Category Archives: Business Success

What is a Government Contract Stop Work Order?

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“SMALL TO FEDS” By Ken Larson

Stop work orders are serious matters and require special handling to comply with government direction and to manage risk.  

Continuing effort on a contract after receipt of a stop work is high risk. Astutely managing your options is a far better approach. 


During the Federal Government Shutdown of 2013 many enterprises received stop work orders on contracts.  This article will specify the purpose of a stop work order, actions that must be taken upon receipt of the order and the relationship of the order to resumption of effort, funding constraints, contract terminations and associated business risk.

PURPOSE

The purpose of a stop work order is to immediately bring to a halt the effort on a contract and any further performance and related cost against that contract.

It is usually necessary when unforeseen circumstances necessitate the action, such as the government shutdown or similar exigencies. An example of a clause that appears regularly in most government contracts, reserving the government’s rights to stop work, is as follows:

“Stop-Work Order (Aug 1989)

(a) The Contracting Officer may, at any time, by written order to the Contractor, require the Contractor to stop all, or any part, of the work called for by this contract for a period of 90 days after the order is delivered to the Contractor, and for any further period to which the parties may agree. The order shall be specifically identified as a stop-work order issued under this clause. Upon receipt of the order, the Contractor shall immediately comply with its terms and take all reasonable steps to minimize the incurrence of costs allocable to the work covered by the order during the period of work stoppage. Within a period of 90 days after a stop-work is delivered to the Contractor, or within any extension of that period to which the parties shall have agreed, the Contracting Officer shall either—

(1) Cancel the stop-work order; or

(2) Terminate the work covered by the order as provided in the Default, or the Termination for Convenience of the Government, clause of this contract.

(b) If a stop-work order issued under this clause is canceled or the period of the order or any extension thereof expires, the Contractor shall resume work. The Contracting Officer shall make an equitable adjustment in the delivery schedule or contract price, or both, and the contract shall be modified, in writing, accordingly, if—

(1) The stop-work order results in an increase in the time required for, or in the Contractor’s cost properly allocable to, the performance of any part of this contract; and

(2) The Contractor asserts its right to the adjustment within 30 days after the end of the period of work stoppage; provided, that, if the Contracting Officer decides the facts justify the action, the Contracting Officer may receive and act upon the claim submitted at any time before final payment under this contract.

(c) If a stop-work order is not canceled and the work covered by the order is terminated for the convenience of the Government, the Contracting Officer shall allow reasonable costs resulting from the stop-work order in arriving at the termination settlement.

(d) If a stop-work order is not canceled and the work covered by the order is terminated for default, the Contracting Officer shall allow, by equitable adjustment or otherwise, reasonable costs resulting from the stop-work order.

(End of clause) “

ACTIONS

A stop work order is to be taken literally.  Under a stop work order the government makes no guarantees it will take any further deliveries whatsoever, regardless of the contract type. A stop work order means just that.  Stop work and stop incurring cost.

Upon receipt of a stop work order you have no guarantee of payment for any transaction date-stamped in your accounting system after the date of the stop work order (or the commencement date of a stop work order specified in a Contracting Officer’s Letter).

I suggest clients receiving these orders close the charge numbers applicable until the stop work order is lifted with an order to resume effort and immediately notify any effected suppliers and subcontractors to do the same.

To the degree the government has made progress payments or has any other form of payment invested in the product to date it has ownership rights in the product. If that is the case treat the physical material work-in-process as government owned, store it as such without performing any more effort on it and await further disposition.

To the degree the government has not paid anything on the contract or delivery order they have no ownership rights to the product and you are free to complete it and sell it to another customer (commercial or government) that has not stopped work. If the government recommences the order, quote a new price and delivery from ground zero.

At the bottom line a stop work is blunt and to the point.  Treat it as if you will never hear from this customer again to manage the risk.

To the degree you do hear from the CO again and he or she has the funding to recommence work, be prepared to submit a proposal for what it will take to start the effort and a realistic delivery schedule to complete the it, but do not build any retroactive costs incurred during the stop work period into your logic and expect to bill them; they may not come to payment fruition.

CONTRACT TERMINATIONS AND FUNDING CONSTRAINTS

Note that in the above cited clause the government discusses resumption of work and contract terminations as options.

Hypothetically at some future date the government could terminate the  contract without taking delivery and the contractor will then submit a termination proposal for recovery of costs and disruption.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2011/08/federal-government-contract.html

When a stop work order is lifted  the contract or the delivery order is open to negotiation on both price and delivery under the equitable adjustment and changes clauses in the FAR provisions of the contract.

At that time, you should inform the government that you are pleased to resume work, but under revised price and delivery conditions as specified in a proposal for equitable adjustment

You should not resume work until a contract or work order amendment is received granting the price and delivery relief to contract requirements commensurate with negotiation results under your proposal for equitable adjustment.

