Have you had time to bounce around the Washington Post Top Secret America information treasure trove published this week. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
I invite you cracker jack citizen journalists to do so, and then use the information to write a diary to inform the rest of us of where our dollars are being spent.
Reading through the lists of contractors and huge amount of $$ they are getting, got me thinking and wondering, like the rest of its readers, how did we get to this point.
WaPo didn't provide any history or comparisons, so I did some digging.
I like to dig.
Can you dig it?
Anyone who has ever sold product/service to the government knows the routine. It's complicated.
Several things changed in the 1990s to make it easier; however, it might have made it too easy for some and may have traded streamlining promises for cost, product, and/or service effectiveness.
Pondering this immense issue, it is difficult to know where to begin. I thought a basic understanding of how procurement evolved since 1998 was a good start.
Lots changed from 1990 through 2000, and then things changed hugely when Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld took over.
No surprise; however, steps may need to be taken soon so that the
Deficit Hawks don't lose any sleep on all the money being wasted every day, millions and maybe billions. Because we know how important the deficit is to the Deficit Hawks.
Changes Made in Procurement
New Purchasing Rules Take Roothttp://www.govexec.com/...
By Susannah Zak Figura August 1, 1998
The government's civilian agencies spent $58 billion on major procurements last year, and officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill want them to make sure they get their money's worth. That's why procurement reforms have been coming down the pike, one after another, for years.
Last year, one of the most important recent reforms aimed at making contracting easier, cheaper and better overall - the rewrite of Part 15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) - went into effect.
The rewrite's goal: Streamline and simplify source selection and negotiation requirements to cut the amount of time and money needed to complete a contract award.
Although Part 15 governs only about 20 percent of federal procurement actions, it applies to about 80 percent of money spent.
Central to the revision is a redesigned negotiation process, which encourages early and open discussion between agencies and prospective contractors. Some agencies already were engaging in such dialogue, at least to a limited degree, by issuing draft requests for proposals. Contractors with relevant expertise then helped agencies refine the requests before final versions were published.
The Part 15 rewrite encourages this type of pre-solicitation communication between agencies and contractors.
EVERY CONTRACTORS DREAM COME TRUE: To be able to help design the procurement request for product/service. Of course, some proprietary items will be listed so other companies can't bid, but hey, it cuts down on the costs and time taken to buy stuff.
What could possibly go wrong? Contractors telling the government what to buy?
And truly, selling to the government isn't easy for any up and coming company, which is why the top contractors have been in business for decades, some more than or almost a century.
Capitalism surely gets a boost from government contracting. Even companies traded on Wall Street get huge boosts from the government. It's good for the GNP, too. It's all good, right?
Well, some restraint was used after the above was passed; however, it really takes off in 2002. The following is the story listed at the same website used for the data below. I am not picking on the Coast Guard. I love the Coast Guard; however, they got snookered in a very big, and embarrassing manner as outlined below:
Procurement Preview 2002 - Special Annual Issue
Government Executive August 15, 2002
Example: The Coast Guard Deepwater Procurement Project
To manage the largest procurement in Coast Guard history, Greg Giddens knew he needed a full squad of professionals. The players on the team would have their own areas of expertise, but they would have to learn to work together and form a cohesive unit.http://www.govexec.com/...
Giddens, the deputy program executive officer for the Coast Guard's Deepwater project, is largely responsible for navigating the 20-year, $17 billion deal. Capping off six years of hard work, the Coast Guard on June 25 awarded the project to a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
The acquisition represents a major shift in the way the Coast Guard buys ships and aircraft. Rather than specifying the exact mix of assets for the revamped fleet, the agency took an innovative approach, allowing three competing private sector bidders unprecedented freedom to design an entire system of ships, small boats, aircraft, satellites and robotic unmanned aerial vehicles. The competitors were told that all the crafts should be electronically linked to operate together at distances more than 50 nautical miles from shore. Contractors were given free rein to come up with the best way to perform that mission.
So, how did the "major shift" work out for the Coast Guard? Snookered by the contractors?
So five years ago the Coast Guard undertook a massive modernization program called "Deepwater" and ended up way over its head. As correspondent Steve Kroft reports, the $24 billion project(up from $17 Billion above, diarist note) has turned into a fiasco that has set new standards for incompetence, and triggered a Justice Department investigation.http://www.cbsnews.com/...
A promotional video for the biggest project the Coast Guard had ever taken on looked impressive enough: "Deepwater" would include 91 new ships and 124 smaller boats, plus new planes and helicopters.
But five years into the program, the Coast Guard has fewer boats and ships now than it did before it started. Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Coast Guard oversight subcommittee calls the program, "a mess."
Coast Guard/Deepwater Updatehttp://motherjones.com/...
