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By Nick Wakeman

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Government strife demands that contractors be proactive

There is a growing disconnect inside government between contracting officers and program managers,  leading to mixed signals for contractors.

As the gap between the expectations on the contract side and the expectations on the program side increases, contractors face more risk. The internal government conflict can cloud the requirements of a contract because the two sides don’t agree, nor see eye to eye on what the contract is supposed to accomplish.

That was a recurring theme during a panel discussion at the executive symposium portion of Deltek’s Insight user conference in Dallas this week.

While a company can’t really play marriage counselor and help program managers and contracting officers get along, they can be proactive about understanding what is expected of them.

“The first thing you need to do after winning a contract is press for a post-award conference with the contracting officer,” said Rob Burton, an attorney with the Venable law firm, who left the government after a 30-plus year career that included a stint as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

The meeting might be a challenge to arrange as the contracting officer might be reluctant, but press for it anyway. It’ll be worth it, he said.

The two primary questions to ask the contracting officer:

  • How do you view the requirements?
  • What do you think I’m supposed do?

“Having that conversation in the beginning is better than down the road, especially in this environment of LPTA,” Burton said. LPTA stands for lowest price, technically acceptable.

The problem with LPTA is that the government isn’t good at defining what is technically acceptable or defining requirements.

Too often, you end up with vague requirements, and issues arise because the government’s expectations are higher than what a contractor has bid, he said.

“I would meet immediately with the contracting officer and say, this is what I think I’m supposed to do. What do you think?” Burton said.

But the government isn’t always to blame for problems with contracts.

Burton said he learned after leaving the government for the private sector that contractors don’t read their contracts, particularly when it comes to compliance and reporting requirements.

“It’s truly amazing,” he said to an audience of government contractors. “You don’t even know what you are supposed to be doing.”

Burton’s advice: Take the contract, map out the requirements in each section and determine how you are going to comply.

“That’s absolutely critical for your success, more so now than ever before,” he said.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 16, 2013 at 12:06 PM


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