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MILLER ON PROCUREMENT.

**THE PROBLEM NEVER ENDS**

The problem to which I refer is the ignorance and sloppiness and sometimes evil intent, which result in vendors not getting copies of bids. Many court cases abound. We have seen cases where the vendor requests the RFP and it does not get sent out or the government messes up the address, gets it back from USPS and simply takes no decisive action such as a phone call or a fax.

I seem to remember a case where a court ruled that in addition to putting it in the CBD the agency must also send one to the incumbent. Does anyone know of this case?

Basically all the agency has to do is put it in the CBD. But a smart buyer can, should and will do much more. I was reading the CBD one day and the Army at 32 machines under Group 20. Group 20 is marine equipment. I called the Colonel. He was defense and trying to cover his rear. He assured me that the error was not that of the Army but of GPO. I could not get him to understand that he might not get any bids and it was in his interest to re-synopsize.

When I was a Govt guy I would actually read the CBD to see if it got in the right category and was error free. What a revolutionary concept. A Govt guy doing his job.

Then there was the case where I found a $400 million computer bid in Group 99 which is misc. This little gem came from USPS. I think it was a deliberate error so only the chosen few might bid. Miller's rule #14, throw all USPS bids in the trash. If you don't understand why, send me an e-mail.

Now we have a brand new case with the Marines. I admire the Marines in many ways but procurement skill and honesty is not one of them. They failed to send the RFP to the incumbent for about 80% their work and put it in the CBD in such a way that the incumbent did not recognize it as his deal of interest.

Now one would think any good CO would automatically send it to the bidders list on the last RFP, to any incumbents and to anyone who has expressed interest as well as to all who respond to the new CBD notice. Not the Marines.

There are ways to avoid this trap. What are they? Never assume a Govt guy will do his job. Often you can only protect yourself by doing his job for him.

**LATE BIDS**

Late bids are the subject of a thousand stories some beyond belief. They are most usually caused by home office reading the tea leaves and the M1 money supply and simply not giving the federal guys a price. Not the way to operate.

I had a close friend almost get fired over this. Home office was so slow and finally gave him a pric3. He knew the price was too low and submitted the bid for $1 million more and won. They were livid. As you can guess home office was stupid in this case and in many, many cases.

Here are a couple of good stories. A guy was speeding on the GW Parkway to get a large bid to the CIA. He was stopped by a Fairfax County Cop. He quickly convinced the cop that he was a secret agent returning to headquarters on the double with top secret info. He got a police escort and just made it.

A client had a bid due in Puerto Rico. They were cheap. You should almost always have delivered bids especially one worth $30 million. But cheap is cheap. They put the bid on Eastern "Air on Thursday for a Tuesday due date. The airline lost the bid but they didn't figure that out until Sunday. They tried to fax a 300-page bid and only got half of it there and were disqualified.

Why not get little Jimmy from the mailroom and give him a ticket for him and his sweeties for a weekend in PR?

Or prepare the bid a week earlier. Or deliver draft #4 a week earlier and if you don't get the final copy in you still have a shot.

I once had a client send a bid to Aberdeen proving Ground worth about $10 million. When the CO opened the bid he had page 1,3,5,7 etc. the guy in the copy room never copied the back of each page and smooth Clyde, the sales guy, is out with his sweetie and the wrong moment and Louise his office assistant failed to bail out stupid Clyde. Don't you love t his business?

***PAUCITY***

Is absolutely amazing how oblivious procurement policy people often are or how ignorant they seem to be with problems and massive gaps in the FAR.

Take these four examples. When the Brooks Law was repealed in 1976 OMB was supposed to amend the FAR to provide guidance to replace that lost from the FIRMR. Many important items are now gone including LCC, how to ascertain a life cycle, dealing with IT options.

OMB is apparently totally unable to do this because of lack of IT procurement expertise. When I was at GSA 30 years ago I marveled at how little skill and guidance OMB could provide in this area. Nothing has changed.

About 40% of federal spending sole source but the FAR guidance on proper sole source, applicable case law, admirable examples of a JOTFOC etc. simply does not exist. We have less than two pages of assistance in Part 6 about sole source compared to 3000 pages in the FAR even though it is the single largest element of contracting. Shame.

LCC is treated in FAR 7.4 in a rudimentary grade school format. It is pathetic. If readers want to know more our monograph on life cycle cost is almost two hundred pages compared to the FAR at less than two pages. Does anyone out there know how to play this game? Does anyone give a damn?

GSA evidently has no intention of revising FAR 8.4 re schedule purchasing. And why should they? They get 1% no matter how the process occurs. FAR 8.4 is pathetic. And even pathetic wasn't enough for DSS-W when they recently told GAO that they had bought $200 million of IT from the schedule without comparing prices because GSA never told them they had to get three quotes. DSS-W is my all time favorite for the worst contract shop in the world. But this is a new law. This guidance has been in the FAR only for about 50 years or so. I guess they simply can't read.

But that is only one small flaw. Another is whether or not the 1% IFF is complaint with the Economy Act? Another is why no guidance on the issue of getting three quotes when all three are the same product - Jeep, Jeep, Jeep or Cisco, Cisco, Cisco. The schedule has become the preferred method of procurement for all ignorant or lazy or larcenous people. Again no one seems to understand or care.

If America is this way imagine Pakistan or Uruguay.

***THE PROBLEM WITH SUCCESS***

Success breeds contempt and the belief that once successful we will always be successful. In high tech the only firm that has any right to hold such belief is probably IBM and even IBM had a near death experience until they cleaned house and brought in an outsider.

Firms that have been through the near death experiences in IT include DEC, Wang, Xerox, Oracle etc. John Chambers should have known this because he was VP of Wang during their earlier near death experience. Oracle came back strong from their 1991 experience but now the stock is way down again.

Satchel Paige said, "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you". We think he meant run as fast as you can and never stop. I have dealt with firms like DEC and Wang when they are convinced of their infallibility. When in that state they refuse to listen and accept advice. I remember years ago when DEC was growing 30 or 50% a year and they suddenly were hit with a near zero growth year. They were stunned and in disbelief that the market place could not love them as much as last year.

I remember trying to tell DEC about potential problems with micros and the lack of comprehension.

What does all of this mean? It means constant study, constant attention to new trends, constant concern about personnel and organization, constant care and feeding of clients because they might fall in love elsewhere etc.

Cisco may pull it out and I hope they do and they are still quite formidable. But to predict that revenue growth can still return to 30-50% is hard to swallow. If they are right, you can buy now and earn an easy 500%. If wrong your money will be stagnant. Their stock is down about 78% from the high. Buy, sell or hold?

***JOBS***

We are getting a trickling of readers needing jobs with the layoffs etc. If you are hunting for someone specific send us an E-mail. Solid people with good federal experience are always in demand.

Currently we know of one senior executive with company building experience, one senior contract person with commercial and federal experience and a senior federal sales person who often asks me challenging questions. Most readers don't for whatever reason.

If you want to get in touch with any of these people, let us know.
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Title Annotation:Government Activity
Author:Miller, Terry
Publication:EDP Weekly's IT Monitor
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 30, 2001
Words:1616
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