Better buying power? Well, maybe

There is plenty to like about the Defense Department's Better Buying Power 3.0, but there are some curveballs in the document that bear watching.

On April 9, the Defense Department released the final version of Better Buying Power 3.0. For the most part, the document contains no surprises and is largely consistent with earlier drafts the department had shared and offered for comment. But the operative phrase is “for the most part.”

Because the document is also notable for a couple of curveballs it includes as well as for what it doesn’t include, and both should generate significant debate.

On the positive side, BBP 3.0 strongly reiterates the department’s commitment to innovation, accessing the best of commercial technology, and ensuring a well-trained, professional acquisition workforce.

At the same time, however, there are elements of the proposal that could well be in conflict with those goals. In addition, BBP 3.0 adds a new, special emphasis on cybersecurity that, while not included in previous drafts, makes eminent sense given the scope of the cyber threat. But even there, new questions have arisen.

One of the more controversial pieces of BBP 3.0 is, or should be, a provision that was not included in any previous draft. DOD indicates it will seek legislative changes to narrow the definition of a commercial item or service.

The department tried for the past two years to get similar changes but each time were thwarted by Congress. And that’s a good thing because the changes they sought would have had a chilling effect on the ability of companies to sell commercial items or technology to the government.

While the changes DOD now says it will pursue are slightly less radical, they will also have a potentially significant, detrimental impact on the Defense Department’s ability to obtain leading edge capabilities that are being developed for the commercial market but could also have enormous value to the department.

The commercial items question is further complicated by DOD’s announced launch of a new cadre of cost and pricing specialists who will be charged with “assisting” contracting officers in their commercial items determinations. This new cadre, which is now officially a part of Better Buying Power, raises a very central question: Is the determination of commerciality really a pricing issue?

My view is that it most certainly is not; that an item or service is either commercial or not regardless of how it is priced. But for others in the department, it’s all about pricing, and audits, and the use of government-unique cost accounting standards—which represent major barriers to entry for any commercial entity.

As such, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the net effect of the legislative change and the advent of the new cadre of pricing specialists is likely to be on commercial items determinations.

As noted above, BBP 3.0 also includes a new and important focus on cyber and on its own, it makes eminent sense. But the BBP emphasis on cyber cannot be disentangled from the new DOD effort to make the NIST framework for cyber a mandatory contract clause.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with the NIST framework. Most experts agree they did an excellent job. But it is only a framework and it does not dictate detailed implementation steps or requirements. Thus, how it is translated to a required contract clause will be interesting to say the least. And, as always, mandating one standard (or, in this case, one framework) can also serve to limit the government’s and contractors’ flexibility to respond to changing threats and/or evolving cyber strategies.

Finally, one cannot ignore that which BBP essentially ignores: the department’s acquisition of services of all kinds. Services account for well over half of what the department acquires. The nature and scope of the sector is in the early stages of a major transformation driven principally by the shift in technology and elsewhere to the consumption or “as a service” business model and the broader industrialization of services and technology.

Yet, even though PSC submitted numerous, actionable recommendations for BBP 3.0 in this important area, none of our recommendations found their way into this version and services acquisition merits almost no attention.

This is by design. The department’s leadership has clearly decided to focus its energies on the major systems/hardware environment. And on some levels that is understandable. But, at the same time, given the centrality of services and technology to the national security mission and that “improving tradecraft in services” was a core component in each previous version of BBP, it’s hard to understand why it is not receiving greater emphasis in this signature acquisition initiative.

So where does that leave us?

Overall, not including some of the concerns raised here, the department is moving forward on some important fronts. But as is so often the case, even within BBP 3.0, there are initiatives and recommendations that are at odds with each other.

And we still face the prospect of taking a step backward even as we try to step forward. The work is far from done.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.