Air Force to Improve Flexibility in Contracting

What this could mean for the government technology sector

 

A recent article by Federal News Network details initiatives that the U.S. Air Force is undertaking to improve flexibility in government contracting. Among the initiatives is a strategy to remove one-year Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funding by “rethinking current regulations.”

Many U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) officials, such as Air Force Maj. Gen. Cameron Holt, consider the Congress-mandated rules that govern federal procurement to be overly restrictive, to the point of impeding O&M. In a 2019 report on “the deficiencies in software acquisition and practices,” DoD recognized that software, unlike hardware, is “an enduring capability that must be supported and continuously improved throughout its lifecycle.” Authors of the report suggested that Congress and DoD “refactor statutes, regulations, and processes for software,” in order to speed deployment and allow for continuous advancement. The report also concluded that achieving acquisition transformation would also require a culture transformation in order to enable “effective delivery and oversight.”

Unfortunately, as Federal News Network notes, not all areas of government are as committed to technological and cultural transformation as the Air Force, currently in a “renaissance” of “embracing open systems architecture, digital engineering, and agile software development.” Congress, for example, continues to delay operations through new oversight and compliance requirements for agency acquisitions, often hindering the would-be seamless advancement of needed software.

In an effort to streamline the process, the Air Force is asking Congress in a memo to make exceptions to “compliance requirements and pricing determinations” in several programs, including the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) and the AbilityOne program. They are also focusing on training contracting officers and program managers through virtual reality and other innovative means. And finally, Air Force officials are pressing hard to “eliminate” one-year O&M funding, so that they can further realize their goals of technological transformation.

In the government technology sector, we have long advocated for a cultural and technological shift in government agencies to modernize their processes and shed legacy software, which poses a wealth of security and compliance risks. In March 2020, AINS CEO Moe Goswami penned an article about the dilemma that CIOs, especially those in the government, face while attempting to achieve process transformation. As Goswami notes, “modernization . . . is not simply replacing individual outdated IT systems with newer ones; rather, it is a holistic approach to Federal IT that fundamentally transforms how agencies accomplish their missions.” Doing so requires cooperation from key leaders at the highest levels of government agencies. They must commit to “the innovative digital architecture of an enterprise, end-to-end approach.”

In the Department of Defense, embracing this type of transformation is even more urgent due to the high-level sensitivity of their operations. But if antiquated and restrictive contracting rules remain as they are, neither CIOs nor vendors will be able to convey the forward-thinking technology that is needed to break from legacy systems and siloed processes. Therefore, the efforts of Air Force Maj. Gen. Cameron Holt, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for procurement Rebecca Weirick, and other DoD officials is sorely needed. Hopefully, Congress will listen, and grant the Air Force and other agencies the exceptions they are requesting, and moreover, eliminate one-year O&M funding from the rulebooks for software advancement and upkeep.

In the meantime, agencies should consider implementing digital process automation software like eCase to streamline their processes for the long-term. eCase is flexible and configurable, capable of evolving with agency demands and meeting new business requirements well beyond the typical five-year period of performance, and greatly reducing the cost and resources spent on O&M. Additionally, our contract management and filing system, eCase Contracts, automates procurement, empowering agencies to sever ties with paper contracts filing and bolstering efficiency through notifications, due dates, and approvals. Should the effort to eliminate one-year O&M funding be approved by Congress, agencies should be ready with a plan on how to transform the O&M of their systems, to better serve their business needs.

 

If you are interested in learning more about eCase or eCase Contracts, or looking for tips on how to transform the software in your agency, please email info@ains.com or request a demo today.