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TAC Teaser

TAC Teaser


Come for a peak behind the federal acquisition curtain as we gain insights from acquisition professionals at the US Department of Veterans Affairs and dissect varying relevant topics.  In this five episode series we will explore topics such as proposal evaluations, innovation, debriefs, and more!
In this TAC Podcast series, TAC Talks, we give you a peak behind the federal acquisition curtain and discuss highly relevant acquisition topics with top acquisition professionals and the Office of General Council. Throughout the episodes we will dissect the ins and outs of various acquisition strategies, debriefings, market research, and more!But our first episode is a very special one. We kick this series off in no better fashion than a casual conversation with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Technology Acquisition Center (TAC) Associate Executive Director (AED), Ms. Michele Foster. Ms. Foster has been the AED of the VA TAC since December 2013. In this role she is also the Head of Contracting Activity (HCA) and responsible for providing business and contracting solutions for a variety of major information technology programs for the department. She leads a multi-disciplined organization of acquisition professionals and support staff in Austin, TX and Eatontown, NJ. Ms. Foster began her career as an Army Materiel Command Intern Contract Specialist stationed at the U.S. Army’s CECOM located at Fort Monmouth, after which she held many roles supporting the Army’s contracting efforts.Join us for our discussion as we reminisce how the TAC went from a small government startup of 10 people to over 150 employees in just over a decade. She’ll share the difficulty and excitement of recruiting and hiring staff for the organization, establishing all new processes, generating sufficient revenue, and building a mature organization that will be effective for years to come. Ms. Foster will discuss some of her favorite moments along the way, as well as some insights for the vendor community and our junior acquisition professionals looking to grow in their career. She will also comment on her vision for the organization for the next five to ten years.
All About T4NG

All About T4NG


If there is one thing that the Technology Acquisition Center (TAC) is known for, it is its Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation (T4NG) contract.  T4NG is a 10 year Indifinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract consisting of 28 vendors and a ceiling of over $22B, and we are currently in year five of the vehicle, looking to exercise the next five year option, and onramp a group of Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned small businesses (SDVOSB).  VA obligates well over $1B a year on a wide range of information technology services.  The vehicle has proven highly effective for VA, supported by its 28 vendors, consisting of 12 large businesses and 16 SDVOSBs.   In this episode we discuss some of the details behind the vehicle that many will find intriguing.  Listen to what makes T4NG unique from other IDIQs across the federal government, as well as how we determine when to use or not use the vehicle.  Our panel also discusses how vendors can potentially get a slice of the T4NG pie, or break into VA in other areas, and how we employ some innovative acquisition techniques on the vehicle.  Our contracting officers even address the advantage of incumbency and whether the advantage is significant across the vehicle. To address these topics and more, we have a fantastic panel of T4NG Directors and Contracting Officers who collectively have decades of experience on the vehicle and its predecessor.  This panel includes: Anne Marie Vasconcelos, T4NG Procurement Service Director Matt Ginty, T4NG Procurement Service Director Dana Newcomb, T4NG Contracting Officer Iris Farrell, T4NG Contracting Officer 
The Debrief

The Debrief


In Episode 3 of the TAC Podcast we have an exciting topic that’ll  surely invoke some strong emotions no matter what side of the table you sit on.  And the topic for this episode is “The Debrief”.  If you have been involved at all in government contracting you are more than likely familiar with debriefings, but the question is, are we getting as much out of them as possible?  Debriefings are an important part of the acquisition process to show transparency and an opportunity for both sides to receive feedback.  Debriefs are so important, and an area the federal government can improve, that OMB released a myth busting memo in 2017 devoted to discussing aspects of the debrief.  As stated in the memo, debriefings afford offerers on a competitive solicitation an explanation of the evaluation process, an assessment of their proposal in relation to the evaluation criteria, a general understanding of the basis of the award decision and the rationale for exclusion from competition.  While this explanation of the debriefing seems relatively straight forward, there are many nuances to what information must be provided.  This information may vary significantly depending on the acquisition strategy followed, as there are differences based upon how you evaluated proposals and even what Federal Acquisition Regulations section you’re following. This episode gives a peak into what goes through a contracting officer’s mind in preparation and during a debrief.  We even get perspective from one of our esteemed attorneys.  This episode will surely give you some great insight as we discuss the difficulty of providing more information than required, where that has helped, and where that might have hurt. This episode's panel includes:  Charles Ross, Director, Procurement Service B Debra Clayton, Contracting Officer, Technology Acquisition Center Mellany Alio, Attorney, VA Procurement Law 
All throughout the conference circuit we continue to hear about innovation in contracting.  The appetite is large for new and improved methods of procurement.  Now, perhaps more than ever, contracting professionals are searching for ways to cut bureaucracy, streamline procedures, and evaluate proposals in more meaningful ways.  Much progress has been made and celebrated over the last few years.  The acquisition community painstakingly began using various types of proposal demonstrations in its evaluations, and now these types of evaluations appear almost common.  Procuring agile software development services was once difficult and confusing, but now is the norm. So where do we go from here? Join our panel on Episode 4 as we discuss using the multi-step advisory evaluation process combined with various types of proposal demonstrations.  This practice has been used over the last year and is beginning to gain momentum throughout the contracting world.  We’ll dissect the ins and outs of the multi-step advisory process with various types of demonstrations, and try to dive a little deeper on this one technique, rather than cover many at a high level.  Well walk through each stage of the process and highlight best practices and pitfalls.  We’ll share some data on just how effective this technique can be, while also cautioning against its use in certain situations.  We’ll even provide some things to consider for vendors participating in these evaluations. Our expert panel of contracting officers includes: Kevin Monahan, Contracting Officer, VA TAC Joshua Cohen, Contracting Officer, VA TAC Juan Quinones, Contracting Officer, VA TAC