In short, time is money.

If your contract was adequately funded and remains so when work commences and assuming you negotiate acceptable terms and conditions you can proceed with low risk.  If the funding on the contract is low at the time of recommencement, it is recommended you request additional funding and handle that matter in accordance with the article linked below.

http://www.smalltofeds.com/2007/09/limitatoin-of-funds-and-funding.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: https://www.alignable.com/hastings-mn/small-to-feds

Micro Mentor Volunteer Counselor Ken Larson assists many small businesses with their planning and operations processes. He spent over 30 years in federal government program and contract management and 10 years in small business consulting. Ken receives many inquiries from small companies wishing to enter or enhance their position in federal government contracting. Volunteer time, books, articles, and resources are 100% free through Small to Feds maintained exclusively for small business.

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5 Steps to Stand Out From The Government Contracting Crowd In 2018

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Small Business Standing Out in a Crowd

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“How can they stand out from the crowd to get some of those precious government contract dollars?

Several things come to mind but these five are usually at the top of my list. I have included a reference for each to a previous WT article.”


“Networking

We all understand that this market is driven by relationships: who you know, who knows you, what they think of you and you of them, and what you might be able to do together or for one another.

In the summer of 2012 I wrote an article on networking, which is a big part of the relationship puzzle. Where you choose to spend your time is critical. You have limited time and there are always many venues where you can network. Picking the venues which yield the best return on investment, where you can meet prospects, customers, partners, media and others, is a key component to help you stand out where it matters. You must be seen. Here is my column.

Strategy

I have been in numerous meetings where an executive will have goals, sometimes nebulous, sometimes well-defined, but they lack a strategy for reaching the goals. Knowing your goals is important, but without a game plan you will likely go nowhere and you will certainly not stand out. Read more here.

Differentiate

Clearly enunciate what you bring to the table. This can be a combination of things that make you and your company unique, or it can one really strong area of competence.

Combinations can include technical expertise, deep relationships with an agency, SMEs, owning a spot on preferred contracts, set-aside status and more.

The more you can differentiate in terms that appeal to government buyers the more you stand out. Read more.

Agency (account) based marketing (ABM)

I wrote about this back in November, but it is worth repeating.

Since the mid-1990s I have been advising companies to maximize their presence in agencies where they are known before they try to migrate to “greener pastures,” which are often pastures where they are not know. If you are selling in a cabinet level department to one or two divisions, why not expand to other divisions within that department? This is often a saner approach than migrating to another cabinet department or independent agency.

It is much easier to stand out when you are doing more business with your best customer(s).

Social selling

This is another recent column topic. Social selling is an adjunct to traditional selling, leveraging social networking platforms to start and manage relationships with customers, prospects, partners and others.

Social selling is the process of finding buyers and influencers on a social networking platform (I prefer LinkedIn), getting on their radar and sharing information that will make you and your company stand out from the competition. There are many social selling tactics that you can use, depending on who you are trying to influence.

LinkedIn is pervasive in the government contracting community and by adding valuable insights on social media you will most definitely stand out.

You can’t stand out by being part of the herd.”

About the Author

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower. 

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2018/01/17/insights-amtower-2018-strategy.aspx

 

 

 

 

Government Audit Finds Pentagon Squandered Millions On Economic Development Projects in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan Task Force Failures

Cashmere Goat Farm in Afghanistan Abandoned as of April 2017. (Photo: SIGAR)

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“Mixed results, waste, and unsustained projects” that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $675 million.

The Task Force awarded more than $200 million in sole-source contracts, which pose a higher risk of poor performance and corruption. Even worse, $35 million of these contracts went to companies employing former Task Force officials.”


“The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) rendered what could be the final verdict on the Pentagon’s controversial Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (Task Force). On Tuesday, the watchdog released the results of a comprehensive performance audit of Task Force programs and activities in Afghanistan. It found “mixed results, waste, and unsustained projects” that cost U.S. taxpayers more than $675 million.

Readers of our blog are probably familiar with the Task Force, a Department of Defense (DoD) office that carried out economic development projects in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2014. The office achieved notoriety in 2015 for allegedly spending $43 million to build a gas station that should have cost less than $500,000. (The actual cost of the gas station remains a matter of dispute between SIGAR and DoD. The dispute took a bizarre turntwo years ago when a DoD official testifying at a Senate hearing quoted a cost figure, the source of which remains a mystery.) For the last two years, Special Inspector General John Sopko has been publicly bashing the Task Force for “ill-conceived,” “poorly planned,” and “unfinished” projects.

The audit, conducted at the request of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), found several systemic flaws that doomed the Task Force: poor record-keeping, absence of a clear statement of objectives and strategy, inconsistent coordination with other U.S. agencies, and poor contract planning and oversight.

