DHS defends FLASH, looks to lessons learned

Homeland Security Department officials are defending the cancelled FLASH procurement but are looking to learn from their mistakes.

Homeland Security Department procurement officials spoke on the Government Matters TV show this week to defend the FLASH procurement despite the problems that led DHS to cancel the contract.

Sorya Correa, chief procurement officer at DHS, and Chip Fulgham, acting undersecretary for management at DHS, appeared on the program in the wake of a letter that eight of the 11 winning bidders sent to Correa to say thank you and to encourage DHS to not give up on the innovative approach DHS used to make the award.

As we’ve covered, the contract collapse after bid protests revealed severe problems with how the procurement was managed.

Correa acknowledged some of those mistakes in that interview aired Sunday.

“We did a great job innovating the front end of the procurement,” she said. “We didn’t do a good job of evaluating the tail end, the documentation, and how we process the documentation and how we review the documentation.”

Those problems were highlighted in a letter DHS wrote to GAO telling them the contact was being cancelled and again when GAO took the rare step of issuing a report about why it dismissed the bid protests.

There were several mistakes in how the evaluations were recorded, such as how bidders did live presentations that were videotaped. But the most egregious thing found was how a procurement official created documents after awards were made and presented them to GAO as if they were created during the evaluation process.

The writers of the letter only alluded to these problems but emphasized that DHS shouldn’t give up on the innovative approach used for the FLASH procurement.

One of those innovative approaches was the use of tech demonstrations – the ones that ran into trouble because of the poor quality of the videotaping made it difficult to compare the demonstrations to each other.

But Correa’s point isn’t to stop with the innovation such as doing the technology demonstrations – there were 111 for FLASH – but to learn from the mistakes that were made.

She and Fulgham have no intention of backing away from trying to improve the procurement process.

I’m not going to rehash the entire Government Matters broadcast, but Correa and Fulgham are in synch with the letter writers – fix what went wrong, but don’t give up on the innovation.

They even indicated a FLASH 2.0 is in the works.

But there are still some who are disgusted by FLASH. As one commenter on my blog said, “This procurement was riddled with fraud and malfeasance.”

I can’t disagree to a certain extend, particularly when you talk about altered documents but at the same time there were some good things about the procurement.

As Correa said, they got the first part right, but they stumbled badly in the second part. Too use the tired sports trope: they took their eye off the ball.

They should try again, perhaps with some more discipline and oversight perhaps. But they should try.