Kendall Calls for Action After DoD Acquisition Competition Goals Fall Short

By Stew Magnuson
 The Defense Department has not only failed to boost competition for programs, it is backsliding, a memo from a senior official said.  
In a memorandum dated Aug. 21, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall issued a call to action after the department failed to meet its goals to increase competition among vendors.
“In fact, we have experienced a declining competition rate, and we must take action to reverse this trend,” he wrote in the memo.
“Given the declining trend in competition in the department and in light of today’s limited resources, we must maximize our use of direct and indirect competition,” he wrote in a memo obtained by the National Defense Industrial Association policy division. “Every dollar saved through competition benefits the war fighter and the taxpayers.”
Kendall in the memorandum calls for quarterly progress updates to be addressed at the business senior integration group. “We will collaborate to understand best practices that have been successfully employed to either achieve direct competition or realize the benefits and effects of indirect competition,” he wrote.
He is also issuing “Guidelines for Creating and Maintaining a Competitive Environment for Supplies and Services in the Department of Defense.” Further, a “DoD Competition Handbook: A Practical Guide for Program Managers” will be published in September, which will update a previous handbook last published in 1984.
For competitive solicitations in which more than one company expressed interest during the market research phase, but only one offer or a lesser number of offers were ultimately received, contracting officers will be asked to seek feedback to understand why companies declined to submit an offer, the memo said.
“We will use this feedback to consider how we might overcome barriers to competition for future requirements,” Kendall wrote.
The memo also changes the procedure for acquiring justification and approval documents that allow an official to solicit a non-competitive acquisition. Contracting officers will have to issue requests for information or sources sought notices before embarking on such an acquisition. “This technique is already used in many instances, but expanded use will inform our ability to maximize use of competitive procedures,” Kendall wrote. It will be possible to obtain a waiver for this requirement, but it must be obtained from a flag officer, he added.
Kendall is also amending a requirement in justification and approval documents that calls for agencies to explain what, if any, steps can be taken to overcome barriers in subsequent acquisitions.
There is no policy to track whether the plans or actions spelled out in the J&A documents to ensure that barriers are removed are ever attempted.
“As a result, approval authorities may be missing opportunities to learn why non-competitive acquisitions are not overcoming barriers to competition for subsequent acquisitions of the item,” he wrote.
The next J&A document asking for a non-competitive procurement must be approved at a higher level. The approving official will have the discretion to determine whether the planned actions were completed, the memo said.

Topics: Business Trends, Doing Business with the Government, Defense Department, DOD Policy

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