Because the Task Force did a particularly bad job collecting data and retaining records, SIGAR was “unable to determine whether it achieved its goal of reducing violence, enhancing stability, and supporting economic normalcy in Afghanistan through strategic business and economic activities.” As a result, taxpayers may never know exactly what the Task Force did or did not accomplish. The records SIGAR could get its hands on tell a story of massive waste and unfulfilled promises.

The Task Force obligated more than $675 million in contracts, $316 million of which funded contracts directly supporting economic recovery projects. The remaining $360 million went toward various indirect and overhead costs, including the infamous luxury private villas the Task Force used to house staff, guests, and contractors, instead of using less expensive U.S. government accommodations.

SIGAR determined that only 22 percent of the $316 million in contracts fully met their objectives. But even this rather modest metric must be taken with a grain of salt, since completed projects often were abandoned or fell into disuse or disrepair because the Afghans were unable to independently sustain them.

The report quotes an unnamed Task Force employee who recounted some troubling initial impressions:

The first thing I noticed was that the organization was involved in far too many activities. The list of projects was extremely long and unfocused and seemed to be a hodge-podge of projects without a strategy. The organization was trying to do too many things, including work that overlapped with that of other organizations working in Afghanistan.

Task Force contracting personnel, according to the report, were “generally inexperienced and unfamiliar with government contracting regulations and timelines, and their plans tended not to account for routine delays in the U.S. contracting process.” Furthermore, ill-defined contract requirements often left contracting officials unable to hold poor performers accountable.

The Task Force awarded more than $200 million in sole-source contracts, which pose a higher risk of poor performance and corruption. Even worse, $35 million of these contracts went to companies employing former Task Force officials. In the two examples described in the report, the results were disastrous. Hickory Ground Solutions, a consulting firm whose chief executive was a former Task Force employee, won a $3.9 million sole-source consulting contract. Hickory allegedly ran afoul of small business contracting rules and misled the contracting officer about its capability to fulfill the contract’s requirements. Transformation Advisors Group, another small consulting firm that employed a former Task Force official “in a senior capacity,” received full payment on a mining training program contract despite allegedly unsatisfactory performance.

Despite recounting numerous examples of waste, cronyism, and outright fraud, the report makes no mention of any criminal or other enforcement actions arising out of the Task Force’s operations. This is somewhat surprising, given Special Inspector General John Sopko’s assertion in January 2016 that “several criminal investigations” connected with the Task Force were underway.

To its credit, DoD took a conciliatory tone toward the audit. “We appreciate SIGAR’s efforts,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Colin Jackson wrote in a response letter reprinted in the report’s appendix. He conceded that SIGAR’s findings are “consistent with other independent assessments that concluded that [the Task Force] had mixed results” and that the report “documents unacceptable weaknesses and shortcomings.”

“We can—and must—do better,” Jackson stated.

Credit must also go to John Sopko and his dogged team of auditors and investigators for keeping the heat on DoD. We hope the government has learned its lesson and takes to heart the several “observations” SIGAR makes in the report to guide the White House and Congress if they ever decide to authorize another entity like the Task Force.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2018/01/audit-finds-dod-task-force-squandered-millions-had-few-successes.html

 

 

 

Continuing Resolutions – The Short Term Budget Fix That Is Bad For Government

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CR and the Can

Dark clouds pass over the Capitol in Washington.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

“FEDERAL TIMES” By Chris Cummiskey

“The latest continuing resolution was passed just before Christmas and is set to expire Jan. 19. What does it say about our country that the Congress can’t execute the most basic responsibility of providing funds for a full fiscal year?

Threatening a federal government shutdown is considered the nuclear option by both parties in Congress. However, the reality is that government by continuing resolution is bad for just about everyone.”


“Once again, the airwaves and media outlets are filled with the threat of another federal government shutdown in just 10 days.

Congress and the president have been at odds over the annual spending bill to fund the government for months, with agencies function under a series of short-term spending measures to keep the lights on. The latest continuing resolution was passed just before Christmas and is set to expire Jan. 19.

Unfortunately, this has been a common approach to government funding in recent years that I know all too well. In 2013, as the deputy under secretary for management at the Department of Homeland Security, I was tasked with overseeing DHS’s shutdown efforts.

Now, it is no secret there are legitimate policy issues to resolve this year including a host of immigration related items. The problem is that government by continuing resolution is bad for our citizens, bad for the government and bad for Federal workers that are trying to deliver much needed services.

Bad for citizens

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it is likely that you or someone close to you relies on some sort of government service. This can take many forms – ranging from receiving a monthly social security check to taking your family to a national park. What does it say about our country that the Congress can’t execute the most basic responsibility of providing funds for a full fiscal year? Confidence is already low in the federal government’s ability to perform. This doesn’t help. Say what you will about state governments, but as a state senator, we had no choice but to get the budget done at the start of each fiscal year. Most states have a balanced budget requirement that forces lawmakers to get in a room and not come out until a funding bill is sent to the governor. Congress should try that approach.

