🔥 AFICA "Firestarter" Program -- Call for Ideas! Suspense: 14 June

AFICA just announced the standup of the Firestarter program! AFICA is executing the program under SAF/AQC Line of Effort 3.3, “Experimentation – Exploit Lessons Learned from Closed Loop Innovation Efforts.” Specifically, the intent is to foster innovation within the Operational Acquisition enterprise among policies, processes, procedures, and tools. Essentially it establishes a process to gather innovative ideas, test them, and then implement/share across the enterprise.

In addition to introducing the program, AFICA is kicking it off by seeking idea nominations for the pilot run. Here’s the opportunity: what are those great, outside-the-box ideas that we have not tested? The conditions are ideal to get top leadership support and this program is the mechanism for making it happen. This is really an excellent opportunity to highlight your mission focused business leaders and share your great ideas!

I bet we can come up with a few great ideas among the members of the forum. Here is the submission info required:

Problem:
Impacts:
Desired Goal(s):

Innovation: Description of the tech, innovative approach, concept, etc. Innovations can be products, processes, policies, or solutions.

POC:
Status:
Method of Acquisition:
Cost: Amount & Type of $
Participants:

You don’t have to be from AFICA to join the discussion, but the ideas do need to be relevant to operational contracting. Use the format above and let’s put together some outside-the-box ideas for experimentation!

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I’ll prime the pump…


Air Force Contracting Forum

Problem: Air Force Contracting professionals do not have a good platform to discuss ideas and share information across the community. Existing tools include organization SharePoint sites (AF Contracting Central & AFICA Academy), the unofficial Air Force Contracting Facebook group, and WIFCON .
Impacts: We believe the forum will provide a way for contracting professionals to share ideas and collaborate across organizational stovepipes. It will provide better search functionality and categorization of posts than existing solutions. It is accessible from home.
Desired Goal(s): Over 100 users and 1000 page views/day.

Innovation: Create an Air Force Contracting Forum using Discourse.

POCs: Axel Clark, Nixie Mistri, Andrea Jordan
Status: Deployed & Funded for 1 Year
Method of Acquisition: GPC
Cost: $1200/yr
Participants: Air Force Contracting Community & More

Also see:

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This one is a little more radical…


AFICA Reviewers as Contracting Ninja Consultants

Problem: Clearance reviews occur late in the process and often take weeks to complete. They also remove a sense of ownership from the Contracting Specialist & Contracting Officer because they change things “just to get through clearance”. Clearance reviewers struggle to add value because the they often aren’t involved until the team is months down a certain path.

Impacts of Problem:

  • Reduced ownership of documents
  • Longer timelines
  • Reviewers aren’t incentivized to go out and help the field early in their process.

Desired Goal(s): Improve the effectiveness of reviews and add an entrepreneurial spirit to reviews.

Innovation: As an experiment, make clearance reviews optional in one of the MAJCOMs. Treat the reviewers as Deloitte or McKinsey consultants available to provide free expert consulting services to contracting teams. Evaluate the reviewers on their ability to get work (i.e. reviews) from the field. Encourage them to engage with the field to identify specific areas where teams need help and become experts on those topics. This would also free up reviewers to fully engage throughout the process on the most complex, challenging acquisitions.

It would provide Contracting Offices the flexibility to send up reviews based on risk & novelty of the acquisition vs dollar value.

The reason I had this ideas is our reviewers at AFICA KM are moving in this direction and I’d like to turn them or another AFICA staff loose to take their support to the next level. I’ve also had other amazing experience with HQ Staff assisting my team and I with acquisitions that don’t require their review, but their expertise was critical to the success of the acquisition.

A 2nd step could be to open up reviewers across AFICA to any CONS, so CONS could go to the reviewers who can best support their specific acquisition.

POCs: Axel Clark
Status: Proposal
Method of Acquisition: N/A
Cost: N/A
Participants: One MAJCOM


Came from this discussion…BTW, great post if you haven’t read it yet.

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MAJCOM/Regional Virtual Pitch Days using CSOs

Problem: The Air Force struggles to purchase innovative commercial solutions from non-traditional defense contractors (e.g. startups). Requirement owners and users know they have a problem or pain point, but can’t clearly define a requirement (they don’t know what they want). Units close to large cities may be able to leverage CSOs for in person Pitch Days using CSOs (see https://www.jbmdlpitchday.info/ and topic in this forum). However, units hours from cities and/or innovation hubs may struggle to host an in person Pitch Day.

Impacts of Problem: . US Air Force unable to keep pace with strategic competitors and misses out on new innovative technology.

Desired Goal(s): Enable CONS across the Air Force to participate in Pitch Days to purchase innovative solutions for their Wings.

Innovation: A CSO organized by MAJCOM, mission type, or region where Wings or other units can post problem statements. Technical experts from across these Wings evaluate the proposals and invite companies to Pitch over video chat broadcast to any unit interested in the solution. Any unit in the Air Force whose problem is solved by the company’s solution may purchase the item.

I suggest decentralized execution with each MAJCOM or region leveraging lessons learned, but experimenting with different approaches. If we try to do all of these exactly the same we will stifle future learning and innovation.

POCs: Axel Clark & Brian Sheehan
Status: Proposal
Method of Acquisition: N/A
Cost: N/A
Participants: TBD

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I asked our OL if they used a checklist during reviews and they don’t. I find that problematic. AFICA has a clesrance review checklist so why isn’t it being used. Additionally, shouldn’t everyone have access to it if it results in better contracts.

Nonetheless, the most prevalent reasons for sustaining protests during are often: (1) unreasonable technical evaluation;[1] (2) unreasonable cost or price evaluation;[2] (3) flawed selection decision.[3]

If we use reviews as a risk management tool perhaps, reviewers can use quicker targeted reviews. (Thinking back to the heat map discussion)

Targeted reviews will help in several of the areas you listed.

AFICA KM uses the checklist and sent it out to the AMC CONS during a series of webinars they hosted to discuss lesson learned.

I want to turn it into a market for reviews so reviewers can experiment with different approaches to add value. Some might have great attention to detail when running the checklist. Others might be better at brainstorming outside box ideas.

I also think you mentioned in another thread maybe protests shouldn’t be the focus because the impact might be extra time for corrective action vs a bad contract where the warfighter requirements aren’t delivered or the Govt is overcharged.

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I definitely like your idea, of a market for reviews, better. It could easily turn into a path of least resistance. For example, in high school most of my classmates knew to take the driving licence test in a neighboring city because their driving portion was much easier than our city’s. Likewise, reviewers may attract work for myriad reasons including being seen as lax. (not a reason not to do it…just a ‘watch out’)

Under my proposal clearance reviews are optional so the path of least resistance is no review at all.

I’ll admit there is a risk and it brings this blog post to mind:

  • Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence.
  • Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.
  • Amateurs think disagreements are threats. Professionals see them as an opportunity to learn.
  • Amateurs make decisions in committees so there is no one person responsible if things go wrong. Professionals make decisions as individuals and accept responsibility.

There may be more mistakes at first, but I think there could be better outcomes with more trust along with settings expectations and treating people like professionals.

Also, if they could be non-binding and concurrent with other reviews, why not send it up to the toughest reviewer?

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