By Dexter Wright, Senior Acquisition Analyst at Thompson Gray, Inc.
In DoD Acquisitions, there are specific focus areas that span a breadth of knowledge and skill sets; some that require engineering expertise, some requiring a budget background and others that require the ability to see across the spectrum to forecast risk and manage programmatic cycles. These are the cross functional roles of an Acquisition Analyst. Acquisition personnel are key in executing and overseeing the acquisition process to ensure the program stays within the baseline criteria of cost, schedule, and performance. The success of any program is the ability to see the interdependencies and intrinsic nature of DoD Acquisitions. With deeper insight of the planning, execution and evaluation phases, it becomes clearer how each process and product cycles in the support of future efforts.
When further breaking down the baseline criteria it is imperative to identify what the building blocks are and how they are dependent on one another. When planning an acquisition, we first start by conducting market research. Research data is provided via a Request for Information (RFI) and provides important information that aids in the development of cost estimates and future Program Objective Memorandum (POM) submissions. This planning phase helps to establish your baseline for execution from a funding standpoint. As the acquisition progresses through this phase, the development of the Acquisition Plan along with the contract requirement package (CRP) lays the foundation on how the contract will be managed.
The CRP includes, but is not limited to products such as: The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) which is further broken down into Work Packages (by the contractor), the contract type, the Contract Line Item Number (CLIN) structure, Incentive Fee and/or Award Fee Plans, Milestone Schedule, Key Performance Criteria, Contract Deliverable Requirement Lists (CDRLs), Independent Cost Estimate (IGE) and Funding Authorization. The alignment of the aforementioned products is critical in the success of program execution and sets the foundation that performance will be managed against.
After the award is granted, one of the most critical tasks performed, prior to contract execution, is the analysis of the allocated resources that the contractor has set per the WBS. This task is called the Integrated Baseline Review (IBR). The IBR aids in ensuring that both the schedule and cost is properly managed throughout the contract’s life cycle. The allocation of resources is further solidified and baselined to meet the execution milestone schedule that will occur over the contract Period of Performance (PoP). By analyzing the necessary requirements, this helps to identify expected budgetary obligations and highlights the key cost drivers of the program.
As the program shifts from the planning and baselining phase, it then moves into execution. During this phase, the contract cost, schedule and performance are monitored via multiple channels that tie back to the documents and resources previously identified. As contract execution occurs, the Acquisition Analyst aids the program in identifying risks associated with program changes. Like all DoD acquisition programs, change is the only constant. Risk can be a factor of performance; requirements not meeting specifications, test events failing, over running cost, obsolescence issues and schedule slippage to name a few. Some of these risks can be mitigated by altering the contract scope, via the realignment of funds, or even changing the statement of work
and supporting documentation; all while ensuring that the program does not incur a work stoppage or critical work impasse.
By evaluating deliverables that are required via the contract requirement package and put on contract at award, the program has the tools necessary to identify, forecast and mitigate risks to the overarching requirements. Many of these documents provide the pathway to continuously evaluate contractor execution, including the contractor’s submission of CDRLs. One potential CDRL delivery may be the contractor’s Cost Performance Report (CPR). CDRL submissions provide the program office with the data, either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, to further manage the execution of the program.
Once the program has obtained the cost data in this report, it has the necessary information for the development of future costs estimates and is better able to solidify information needed for POM submissions throughout the program’s life. Furthermore, the metrics obtained in these deliverables help the program to gain overarching data to support Government products such as the Life Cycle cost Estimate (LCCE). If properly recorded, these estimates can be utilized to further expand at the macro level, to include resources required for an agency-wide acquisition effort to include, but not limited to, a multi organizational test event or an agency-wide cross domain capability.
There are many other underlying details, documents, processes, and procedures that fall within each of these cycles. It is important to realize that each item, whether small or large, impact the overarching process. It is also critical for an acquisition professional to be well versed in understanding the intricacies of a DoD program and the acquisition process. The support of these personnel and having their skill set readily available to identify the inner workings to make the parts a whole is key in support of the program mission.
There is so much more to the acquisition professional and the importance they play in DoD programs. For more information, please email me at Dwright@thompsongrayinc.com and I will be happy to provide further details and insight on the expertise Thompson Gray can provide your company.