Bad for government operations

Under the rules of a CR period, the funding level is an apportioned amount based on prior year funding. Think of it as a mini fiscal year. Under a CR, no new starts of programs are permitted and changes to existing programs are severely limited. It essentially freezes all the current activity for departments and agencies so that most strategic planning is placed on hold. This means that even needed changes to improve service delivery and performance are shelved until a full year spending bill is approved by Congress.

Bad for federal workers

The constant threat of a shutdown is also bad for government workers who are left to do the best they can with a cloud of constant uncertainty. CRs also make it very difficult to fill mission essential positions. Federal managers and supervisors who are often shorthanded due to attrition, retirement and lack of retention incentives, struggle to meet critical staffing needs. When coupled with the slow rate of political appointments in many agencies, it makes it almost impossible to get the job done. These artificial mini fiscal years are particularly hard on the CFO and budget offices in agencies. At any given time, they are already working issues in several fiscal years. As an example, amid the current meltdown, CFOs and their staff must continue planning for the public release of the president’s fiscal 2019 budget set for next month. This kicks off congressional attention for the next round of budgeting even though they have not finished the 2018 spending bill.

As a recovering politician, I get it. You must play the cards you are dealt to leverage your best position in a budget negotiation. There are always a lot of moving parts and competing spending interests. Threatening a federal government shutdown is considered the nuclear option by both parties in Congress. However, the reality is that government by continuing resolution is bad for just about everyone.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chris Cummiskey is a former acting under secretary/deputy under secretary for management and chief acquisition officer at the U.S. Department Homeland Security. He also serves as a senior fellow with the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.

https://www.federaltimes.com/opinions/2018/01/09/short-term-budget-fixes-are-bad-government/

 

 

Why Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Not Like Your Brain Yet

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AI Not LIke Your Brain Yet

Image: ZOHAR LAZAR

“WIRED”

“AI resembles the gray matter in your head about as much as a pull-string doll resembles a rocket scientist.

These systems have only a few million “neurons,” which are really just nodes with some input/output connections. That’s puny compared to the 100 billion genuine neurons in your cranium.”


“Here’s a fun drinking game: Every time someone compares AI to the human brain, take a shot. It’ll dull the pain of such mindless metaphorizing—and serve as a reminder that you, an at-least-semiconscious being, have an actual brain that can make real decisions like “Drink!” in the first place. Contra the hype of marketers (as regurgitated by credulous journalists—for shame!), AI resembles the gray matter in your head about as much as a pull-string doll resembles a rocket scientist. There’s a similarity in shape, ish: So-called neural networks are software programs inspired by neuroscience. But these systems have only a few million “neurons,” which are really just nodes with some input/output connections.

That’s puny compared to the 100 billion genuine neurons in your cranium. Read it and weep, Alexa! We’re talking 100 trillion synapses. Or 200 trillion. (Of course, cognition is still pretty incognita itself—which means we’re “modeling” AIs on something we barely even comprehend.) The truth is, tricks like beating people at Go or diagnosing melanomas owe more to brute-force computing power than to any higher sentience. It’s just basic pattern matching under the hood. Yes, a “deep learning” system running on 16,000 processors taught itself to identify cats—with 75 percent accuracy—after analyzing 10 million images. A toddler can nail that on a walk to the playground. So all this Muskian/Hawkingian/Singularitarian talk of “summoning the demon” and “existential threats” to our “survival”? Eh, let’s just worry about that tomorrow. For now, we’re human, and we’re here to drink.”

https://www.wired.com/story/why-artificial-intelligence-is-not-like-your-brainyet/

 

 

 

Key Processes for Winning Proposals

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Writing Winning Proposals

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Matthew McKelvey

“Don’t be fooled, winning proposals are created, and do not simply materialize from some magical force. It’s not magic, but a disciplined process.

By adhering to key principles and steps, such as: careful planning, time management, attention to detail, and assembling a team of experts, your organization can create your own recipe for success.”


“The often lengthy and detailed process involved with developing winning proposals for new government opportunities can sometimes seem almost mythical.

You decode a requirements document that is hundreds of pages long and identify a combination of recommendations from limited or conflicting information, past performance experience which doesn’t necessarily match the current opportunity exactly, and somehow propose a price you will have to live with for five years or more.

The bottom-line is that, while writing cost proposals requires following a basic formula, it is critical to develop a multi-level, detailed plan to include all data points and requests to ensure a timely turnaround and delivery. Following a process ensures your proposal is compliant (meets all of the government requirements) and accurate (no mathematical, grammatical, or presentation errors). Failure to be either compliant or accurate is a sure way to lose — regardless of how great your solution is.

Here are some ‘pro tips’ from our experts to take the guesswork out of your cost proposal development process:

Arm Yourself with Tools for Success- Key Processes for a Winning Approach

From the get-go, it is essential to begin a proposal response approach that will result in a consistent, repeatable new business approach that wins time and again.

