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By Nick Wakeman

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DHS defends FLASH, looks to lessons learned

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.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 31, 2017 at 9:36 AM

Reader Comments

Wed, Aug 2, 2017

Let's be honest about this. The 20 initial bids that DHS made and them final 11. All 11 companies were either providing services to USCIS or they had created JVs. Not to mention that three companies were in the same building. The company who provides training for Agile was given award. This alone is in direct violation of FAR. DHS constantly makes mistakes and GAO has let go many of them. Their is simply not one or two problems with FLASH procurement. There were many problems. In the initial debriefe they would not answer a single questions directly and with affirmative action.
The only reason there were so few protest is no one wants to spend money now days on protest. If you go and do a survey on 100 companies that lost the bid, everyone of them will tell you they were treated wrongly and with no clear justification. I am surprise that people are still talking about this and wants to do FLASH 2.0. Really? Is this a joke to make small companies spend ridclious money, time and effort and the contract gets cancelled?
Let's be honest, in past 10 years many procurements have gone wrong from DHS. I am surprise as to why no one takes action to change the entire staff.
If you are going to do orals on proposals then it has to be the same team who evaluates. Even then this all depends on human behavior and if they are having a good day or bad day. When doing oral presentation, the evaluation should be set by specific criteria and outlined objective. If the evaluators can't understand the difference between .jar and .war file then that evaluator should by be even on the panel.
Split the proposals up in four Task areas. Training, Agile Platform, Delivery and Analytic. Give companies chance to do their showcase and award more than 20 companies in each category. This would be ideal model. This way through the duration of the contract, their is constant competition.
Look at Eagle II, rates are so low that no one wants to bid on Task Orders. If you do then the EOD process is so cumbersome that you can't add resources for the right price. No one knows what DHS plans to do with Eagle and it comes to expiration in 2019. Majority of the innovative companies stay away from DHS simply due to the fact, DHS always awards the same companies they have worked with. No new company ever gets opportunity.
Really FLASH 2.0. Must be a joke!

Mon, Jul 31, 2017

Took their eye off the ball? This is absurd. One cannot argue that the procurement wasn't well intended, but this notion that they want to try again and make small tweaks is delusional. Let me ask you something, how exactly would you propose ensuring that evaluations of technical demonstrations are NOT arbitrary and capricious when 111 of them are conducted. 111?! Has anyone ever heard of a procurement where 111 oral presentations were conducted and compared? Of course not! Look, the procurement process is worthy of reform and this is certainly innovative, but the notion that this is better and just needs some minor tweaks is a joke! If I were the DHS Secretary and read the report that highlighted these errors, I would have called for Sorraya's head. Instead she is on TV glossing over the mistakes, talking about minor tweaks....and the press has articles about thank you notes from the vendors that would've benefitted from the mistakes? Fail.

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