DHA starting innovation journey with $1.4B 'Workforce 3.0' contract

The Defense Health Agency will soon release the final solicitation for its $1.4 billion Workforce 3.0 contract to emphasize innovation and the use of non-traditional technology vendors.

The Defense Health Agency is on a journey to become what it calls a “world class technology organization" that isn't beginning with buying a bunch of the latest and greatest technologies, but instead starting with people and creating a new culture.

DHA is developing a series of procurements for just that and first out of the gate will be Workforce 3.0. That effort is being run by the Program Executive Office-Defense Healthcare Management Systems, or PEO DHMS.

To helm them develop the new procurements and more importantly a new approach to the procurements, DHA has turned to Dcode -- the private entity that works to being commercial tech companies together with government customers and traditional contractors.

“They are working on three or four big facets to transform not just the workplace, but the workforce,” said Riya Patel, a senior government program manager for Dcode.

PEO-DHMS' mission is to deliver better health products for service members and to do that they want a system that prioritizes building products that are high quality and would be competitive in the commercial healthcare market, she said.

“They also are really looking to attract the right talent, especially engineering, design and data science talent,” Patel said.

A final solicitation is imminent for Workforce 3.0, which will likely will have two parts. The first will be a multiple-award vehicle that will provide a broad range of services. Part two will be for overall program management functions. The overall estimated value of the procurement is $1.4 billion, according to Deltek.

But more than a dollar value is DHA’s goal of creating an “innovative, forward-leaning and user centered workforce,” Patel said.

That includes getting the right contractor workforce in place, she said.

DHA wants a culture where there is a continuous feedback loop with industry and internally as well as building a culture that values candor and risk taking.

“They want to set a foundation for partnering with industry early on,” Patel said. “A lot of the focus of Workforce 3.0 is getting the right non-traditional vendors and the traditional vendors engaged and bought into the transformation effort.”

Workforce 3.0's solicitation will ask for services such as document management, software lifecycle management, robotic process automation, physical workplaces and other transformative solutions. But the solicitation isn’t dictating what should be done.

“A lot of what they are soliciting for is outcomes,” Patel said. The multipl-award portion of Workforce 3.0 will be focused on sprint type and more project-based tasks.

In the draft solicitation documents, DHA says it is looking to make three awards that will be based on what bidders propose for the first task order. That task order will be for a 90-day assessment of as-is operations and a detailed “design to outcome” proposal.

Patel said DHA is being very intentional in its efforts to pull in non-traditional vendors and is well aware of the barriers that these companies face in cracking the federal market.

“This is a shining example of government trying to be innovative and not just talking the talk but walking it too,” she said.

The solicitation includes incentives for traditional primes to include non-traditional vendors on their team.

“Companies who might not normally be included during a more traditional solicitation process will now be crucial to a successful team and the evaluation of the team,” Patel said.

The solicitation includes a 7 percent goal for non-traditional defense contractors, which they define a company that hasn’t worked for DOD for a year.

A major goal of the Workforce 3.0 process has been to increase engagement with industry and that has been a tremendous success, Patel said. To foster more engagement, DHA developed the Health Information Vision Exchange, or HIVE.

HIVE is a place where the agency can post notices, hold virtual meetings, make announcements and build communities of interest. DHA is using Beta.Sam.gov as well, but mostly uses that portal to direct users to the HIVE.

“One thing that HIVE has demonstrated is that if you ask industry to engage, industry will engage and will be collaborative and there is a way to incentivize and appeal to non-traditional vendors,” Patel said.

Too often government agencies that are not used to working with non-traditional vendors don’t think that there is an alignment of interests.

“But DHA and PEO-DHMS have demonstrated that non-traditional vendors are looking to collaborate and looking to engage if you provide the right resources and you are transparent about wanting to collaborate,” she said.

For Dcode, the hope is that this is just the beginning and that other agencies will see what DHA is doing and will emulate it. While other agencies have tried similar approaches, there are very few examples of agencies doing this at the enterprise scale that DHA is.

“It is a very innovative approach to the actual procurement,” Patel said. “They’ve taken it at a level that a lot of other federal agencies haven’t hit yet.”