In a RFP review, for example:

  • Always be sure you read the full document up-front and ensure you have all of the relevant information required to respond accurately and comprehensively.
  • Document key questions right away, as well as identify areas where you’ll need more detail. Also, remember that the best time to meet the client, gather information, develop your team, and plan the proposal response is before the RFP is ever released.
  • Assemble your team and develop your production schedule that highlights key milestones and backs into known due dates. At this stage of the game, it is critical to involve your pricing team right out of the gate and before the RFP drops (at the capture process). This is a critical step because of the potential impacts your teammates and sub-contractors can exert on your cost decisions.
  • Always create a Compliance Matrix. The best proposal is often eliminated from consideration all because of a minor compliance error. To avoid this happening to you, put together a matrix to organize all steps, responsibilities, activities, deliverables, and team members so you can keep your eyes on the prize (that finished response!) and track progress at-a-glance while keeping communication lines open. The matrix should list everything the RFP requires so nothing is missed, and it also makes it easy for reviewers to check off the boxes to ensure you hit all necessary points.
  • Determine the Cost Schedule right away. This includes an assessment of indirect rates, using a model to calculate inputs and additional costs beyond RFP requirements, calculate your wrap rate, and analyze basis and pools, as well as ceiling impacts.

Tricks of the Trade – The Secret Sauce

  • Get Started Early. Particularly with cost decisions, time is a critical factor to be sure your data is accurate. Building in the over-communication and transparency among your team members is important to finishing the response in a timely manner, but also to allow for early intervention and mitigation of any roadblocks that may arise.
  • Develop a production framework and strategy early, and use it often. Implement a phased, targeted structure to your cost meetings during a response development process. Doing so early on makes it much easier to adjust for changes in requirements or information as they come up as you already have your framework established.
  • Master Excel. Consolidate data entry onto single tabs for easy management and recall, use color coded values as opposed to formulas where possible, check formatting, data validation, and perform independent quality checks on your model as you go to ensure everything is on track.
  • Manage your Sub-Contractors Effectively. Create templates for key deliverables and document responses to distribute to subcontractors, helping to ensure a consistent work product – and less editing, formatting, and merging later on – while establishing a structure of regular communication and status updates throughout each project stage.
  • Own the Narrative. Refer back to your compliance matrix regularly, create an outline based on the RFP, and create your narrative early in the process so it can grow and evolve as the process unfolds. The narrative is where you sell your price and clarify all bases of estimates.
  • Determine Labor Rates and Support Your Proposed Cost Elements. Typically, the distributor of the RFP will tell you what they are looking for. You’ll need to know early on what exactly you’ll be proposing to address this need. To do this, you’ll need to gather as much data as you can up-front and map requirements from the RFP against company, prime, and labor categories.

Remember- especially in the government sector, you are not just making a case about what is needed to address an identified objective, you are also selling what the associated costs will be.

Having a strong and competitive cost strategy for each of your cost estimates (staffing, direct labor, subcontractors, other direct costs, indirect rates, and fee/profit) is key to increasing win likelihood.

Doing this right, with compelling support, will ensure you are able to successfully defend your case in your response and demonstrate that your proposed solution – and the associated costs – are realistic and reasonable.

How To Develop a Tight Production Machine

At the top of the list is to always plan ahead! The enemy of timely production and accurate completion of tasks is rushing to the finish. It’s a good idea to dedicate at least three days for review – whether in soft copy or printed.

It is also a good idea to conduct your pricing reviews ahead of the last minute to allow for time to correct quality control issues, formatting (which is a compliance issue), and others. Allow five days here in your production schedule, ideally.

Other tips? Color code everything on your spreadsheet documents- this allows you to keep things organized, but also to know on the cost side which sheets are to be printed and submitted, and which stay with you.

Leverage all of the power of your team here as well; they are often your best proofers!

The Bottom-Line

Overall, the secret to a winning proposal process and cost structure is not a mystery. Proposals take time and effort – maximize both by ensuring you plan early, assemble a strong team, develop a compliance matrix, create a tight production schedule, use your narrative to sell your approach, and make sure you provide a compelling cost story. Remember – compliance and accuracy are key.

Adhering to these principles will ensure your cost proposal isn’t just a mix of ingredients. Instead, it is a well-formed recipe which produces a very tempting choice for the government.”

About the Author

Matthew McKelvey is the president of the McKelvey Group, a financial consulting firm in Gaithersburg, Md.

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/12/21/insights-mckelvey-no-magic-proposals.aspx

 

 

 

 

Government Law and Regulation Compliance Fatigue Syndrome is Real

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Compliance Fatigue Synderome

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE” By Brian D. Miller

“A values-based compliance program seeks to encourage leaders and employees to follow a set of core values that should result in more effective compliance.

