Does Acquisition 360 go far enough?

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Acquisition 360 is a late-hour initiative by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to improve communications between industry and government. It’s a good idea as far as it goes, but could it go a little further? Executive Vice President and Counsel at the Professional Services Council Alan Chvotkin joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin with more details.

Interview transcript:

Tom Temin: Alan, good to have you back. This proposal, tell us about it and what the PSC sees as ways to improve the idea.

Alan Chvotkin: Tom, thanks for the opportunity to join you again. So Acquisition 360 has been around for a while. It’s the idea that just like performance evaluations, you want to get a full circle of commentary and impact and input as to how a process or an individual is performing. And so we were pleased to see this Acquisition 360 initiative launched early on. In fact, back to March of 2017, the administration published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking as part of their effective communications between government and industry initiative, one of the several piece parts to that. Recently, they published in September a proposed rule and yesterday PSC submitted comments on that proposed rulemaking. The rule is really an effort to encourage the use of voluntary feedback mechanisms by federal agencies to support continual improvement of the acquisition process. And as you said, important initiative, good communications is always a good idea. And we strongly support the proposed rule. But we thought it could go further. Up to this point, most of the surveys have been of government by government. As the government agency would solicit other government organizations, whether they be contracting organizations or programs, with not as much input from the private sector, the proposed rule also stops at contract award. And we think there’s valuable information that can be gleaned from winners during contract performance. And during the contract administration phase, and also from those who chose not to bid to understand why they chose not to bid and what the process could be better. This is not a critique of the contracting officer. It’s not an effort at re-litigating or protesting the individual solicitation, but it really is an effort to try and to look at the process. We’ve been involved with that for a long time; we’ll continue to be. So that’s why we support it moving forward, we’re pleased to be able to comment favorably on this proposed rule, and hopefully, preferably won’t get to an end game before January 20. But at least it’ll be a solid foundation with the comments going into the calendar year 2021.

Tom Temin: And as you note, in the letter to the GSA that would be implementing this, you mentioned that the Federal Procurement Policy office’s original intent goes back to a March 18, 2015 memorandum, which, of course, was during the Obama administration. So it sounds like something that has bipartisan support?

Alan Chvotkin: Well, it certainly has crossed multiple administrations. Congress has been encouraging the executive branch, the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to continue to do the outreach to the industry. And this is just one mechanism for communications, we hope it’s not the only one. And agencies do a lot of other things, industry days and other roundtable sessions. So this isn’t the only mechanism for that. But this one is more formalistic. It allows you to document that input, establish both qualitative and quantitative measures. And so it’s a valuable additional tool in the tool chest.

Tom Temin: Who knows, maybe we’ll get return of the Mythbusters.

Alan Chvotkin: This was really an offshoot from the Mythbusters, again, spanning two administrations, and started under Obama, additional Mythbusters issued under the Trump administration, and the subsequent administration may choose to continue that process. We’d support it.

Tom Temin: We’re speaking with Alan Chvotkin. He is executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council. And you’re also expressing concern over at least some gambits by more progressive elements of members of Congress on the Democratic side to disallow anyone from serving in the federal government who may have served the Trump administration.

Alan Chvotkin: There’s always going to be transitions of people and folks, you want the people in the administration who support the President’s policies. I’m not so worried that people will be leaving, and I’m even less worried that some career staff won’t know how to or would not support an incoming president’s sets of priorities and policies. What I’m interested in is making sure that we don’t deny the access and the hiring of highly qualified people just because of some litmus test, or other de facto disqualification, where they work who they supported in the prior administration or otherwise. The example I use: I’m an attorney by profession and you certainly wouldn’t want me as Surgeon General, I don’t have any skills in that area, not medically qualified. And so I’m looking more at qualifications. The federal procurement system, along with many others, segments of the economy are regulated by the executive branch, whether that be the Food and Drug Administration, or certain medical areas or the financial world. And I think it’s important that the transition folks and the new administration as they begin to populate the thousands of positions that are available for designation look for for people who have qualifications, or otherwise impeccable bona fides about their work. And the only caveat I would use there is judges. I mean, there, you certainly want highly qualified judges, but not otherwise to impose a litmus test on the judiciary.

Tom Temin: Yes, there are a lot of areas that are simply not all that partisan in terms of policy. I think Federal Procurement probably ranks as one of those. And there could be people that served on the other side in some other administration that would know what they’re talking about, and could faithfully execute the policies of both the administration and of the law.

Alan Chvotkin: Sure, or have substantial experience in industry. And as the government regulates, you want people who have a familiarity with how the industry works, and what both the obvious and maybe the more subtle impacts of regulatory changes might be on those regulated industries. Again, it’s not to say to stop or do not pursue policy. But that better understanding from experienced individuals can be very valuable and make policymaking more more relevant and more impactful.

Tom Temin: And by the way, you said you’re not qualified to be Surgeon General, but you are pretty good at dissecting procurement regulations.

Alan Chvotkin: Yes, I’ve had 30 years of practice doing that. So I’ve been pleased with the opportunity to engage in that and I’m confident that I’ll have more opportunities to continue to critique the executive rules and stay engaged in the federal procurement process.

Tom Temin: Alan Chvotkin is executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council. Thanks so much.

Alan Chvotkin: Always a pleasure, Tom.

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