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The idea is not necessarily new, as it has been compared to a “Yelp” like review tool to give broad information to give decision makers a high-level view of potential problems with a particular acquisition at the tactical level. Further, the mechanism was piloted at the General Services Administration with their Governmentwide Acquisition Contract One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services or OASIS.
Acquisition 360 has review mechanisms for both industry and government. The surveys are not meant to be a tool to provide a critique of individuals, but rather, the process itself.
Although Ms. Rung, and Deputy Administrator Leslie Field addressed some of the questions about the efficacy of this initiative with Jason Miller of FederalNewsRadio.com, three fundamental questions remain about potential for these surveys to be successful:
(1) Will stakeholders actually complete them? – From the government’s perspective, it is yet more potential paperwork given to overburdened acquisition personnel. Stakeholder engagement may be difficult, even though thoughtful feedback may pinpoint potential issues that require further root cause analysis and subsequent re-engineering to address. Nonetheless, this initiative can be seen as a way to target personnel, or further mechanisms for oversight and accountability. Although these surveys will not be used for this purpose, perception can be reality.
(2) Is anonymity ensured? – Although industry covets the opportunity to provide constructive criticism to improve the overall process to engagement and doing business with the federal government, firms may be weary to provide this type of information for fear of possible retribution. Companies often dare not rock the boat, as retribution can be swift and damaging to a company’s reputation. Further, the government can certainly make an educated guess about who would be providing the criticism, based on the circumstances of a particular acquisition.
(3) Will the feedback be useful? – The surveys are intended to provide comprehensive, high-level feedback on the end-to-end pre-acquisition process. Assuming thoughtful comments that provide enough information for decision-makers, will these managers for both government and industry use the information to improve their internal processes?
The reality is that the current environment is a type of Cold War, where industry and government are in a state of almost rampant animosity. It is a vicious circle where firms are on the offensive with protests and challenges to government procurement, due to budgetary pressures and ferocious competition for every federal dollar spent on goods and services. Government has almost battened down the hatches, hoping to weather the storm of criticism of every move, and thus believing that openness and transparency through collaboration and communications is a losing proposition.
No one is expecting this initiative to be a silver bullet, but I applaud OFFP and Ms. Rung for proactive action to break the barriers that hinder constructive change and open the doors to communications.