In the final episode of this podcast series we tackle one of the most important discussions in federal contracting – proposal evaluations.  Evaluating proposals is a critical task for the Government as selecting the correct vendor can set the path of a project for years to come.  The right contractor can be the difference between successfully serving our Veterans and the American people, or failing to support them in the way they need.  Similarly, as a vendor, being selected can mean success or failure as a company. The stakes are high for both sides. In Episode 4 we discussed the Multi-Step evaluation process and technical demonstrations, so in Episode 5 we will focus on more traditional evaluation techniques and speak broader than just the technical volume.  The more traditional evaluation approach is still being used for the majority of procurements, so it is important we continue to learn how to improve.  We’ll discuss how the government decides what to evaluate, how to weight the factors in a trade-off, and how we go about evaluating.  We also discuss considerations from a vendor perspective such as strategies when writing a proposal, how to handle proposing unique terms, conditions, assumptions, and license agreements, whether late is always late, and other potential pitfalls that could impact your chance to get the award! Our expert panel of contracting officers includes: Charles Ross, Director, Procurement Service B, VA TAC Cara Varricchio, Contracting Officer, VA TAC Jamie Ford, Deputy Chief Council, VA Office of General Council, Procurement Law Group
The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Parts 13 and 15 require Contracting Officers to purchase goods and services from responsible sources at a fair and reasonable price.  Meaning, a price that a prudent businessperson would pay for an item or service under competitive market conditions and reasonable knowledge of the marketplace.  This is done for every contract action through a number of proposal analysis techniques and procedures defined by regulation which are documented through written evidence to support that the price is fair and reasonable.  This is particularly important, and required, in Government Contracting because we are stewards of taxpayer dollars.  In this episode we break down the techniques and tools we use to determine fair and reasonable pricing. The discussion also presents  the challenges acquisition professionals might face when completing a price analysis as well as the challenges confronted when there is an absence of competition. Our panel also discusses the differences between price reasonableness and price realism.   To address these topics and more, we have a fantastic panel of Office of General Counsel Attorneys and Contracting Officers who collectively have decades of experience.  This panel includes: Tara Nash, VA Office of General Counsel, AttorneyDesiree DiCorcia, VA Office of General Counsel, AttorneyDen-el Opuszynski, VA TAC, Contracting OfficerMatthew Newell, VA TAC, Contracting Officer 
The VA TAC’s acquisitions relate to the many technologies employed by the VA, including:  hardware, software, servers, data centers, software applications and cloud hosting.  Software applications cover topics such as conference reservation systems, mobile apps for clinicians and Veterans, and enterprise wide financial and electronic health record systems.  The TAC is a unique, diversified, multi-disciplined organization of acquisition professionals, dedicated to providing streamlined business and contracting solutions for major Information and Technology (IT) requirements.  As such, the TAC has a cadre of IT engineers, with program management subject matter expertise to bolster our highly specialized team of IT experienced contracting officers and contract specialists to ensure our mission is successfully attained. Specifically the engineering arm of the TAC provides customers with assistance in requirements refinement, analysis of market research, technical consulation, and assistance in proposal evaluation. Many of our valued customers find great benefit with leveraging the expertise of TAC engineers to ensure optimal products are acquired and delivered the first time thereby providing the best technologies for the care of our Veterans. In this episode, Jon Smolenski, the TAC’s Engineering Service Director helps us break down the Division’s involvement with the acquisition process, tips for developing requirements documents and much more valuable, technical insight.   This episode’s panel includes: Jon Smolenski, VA TAC Director, Engineering Service 
Category Management