— By Nick Baumann| Wed Aug. 5, 2009 4:10 AM PDT
I recently wrote about Michael DeKort, the former Lockheed engineer who has been blowing the whistle on Coast Guard contracting debacles for years. Late Tuesday evening, DeKort emailed me to pass on the news (from this source) that the Coast Guard will no longer be using Integrated Coast Guard Systems—a joint Northrop Grumman-Lockheed Martin venture—for any projects related to its Deepwater modernization program.
Teams like the one the Coast Guard used, known as "integrated product teams," are not new to the federal government. But increasingly, they are being hailed as the way to manage large-scale acquisitions.http://www.govexec.com/...
Integrated product teams in large part owe their rise to reforms enacted during the mid-1990s. The 1994 Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, for example, requires program managers to come up with cost, performance and schedule goals for every major acquisition. On top of that, the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act requires capital planning and investment reviews of information technology purchases. And, under the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, agencies must make sure their major procurement decisions mesh with their overall strategic plans.ibid
For many agencies, the biggest challenge might be simply finding the bodies to put together a team.ibid
The federal downsizing effort of the 1990s depleted the ranks of the acquisition workforce.
The Defense Department, for instance, cut its procurement staff in half, from 460,000 to 230,000, between 1990 and 1999.
Yet during the same period, annual Defense procurement ..... actions increased from 13 million to 14 million, according to a February 2000 report by Defense's inspector general.
"The scope of the problem is staggering," says Steven Schooner, associate law professor at The George Washington University Law School. "I like [the idea of] integrated product teams. I think it is a good solution. But I think it is the exception, not the rule. What's the solution for some other program office if you take a contracting person and put them on an integrated team?"
But what happens if a team finds itself going in the wrong direction or bogged down in cost overruns and delays? In the Navy, program managers have the option of calling in a strike team from Stelloh-Garner's Acquisition Reform Office when projects go off course.ibid
In some cases, program managers are lost from the beginning and need help launching the entire procurement. In other instances, an acquisition effort is running into delays and cost overruns. And, in some cases, managers are simply looking for confirmation that they're on the right track.
Such was the case when Capt. Steve Morrow called the Acquisition Reform Office for a visit. Morrow, who retired in July, was program manager for the Tomahawk cruise missile program. His team had awarded a design contract to Raytheon in June 1998...
While Morrow is open about his experience with the reform office, most visits are kept confidential. Stelloh-Garner doesn't even tell her bosses which programs have requested a visit. The idea is that anonymity will lead to more open and honest discussions. Product teams are under no obligation to implement the recommendations they receive, although Stelloh-Garner is unaware of a case where a product team did not accept most of the suggestions. Since 2001, the Acquisition Reform Office has conducted 27 visits, all to Navy and Marine Corps programs. The other military services have not come calling.
I think reading the above will help us understand how we got to the point where we are today. Thousands of contractors spread all over the country being paid billions and billions of dollars and those in the know in the government, including Robert Gates, aren't sure whose doing what and how it helps in all instances.
850,000 people have top secret clearance? Do they have a secret hand shake, too. That's a huge number of people. Who are they? Private Contractors? Eric Prince?
When the Deficit Hawks start screaming about this, then maybe I will take the Deficit Hawks seriously. Until then, they are irritating, heartless, and possibly sociopathetic (I hope to see this new word in the Urban Dictionary within the hour!)
Here's the spending for the period 2002-2007. You get the gist.
Procurement Preview - The Top 200 Government Contractors
August 15, 2003 - Total Purchases $244,814,389,000
August 15, 2004 - Total Purchases: $290,423,509,089
August 15, 2005 - Total Purchases: $327,824,242,244
August 15, 2006 - Total Purchases: $388,017,686,748
To aid your perspective, here is the list for 2007's Top 100 contractors, instead of the top 200:
Top 100 Defense Contractors
August 15, 2007 - Total Purchases: $306,521,269,483
All these contractor spending reports can be found here:
Contracts have problems. POGO reports the top 100 Contractors misconduct. BP has had 52 incidents. One of the highest. Go figure. If you go to this link, enjoy some of the other wonderful information this group provides.
Comparison is necessary to put this into budget perspective. Compare health care costs and the cost for just the top 100 government contractors. WaPo listed nearly 2,000 contractors.
$ 83 billion a year: Health Care insurance for almost all Americans
$300 billion a year: 100 contractors
$1,000,000 for one Tomahawk Missile. Worth every penny, I am sure. But one million dollars for each missile. Now, THAT'S a spending spree. We spent over 700 during Iraqi Freedom. WOW!
$17-$24 Billion for a Coast Guard mess that still hasn't delivered the products 8 years from inception.
How dare the GOP scream about spending to help millions of Americans
The shouting over deficit concern is Billions of Dollars Short, and 8 years Late!