Recently, we've noticed an outstanding white paper from the American Council for Technology Industry Advisory Council on "Improving the Management of Federal Government IT Assets Through Better Communication With the IT Industry." In 16 pages, this document describes the problems and presents proposed action items all designed to improve government communications with industry. And, everything applies across the board to all procurements for all agencies. We applaud this excellent work and look forward to following the implementation of its recommendations.
The ACT/IAC paper refers prominently to a little known Memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense to all senior officials in any way engaged in acquisition. ACT/IAC lauds this Memorandum, as do we, and points out that "we have also never heard any government employee cite an agency that encourages communication with the private sector." Appalling! It's time we all read this Memorandum and made sure everyone in DOD is aware of it. Moreover, the policy should be extended to all agencies. Indeed, it is squarely in line with Dan Gordon's Myth-Busters Memorandum to all senior government acquisition officials about which we've written before.
"The Department's policy is for representatives at all levels of the Department to have frequent, fair, even and transparent dialogue with the commercial base on matters of mutual interest, as appropriate, in a manner which protects sensitive information, operation, sources, methods and technologies. For the Department, this includes representatives of end users and requirements generators as well as those within acquisition organizations. Traditional and non-traditional suppliers are to be included in such dialogue. Matters of mutual interest include, but are not limited to: DOD and industry business practices and policies; removal of barriers to competition; technology trends and development objectives; security challenges; and the performance of organizations, contracts, projects and programs." (Emphasis added.)
The memorandum attaches a summary of laws applicable to such communications. Without citing the laws, here is what they say: government officials may not participate in a matter that presents an actual or apparent conflict of interest; government officials may not disclose proprietary or source selection information; government officials may not give unauthorized preferential treatment to one firm but must treat all firms equally; government officials may not disclose trade secrets or other proprietary information without permission of the owner of the information; government officials must protect procurement-sensitive information; and, if applicable government officials must comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The DOD Memorandum says "officials within the Department are encouraged to communicate with industry . . . ." Dan Gordon, on behalf of the President of the United States, says this applies across the board to all agencies on all acquistions. Is anyone listening?