Category Management


Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum M-19-13 entitled, “Category Management:  Making Smarter Use of Common Contract Solutions and Practices” defines category management as the “business practice of buying common goods and services as an enterprise to eliminate redundancies, increase efficiency, and deliver more value and savings from the Government’s acquisition programs.” In this episode, we speak with Dr. Ernest Reed, Director of VA’s Category Management Support Office within the Office of Procurement, Acquisition and Logistics, Mr. Randy Padal, Acting Executive Director of Acquisition and Category Management within the Office of Information and Technology’s Office of Strategic Sourcing and Ms. Lateefah Parker, Director of IT Services Category Management within the Office of Information and Technology’s Office of Strategic Sourcing.  Our panel discusses the steps VA has taken to implement category management, as well as the achievements and challenges faced along the way. This episode’s panel includes: Dr. Ernest Reed, Director, Category Management Support Office, Office of Procurement, Acquisition and Logistics Randy Padal, Acting Executive Director, Acquisition and Category Management, Office of Information and Technology, Office of Strategic Sourcing Lateefah Parker, Director, IT Services Category Management, Office of Information and Technology, Office of Strategic Sourcing 
In 2014, the Federal Government acknowledged that simplifying the Federal contracting space was critical to driving greater innovation, creativity, and improved performance.  Efforts were launched with the goal of improving the economy and efficiency of the Federal acquisition system by increasing opportunities for businesses to participate in the Federal marketplace whereby realizing costs savings and providing the best solution for the taxpayer.   Transformation and modernization didn’t happen overnight.  Achieving a more innovative, efficient and effective acquisition system that supports the needs of a 21st century Government takes initiative, adaptability, buy-in and the proper tools to implement an actionable plan.  To that end, the Government implemented a number of policies and guidance to agencies that identified the actions necessary to address industry concerns and strengthen and improve Federal acquisition practices.  In our last episode, we focused on one approach to improve efficiency and achieve greater cost savings by managing spend through category management.  In this episode, we continue to drill down into the Federal Government’s initiative to transform Federal acquisition by driving innovation through various tools, training, and more flexible and innovative acquisition practices.   This episode’s panel includes: Robert Kirzow, Director, Procurement Service A, VA TAC Matthew Ginty, Director, Procurement Service D, VA TAC Joshua Cohen, Contracting Officer, VA TAC 
The application of program management best practices within the acquisition framework increases transparency, empowers business owners and stakeholders to drive key decisions, and enhances VA’s efforts to efficiently and effectively acquire goods and services within the established cost, schedule and scope of the procurement.  Not only does this support VA in effectively meetings its mission, it enhances the Veteran experience through successful execution and delivery of products and services that support delivery of care and benefits.     In this episode, we are joined by Mr. Michael Parrish, who was appointed Principal Executive Director for the VA’s, Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction (OALC) on March 1, 2021. Mr. Parrish also serves as Chief Acquisition Officer, and senior most advisor to the Secretary, managing and overseeing all acquisition activities for the Department. Mr. Parrish has over 35 years of senior leadership experience in military, government, corporate, and non-profit organizations. A retired Colonel, Mr. Parrish served for 14 years on active duty and 21 years in the U.S. Army Reserves as a Senior Army Aviator and Army Acquisition Corps Officer, serving as an Air Operations Officer during Desert Storm.  Joining Mr. Parrish on this episode’s panel is his Deputy, Mr. Phillip Christy, the Deputy Executive Director for the VA’s, Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction. Mr. Christy serves as an advisor to Mr. Parrish on acquisition, logistics, and construction issues. He has served in multiple senior acquisition, construction, and logistics positions during his 20-year career. He is responsible for the day to day operational management of OALC’s Office of Procurement, Acquisition and Logistics which is made up of the Technology Acquisition Center, the National Acquisition Center and the Strategic Acquisition Center. In addition, Mr. Christy is a retired U.S. Army Medical Service Corps Officer.
Host Chuck Ross is joined by a fantastic panel of VA Office of Information and Technology and TAC Contracting personnel who collectively have decades of experience. This panel includes: Mr. Michael Ouslander, Product Line Manager for the Office of Information Technology, Development Security and Operations, Benefits and Memorial Services portfolio Ms. Cara Varricchio, VA Technology Acquisition Center, Contracting Officer
In our second episode of this season of the VA Technology Acquisition Center’s (TAC) podcast, TAC Talks, host Chuck Ross is joined by Ms. Sharon Ridley to discuss OSDBU’s role in promoting small business efforts within VA.
Our guest speakers will further describe how viewpoints of Veterans are kept front and center throughout the lifecycle of a product by recruiting Veterans for user experience studies to help the VA make its digital tools more user-friendly.
In this episode of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Technology Acquisition Center’s (TAC) podcast, TAC Talks, we discuss the Enterprise Cloud Fax Service (ECFax), a highly secure Cloud-based electronic faxing service. It is designed to increase efficiency and decrease time from a slow and costly manual/semi-automated faxing process to a more universal electronic faxing service. To address these topics and more, host Chuck Ross is joined by a fantastic panel of VA Office of Information and Technology and TAC Contracting personnel who collectively have decades of experience. This panel includes: Mr. Frank Joy Jr., Sr. Enterprise Infrastructure Architect for the Office of Information and Technology Mr. Robert Kately, VA Technology Acquisition Center, Contracting Officer
In this episode of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Technology Acquisition Center’s (TAC) podcast, TAC Talks, we discuss Strategic Sourcing with Ms. Luwanda F. Jones. Ms. Jones is a retired U.S. Army Colonel who served for 28 years in various senior acquisition and information technology positions. Ms. Jones has been serving as the Deputy Chief Information Officer (DCIO) for the Office of Strategic Sourcing in the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) since August 2018.
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