The culture of the organization is so internalized that employees are automatically asking: “What is the right thing to do in this situation?” This is better than relying on a memorized rule.”


“Forget chronic fatigue syndrome. A more serious ailment may be compliance fatigue syndrome. Which is more ruinous? Hint: One may result in time spent in a federal correctional institution.

In modern slang, is compliance fatigue syndrome even a thing? Unfortunately, it is a thing, but arguably it is a confused thing. Worse yet, if there is talk of it in an organization, it’s a red flag — a big red flag. It means that the state of affairs is far worse than you believed.

What is compliance fatigue syndrome?

Urban Dictionary defines it as “a state of chronic fatigue induced by having to constantly maintain compliance with the ever-increasing variety of rules, regulations and processes created by middle management bureaucrats in both public and private organizations.”

This frustration does not arise from an issue of whether to comply with legislation and regulations that have been lawfully passed and promulgated. This kind of frustration is with lawmakers and regulators who may be guilty of overregulation, which is ultimately a political issue.

Compliance fatigue syndrome is a misnomer in this situation. It is one thing to be frustrated at the increasing regulatory burdens placed on contractors and therefore “fatigued,” but it is quite a different thing to be frustrated with compliance itself. The bottom line is this should not be called “compliance” fatigue but rather overregulation fatigue.

However, there may be resentment of time and money spent on compliance. In effect, this translates into the belief that compliance is a money pit with no benefit to the organization — a revenue drain rather than a revenue maker.

Budgets are tight in today’s organizations, and money spent on compliance means that money won’t be spent on revenue-producing programs. A manager might want to maximize spending on an important programmatic budget than on what may be considered “overhead.” Unfortunately, that perspective betrays a culture that puts very little confidence in compliance.

Instead of viewing compliance programs as strengthening the organization, this attitude views them as just an obligation with little or no benefits. The proper attitude is to see how compliance is an outworking of the corporate culture that places great value on doing things right and making ethical corporate decisions. In the long run, an ethical company will gain a competitive advantage and will avoid devastating investigations and their consequences.

Resentment of the authority of compliance professionals is another symptom of compliance fatigue syndrome. Managers, workers, lawyers and auditors may resent having to take time out of their regular projects to deal with compliance officers who need information quickly. Additionally, managers may resent workers saying things in confidence or beyond their control.

Sometimes functions previously handled by other offices may now be controlled by the compliance office. For example, human resources may have dealt with all employee complaints and interviewed all employees, but certain complaints must now be handled by the compliance office. To be sure, how compliance professionals work with others will either contribute to this kind of fatigue or prevent it. However, in all cases, this type of internal power struggle fails to recognize the bigger picture and how the organization will benefit from effective programs.

Another indicator of compliance fatigue is resentment of stale and repetitive programs. Just as a lecture on nutrition doesn’t cause overweight people to lose weight, ethics training alone won’t prevent employees from making ethical mistakes. Dietary lectures may be helpful, and even necessary, but they are not sufficient for effective weight loss. Likewise, compliance and ethics lectures alone, however brilliant, will deter very few ethical lapses. This is especially true if the same lecture is repeated year after year. Compliance professionals need to work hard at making training fresh and relevant.

How can compliance fatigue syndrome be prevented?

A compliance program that encourages compliance with the law and regulations is a good start. The most effective programs, however, change the culture of the organization and the people in them.

They have a set of core values that are clearly communicated and modeled by organizational leaders.

This sort of ingrained attitude results from modeling leaders and managers within the organization who know that compliance will lead to more business success.

A values-based compliance program meets and exceeds what is required by federal authorities. The Federal Acquisition Regulation and other rules require a contractor to “promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law.” This is how to effectively prevent talk of compliance fatigue syndrome.

In conclusion, to the extent that compliance fatigue is viewed as legitimate and is voiced, trouble will follow. It may be a veiled threat to effective compliance. It could be a way to undercut effective transformation of the corporate culture; undermine the authority and effectiveness of compliance officials; or gain an advantage in an internal corporate power struggle.

In contrast, employees in healthy corporate cultures are asking how to do the right thing in all circumstances and are grateful for help in doing so.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/11/28/compliance-fatigue-syndrome-is-real

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brian D. Miller is a shareholder with Rogers Joseph O’Donnell, PC, http://www.rjo.com, specializing in government investigations, government contracts and suspension/debarment. He also serves as corporate monitor. He was formerly inspector general for the General Services Administration. He can be contacted at bmiller@rjo.com.

 

 

 

8 Lessons Learned from the Government Contracting Marketing Trenches

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GovCon 8 Lessons Learned

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

“As a marketing consultant, it is incumbent upon me to stay current with the market. If I don’t, my value is reduced.

Over the past 33 years, I have noticed some things that remain constant, the immutable laws of our market.”


