DISA fine-tunes acquisition process to obtain better services

New streamlined processes help to speed acquisitions

The Defense Information Systems Agency is changing how it runs its acquisition process. The agency is streamlining how it awards contracts and how it selects winners. Above all, it will rely on improved feedback from industry to provide the best services, Kathleen Miller, DISA's director of procurement and chief of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Office, said Aug. 16 at the DISA Customer and Industry Forum in Baltimore, Md.

DITCO provides a full spectrum of acquisition services for the Defense Department, from planning through contract awards and closing. It is also a multifaceted organization, with experts in a variety of areas, such as legal advisors, telecommunications and IT specialists, she said. “I don’t just have contract officers and specialists,” Miller said.

As an acquisitions organization, DITCO acquires telecommunications and IT products and services. It has four primary purchasing offices at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.; Fort Meade, Md.; Oahu, Hawaii; and Stuttgart, Germany. The organization supports customers across the DOD in a variety of purchases. “As long as it’s in our area of expertise, we will support that [purchase],” she said.

DISA is changing the way it does business by making improvements and changes to the acquisition process, such as improved requests for information (RFIs). The agency is trying to create better RFIs through improved capability packages, which are designed to explain DISA’s needs, Miller said. As a part of this process, the agency is also working on providing improved feedback to industry.

To speed the acquisition process, DISA is issuing more draft RFPs. However, Miller said that while the goal of the draft process is to get feedback and input from industry, firms should not commit so much detail to the draft that they’re locked in when the formal RFP is issued. Formal RFPs will rarely be exact copies of the draft versions, she said.

The agency is also working on maximizing feedback and communications with industry through the acquisition process, she said. DISA is initiating a variety of discussion formats: telephone, in person, online. The intent is to provide better feedback and understanding that will lead to shorter award processes.

DISA will also hold more kickoff meetings—something that it has moved away from in recent years, Miller said. The agency is returning to these meetings because they allow industry and government to be aware of the process, capabilities and services that are expected of them. Agency program officers will be challenged to make the time to participate in more kickoff meetings, she said.

The agency is modifying how it manages competitive acquisitions. The Office of the Secretary of Defense has issued new source selection requirements, which for once have the entire DOD working from the same list of procedures and processes, she said.

Other changes include how the agency conducts its source selection process. One of the goals of this is to ensure that there is more competition in acquisitions, Miller said. It also prevents the agency from being locked into sole-source awards. “Competition helps us get the best offer with the best price,” she said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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