Federal contractors play a vital role in ensuring the U.S. government has access to the innovative technology solutions necessary for mission performance. So do those who serve as federal contracting officers within agencies.
The acquisition of today’s modern products and services—especially complex information technology solutions—requires highly sophisticated and well-trained teams with superior analytical and negotiation skills, and market intelligence regarding the innovative technologies and solutions they procure. These teams reflect multi-disciplinary stakeholders, including government buyers, business and mission users, technical and security professionals, Chief Information Officer (CIO) representatives, and knowledgeable and engaged acquisition officials.
The acquisition of cutting-edge and emerging technology solutions—especially commercial solutions—demand that these teams come up with new ways to streamline purchasing practices and requirements, including the effective collection and analysis of governmentwide data like contractor past performance.
One of the longstanding challenges of that many federal contracting officers face relates to the government's appropriate use and consideration of contractor past performance data. The government is generally required to consider an offeror’s past performance before making a contract award (See FAR 15.304(c)(3)(i)). Past performance records are inputted into the governmentwide database, Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS), typically via manual processes with inconsistent quality standards. This can make the data difficult to access, analyze, and use in a timely and meaningful way as part of any given procurement.
Enter the Artificial Intelligence for Past Performance Project (CPARS AI), led by the Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The PIL demonstrated innovative thinking with a project that has the potential to leverage emerging technology like machine learning and AI to solve the past performance problem not only for DHS, but governmentwide. The DHS-PIL CPARS AI project’s creative application of new technology allows the acquisition workforce to improve the role of past performance evaluation in source selection decisions. When developing the solicitation, DHS prioritized early engagement with multiple federal contractors and leveraged end user feedback to promote a human-centric design. Ultimately, the project will provide a much-needed level of transparency for government past performance records and will allow acquisition workforce members to ensure they are using relevant and recent past performance evaluations in source selections to make better decisions.
Moreover, the CPARS AI project is a shining example of the benefits of leveraging innovative buying authorities like DHS’ commercial solutions opening pilot program (CSOP), which encourages the adoption of commercial technologies rather than costly, government-specific solutions. The project also reflects an agile acquisition strategy and effective engagement with stakeholders across industry, academia, and nine other federal agencies. Collectively, these practices helped DHS develop a streamlined acquisition approach that minimized cost, schedule, and performance risks.
We are thrilled to formally announce that the DHS-PIL CPARS AI team is the recipient of ITI’s inaugural award for an Outstanding Government IT Acquisition Program, and we look forward to closely following the success of this project in the future.
ITI received multiple nominations for the award—all of which used innovative acquisition strategies and stakeholder collaboration to achieve important IT modernization goals within their respective agencies. ITI is pleased to provide an honorable mention to the following nominees:
General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Systems Integration and Management Office (FEDSIM) and the United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM): Awarded the Cyber Information Technology Enterprise Services (SCITES) task order to facilitate USSOUTHCOM’s transition from multiple legacy networks to a unified construct, which leveraged innovative technologies to reduce USSOUTHCOM’s IT footprint and reduce unnecessary IT costs.
General Services Administration (GSA) Federal Systems Integration and Management Office (FEDSIM): Rapidly shifted strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic to complete a large-scale competitive IT acquisition entirely through virtual methods. Leveraged new virtual market research and source selection tactics to facilitate industry engagement, stakeholder collaboration, and a timely contract award.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Procurement Innovation Lab (PIL) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA): By leveraging a comparative, phased acquisition approach that minimized proposal submission requirements and costs for offerors, consolidated multiple standalone task orders for Information System Security Officer (ISSO) support into a $30 million enterprise contract awarded just 49 days after the solicitation was released
The DHS-PIL CPARS AI project was selected for this award based on careful review by our independent advisor panel, consisting of recognized and highly experienced acquisition subject matter experts across the public, private, and academic sectors. All award nominees were evaluated based on how well they met the award criteria which included prioritizing interdisciplinary and/or interagency coordination while contributing to modernizing U.S. government ICT in line with commercial best practices for technology, cybersecurity, and competition.
To all of our outstanding nominees, thank you for all that you do to help keep the United States secure, competitive, and prosperous.