“RELATIONSHIPS

This is a relationship driven market. The Small Business Administration will tell companies new to the market that subcontracting is a great way to get started- go meet some primes. You go to the small business liaison officer of the prime and expect to be added to a contract. Not gonna happen.

All successful companies in our market have relationships that are critical to their growth. These relationships include other contractors, OEMs, channel players (VADs and VARs), SDVOSBs, HubZones and other small business set-asides, media, research, banking/capital, legal, and more.

Each of us has preferred partners for almost everything we do. Getting on that short list of preferred partners is job #1.

REPUTATION

This is an insular market, so when a person or company does something bad, word gets around. If the miscreant is habitual, it is known by many, if not most.

When someone is laid off, if they have a good reputation, their network will help them land a new position.

I get most of my business by 3 Rs: referral, reputation and return engagements from people I’ve worked with before, often when they move to a new company.

Your reputation as an individual is probably your most valuable asset in this market.

BE KNOWN FOR SOMETHING

Regardless of your role, you need to be known for something. You can be known as a hard worker, smart worker, an expert in a technical area, management skills, and expert on doing business with a specific agency, a whiz at marketing or PR, sales, BD, and on and on.

Average doesn’t cut it. Work hard at being good at what you do and you will be known for something.

EVOLVE WITH THE MARKET

The changes in the market are constant, and often off-the-radar.

Since the early 1990s, computer security has evolved and morphed into literally hundreds of disciplines.

Since I’ve been in business marketing “basics” may look the same, but the venues have changed radically.

How the government buys continues to evolve (some might say devolve) but we have to stay current if we are to continue winning business.

Pay attention to the nuances and adjust accordingly.

NEVER STOP STUDYING

This follows closely to your evolution. Find the information sources most germane to your niche and take time to peruse, with the occasional deep dive.

My info feeds include Washington Technology, FedTimes, GovExec, FCW, GCN, Google Alerts, JD Supra, Marketing Profs, Market Connections. Immix blog, Bloomberg studies, listening to WFED while driving, Potomac Tech Wire, daily feeds from LinkedIn, Social Media Today, Google+ LI Expert group, more.

You can’t know it all but you can sure as hell know more than most of your competitors.

FACE-TO-FACE NETWORKING

Networking has always been a key component of this market, and there are many venues for networking including associations, briefings, conferences, open houses, private groups (often these are focused on a particular agency or technology) and more.

You need to select the venues that best suit your goals, and you need to participate as often as you can.

CONNECT THE DOTS

If you read about a key influencer in your niche in FCW, or hear an interview on WFED – what do you do?

I look them up on LinkedIn. I want to know more about them and I want to know if we share connections and I want to know more about their background. I want to map a way to connect.

LinkedIn is the best marketing tool I’ve run across in my career, and it baffles me that so many people use it so poorly.

Use LinkedIn to find and connect with partners, prospects, customers, media- anyone who impacts your niche in the market. It is a great tool for managing the network you build.

HAVE SOME RULES OF PERSONAL CONDUCT

I have three inviolable rules: I don’t do things that are not fun (I only do things I am good at); I don’t do things I can’t tell my wife and children about; and I don’t take crap from things that breathe.

If you don’t have some rules you don’t know where the boundaries are.

FOUR FINAL THOUGHTS

None of us can afford to operate on old information.

None of us can afford to have a bad reputation.

We all need our networks.

Final observation: There are no stars in this market. The market is the star.”

ABOUT MARK AMTOWER:

“I am starting my 34th year as Amtower & Company in a few weeks, will be celebrating starting year 12 on Federal News Radio in February, am starting my ninth year as a contributor to Washington Technology a little later in 2018, and. I am also an adjunct professor at the George Washington University graduate school in the government contracting Master’s program. I also speak frequently at public and private conferences and meetings.

An exec at a small company once told me that if I had time to do all this, I wouldn’t have time for him.

I am compelled to write, interview and speak much in the same way John Steinbeck wrote at the beginning of Travels with Charley: “I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.”

Putting my thoughts in public gives me the opportunity for feedback that I would otherwise lack. This keeps me close to that cutting edge. We all need something to keep us close to the edge.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2017/12/19/insights-amtower-lessons-learned.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pentagon Full Steam Ahead With Major Cloud Acquisition

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Pentagon Cloud Full Steam Ahead

“NEXT GOV”

“The Defense Department is not letting blowback or criticism from industry slow down its emerging cloud strategy, which could see it award an enterprise contract worth billions to a single company by the end of 2018.

The contract would be awarded to a single cloud service provider for up to 10 years “to deliver services for cloud computing and platform services” for “all DOD organizations.”


 “The accelerated approach prompted industry concern and calls for the Pentagon to slow down or change course, but led by a Cloud Executive Steering Group reporting directly to leadership, the Defense Department is doing anything but.

“There has been no change in strategy for the CESG,” Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Evans told Nextgov. “The acquisition will be done as a fair and open competition with an industry day in early 2018.”

