A Navy official said Tuesday the delay in the Next Generation Enterprise Network Re-compete (NGEN-R) is allowing the service to develop the acquisition documents in a way more akin to how software is developed in industry.
Capt. Don Harder, deputy program executive officer for the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS), explained to reporters at a roundtable that the Navy has implemented a sprint/agile development process to push draft contract documents to industry almost weekly for early inputs on the process.
NGEN is the Navy’s enterprise-wise IT services contract vehicle, providing IT services to the Navy and Marine Corps both within the continental United States (CONUS) via the Navy Marine Corps Internet and the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. The incumbent for NGEN is Hewlett Packard [HPQ] and the contract runs out in June 2018.
Last week the Navy announced it would move back the award schedule to late 2018.
In the re-compete, the Navy is trying to drive down costs by splitting the work into two contracts, covering end user hardware (EUHW), and service management, integration and transport (SMIT). It is also seeking to add IT services to Navy personal outside the CONUS (OCONUS) through the OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network.
Harder said the team altered a progressive approach from the software development process to use for contract development. Usually the government develops all of the request for proposal (RFP) solicitation documents, vets them, then pushes them out for industry comment/review as one package. Industry normally has three to four weeks to respond to the whole package, then government vets them, makes changes, and pushes out the next draft for comment.
Now instead of this “waterfall release,” the PEO-EIS sends out document sets as they are built. Harder said the contracting team came up with this method out of necessity because they did not want to wait until all of the documents were ready on such a large solicitation.
“We made a very conscious decision that as soon as something was good enough, we would push it out and start the review process,” Harder said.
Under the new system, first drafts are ready by Monday for an abbreviated review process, then the documents are pushed out to industry by Friday the same week.
Harder said this has been very successful and solid early input from industry has created the opportunity to modify documents towards the best expected outcome. For example, several vendors presented alternative approaches on how to do hardware refresh in the future. This spurred the contract team to write language allowing industry to propose those kinds of solutions, which they otherwise would not be able to do.
This style of early draft releases has been going on for under two months and Harder said they expect it to be finished in the mid-November timeframe.
This process also includes weekly Friday industry conference calls between the acquisition office and industry that started in August, 28 one-on-one question and answer sessions thus far, and an engineering day expected to occur within a month.
Harder said the calls allow companies to hear the latest on progress is happening with the NGEN-R program and ask to questions. The first conference call included up to 160 phone lines while the average has settled around 80 to 90, he said.
Overall, Harder said this process will probably save four to six weeks in the contract development process, but that is when it was built on the fly. He thinks it could be done even more efficiently in other situations with more preparation.
However, the process was not smooth from the start. Harder admitted early on he asked for industry turnaround comments within one week, even for a 248-page document.
“We rolled it out very rapidly and we did not have the luxury of time to ensure that industry understood what we were trying to accomplish, how we were going to try and accomplish it, and how much interaction we would actually be asking them to participate in,” Harder said.
He said he would have learned that was too little time “if I had the opportunity to speak with industry at length about what I was trying to accomplish.”
Now Harder said they have now learned the limits of what industry can provide and “I think we’re pushing those limits.”
Separately, Harder said they will abide by guidelines for small business implementation. The current NGEN contract has over $300 million a year, equating to 35 percent of the awards, going to small businesses. He expects to see the guidelines surpassed on the SMIT contract, like they are under NGEN. However, because end user hardware is more of a commodity, there the Navy is looking to hit minimum requirements.
Overall, he said “NGEN Re-compete contracts will take the Navy the next step into how IT services are procured by following industry standards in a way that has never been done before. It will provide a much richer end user experience while maintaining or increasing capabilities from where they are today.”
Also, last week the Navy extended the SMIT contract work for up to 23 months and the EUHW for up to 39 months.
Harder explained where the numbers came from. SMIT incorporates the six-month delay from contract expiration in June 2018 until December award then also takes into account a potential for protest and transition period with extra risk space added. He said the government expects the new SMIT vendor will immediately begin transitioning services, regardless of an award protest. Service transition could take up to six months, Harder said industry has previously told the government.
The EUHW extension is longer because it concerns hardware refresh, which must follow a stable schedule, regardless of when awards come through. The government asked vendors to provide the optimal approach to refresh existing hardware and this led to a total 39-month timeframe, including risk to schedule.