing coming up is that we will begin user acceptance testing in July and it will be available at the beginning of fiscal year 14, the warrant management module. Individuals will be invited to apply for a warrant based on the supervisors' request for you to apply for a warrant. Those who are now doing paper based applications for a warrant, do you meet the level of certification? All of that will go away. All of it is electronically maintained within the system. The FAITAS system started off as a training system, but has turned into much more than that. It is a robust workforce management tool, and allows individuals to focus on what is really important, and that is, good acquisition outcomes, which we learned about earlier today. It has your certification and training practically managing itself.
 
JN: That sounds wonderful. I have been assigned a piece of that effort. I was trying to get smart on strategic sourcing. I thought, where can I get smart? Of course, I went to FAITAS and saw that DAU had a couple of quick classes on strategic sourcing. I was able to, in the matter of a couple days, to get up to speed and smart on strategic sourcing.
 
JN: That is great. That wraps up our webinar for today. I hope you of gotten some good tips and things to think about. Here is the challenge for you as you go back to the rest of your day. Just take one of the things you learned and try it. I think you would be pleasantly surprised. Next time you may try two things and start collaborating with your colleagues at your agency. A lot of great things will come out of that and will have better acquisition outcomes. I know that is what we are all after, that is the bottom line. All of us here are taxpayers, so I think we can all appreciate that. Thank you again for joining us. Check back at fai.gov. The presentation will be posted, the slides, the links. Also, if you have a question, not too late to click on the "submit a question" box and we will get those answers and post them on fai.gov. We had a great time with this today. We hope you did, too. We will see you next time.
 
DJ: And look for them in about a week, right?
 
JN: I think it is about a week.