The next steps, as outlined in the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, strategy, will be a draft solicitation for a “single-award, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract using full and open competitive procedures.”

Other contracts, according to the memo, could be issued for additional services, such as migration support, application modernization, change management and training.

The Pentagon’s aggressive timeline calls for initial migrations of data to the new contract by the first quarter of 2019.

Strategically, the Pentagon’s approach shares commonalities with that of the CIA, which ultimately selected Amazon Web Services for a 10-year enterprisewide cloud contract four years ago worth $600 million.”

http://www.nextgov.com/it-modernization/2017/12/pentagon-full-steam-ahead-major-cloud-acquisition/144707/

Federal Acquisition Regulations We Love To Hate

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Regulations We Love to Hate

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which governs how the federal government buys goods and services, is a 2,000-page document.

According to a 2017 analysis by Deloitte, over two-thirds of all federal regulations on the books have never been updated since they were created.”


“The sheer number of laws, regulations, and policies that apply to the defense acquisition process is staggering. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which governs how the federal government buys goods and services, is a 2,000-page document. On top of that is the 1,500-page Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS), which applies specifically to purchases by the Department of Defense (DoD). In addition to all those regulations are federal statutes and DoD internal policies that govern the acquisition process. For contracting officers, that means determining the applicability of hundreds of regulations, in addition to hundreds of laws and policies, to make a purchase.

Many of these laws, regulations, and policies are outdated, but no one has taken the time to remove or update them.

While each outdated regulation alone may not be a significant problem, in the aggregate those regulations can pose an enormous administrative burden. Many in the defense acquisition workforce have argued that assessing and complying with the large number of regulations slows down the acquisition process, wasting time, money, and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Additionally, the complexity and cost of compliance creates a barrier to entry for small businesses that may wish to engage in business with DoD but cannot afford the lawyers and compliance officers necessary for the job.

Repealing or amending outdated provisions that bog down the acquisition process is long overdue. The Section 809 Panel, a congressionally mandated panel to streamline and improve the defense acquisition process, is currently taking on the task of identifying and eliminating these outdated provisions. One bold approach that the panel is taking for this endeavor is its “50 Worst!” campaign, which solicits public input on the 50 worst laws, regulations, and policies that impede the acquisition process. The panel has already made some recommendations to begin this effort earlier this year.

Take for instance the FAR clause that encourages contractor policies to ban texting while driving, which must be included in every solicitation, contract, and subcontract over the micro-purchase threshold. This FAR clause resulted from an executive order that was issued in 2009 when the iPhone was only two years old and just a handful of states banned texting while driving. Today, 47 States, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have these bans, and DoD has prohibited the use of cell phones while driving on all military installations, making this FAR clause unnecessary. This example is just one of the many outdated regulations that are duplicative of existing law or policy, add paperwork, and need to be removed.

The panel has also made recommendations to amend outdated laws, which Congress recently adopted, and the president signed into law in the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). One of the panel recommendations adopted by Congress was to amend a 2005 law that sought to increase circulation of the dollar coin. Among the requirements in that law was that business operations conducted by a federal agency that involve coins or currency must be capable of accepting and dispensing dollar coins. In practice, however, the dollar coin has not been widely circulated even with this law in place, and the cost of this requirement has exceeded the benefit. In the FY 2018 NDAA, Congress creates an exception to the dollar coin requirement for business operations conducted under a contract with a federal agency.

Another one of the panel’s adopted recommendations was to amend a law that establishes 20 years as the maximum length for DoD fuel storage contracts. The 20-year limit was originally enacted in 1956, and since then, fuel storage technology has dramatically improved. Modern fuel storage technology is now capable of operating for up to 30 years without interruption. However, because of the 20‐year contract limit, contractors were expected to dismantle fuel storage infrastructure when their contracts terminated, potentially disrupting fuel services and wasting government resources. Congress addresses this concern in the FY 2018 NDAA by extending the maximum length for fuel storage contracts to 30 years to reflect technological advances.

In addition to its activities to review the defense acquisition process at large, the panel is aiming for simple changes that could, in the aggregate, have a significant benefit by allowing contractors and contracting officers to focus on the mission first, instead of navigating through outdated laws, regulations, and policies. The dollar coin requirement and the fuel storage contract limit are examples of laws that clearly needed to be updated and were recognized by Congress as such. The panel is seeking similar examples through its “50 Worst!” campaign. Public input and support is vital for this endeavor. Without input from those in the acquisition workforce who deal with the process every day, the panel may not be able to capture all of the challenges involved.

The panel wants to hear your ideas on how to make the defense acquisition process better. The panel can be reached through its website, through social media, or by email at Sec809@dau.mil”

https://www.defensenews.com/acquisition/regulations/2017/12/18/thats-the-worst-acquisition-regulations-we-love-to-hate/?dn-trending