subscribe for Updates


In this session at Prodacity, Kristina Botelho, a seasoned expert in procurement and acquisition, shares her wealth of knowledge to wrap up a series of discussions on the procurement journey. This presentation dives deep into the complexities of acquisition policy, exploring the practical ways to navigate through challenges and leverage existing policies to achieve procurement success. Kristina demystifies the notion of innovative contracting, emphasizing the importance of capability, culture, and risk management. This video serves as a comprehensive guide for government employees seeking to enhance their procurement strategies and achieve faster, more efficient outcomes.


Kristine Botelho (0:19)

So welcome to what we call the capstone of your procurement journey, this three days. We've heard a lot of really great presentations. Lori-Ann [Rissler] in the software factory, we had Bonnie [Evangelista] and her Tradewinds, Hacking Acquisition, Matt Nelson and Competition Theater. So I'm here just to wrap it all up in a tiny bow. I was told my audience is govies more than industry. So the slides are very information heavy. I am not actually briefing the slides. It's a guide to the discussion, but there's way too much information. We don't have enough time. I know govies like to have those PowerPoints to take back as a reference point. So that's what that's for. 


So moving on, here's the agenda, different topics that we're gonna be talking about today. But most importantly, I want this more to be a conversation. I want to understand, like, what are the impediments in acquisition policy that have stopped you from moving fast, when contracting has said no? Is there anyone that is brave enough to give an example of when contracting said no? No, okay, well just think about it and hopefully throughout this you'll find different ways that you can approach the problem and find a way to yes, because there's always a path to yes. So you keep hearing all this innovative contracting, doing all these cool things. And I'm here to tell you there's really no such thing as innovative contracting. We're not doing anything different. We're not doing anything special. 


What it really comes down to is having the capability, the knowledge base, having the culture, and not being so risk adverse. You have those three things, the FAR and the policies do everything else for you. You'll know how to use those tools better to support your Warfighter and to get to award at a much faster rate. So this is an eye chart, just goes through, like, the different FAR type of contracts. FAR part 8 and FAR part 12 and 13. They have this really great thing where they like to promote the efficiency of a competition. So they allow you to reduce it to a minimum of three, so you don't have to open it up to everyone in the world. FAR part 16, IDIQs, they're not protestable under the DOD up to 25 million. So there's a lot of really great tools here that allow you to go fast. And under all of these, you can evaluate however you want. Whatever suits your needs, whatever meets your acquisition strategy. So long as you just do what you say you're going to do, you'll be fine. 


So you don't have to get that traditional 30 page technical proposal and then do a 30 page technical evaluation and go through all these rigid steps that just take a long time to get to award and don't actually end up getting you what you need. So a new tool, fairly new, a couple years old, Commercial Solutions Opening. If you were at Bonnie's Tradewinds talk, that's what they use. It's a great tool because it kind of follows under the broad agency announcements that are used for research and development, the unknown unknowns. But this covers everything innovation. And you can have it open at all times. So like with Tradewinds, they have an open CSO, and what the vendors do is they just submit videos. And at the end of each month they take all those videos that were submitted from the previous month and they evaluate them and make decisions on whether they can go into the marketplace or not. And this is a continuous process that just happens over and over again throughout the year. And they don't have to keep doing paperwork for a new solicitation or new award determinations and all these other things. So it's a streamlined, efficient process that makes everything easier for all of us. And if you haven't used Tradewinds, I highly recommend it. I've already made some awards using the Tradewinds. I got it done in two weeks, complete award. So it's a very easy tool to use. Another great thing about Commercial Solution Opening is they're treated as commercial items, even if they're not commercial. That's helpful when you're streamlining your terms and conditions and other things. And it allows you to issue purchase orders versus big long contracts with all those ridiculous clauses. And it also allows you to award other transactions agreements. You don't have to stick with FAR based contracts. So it's a very flexible tool, they've made it permanent. It was a pilot program, it's now permanent. It just provides a ton of flexibility to allow us to get after the real problems at a faster rate than normal. 


Other transactions, these are the three types. Research, prototype, production. You don't see a lot of research. Prototype and production are the ones that people are most familiar with. And what's important about other transactions is this is where you're really getting after those non-traditionals. Now our definition of non-traditional is pretty broad, but when I think of non-traditionals, I think about those that normally would not do business with the government under any circumstance. Because we have ridiculous clauses like encourage banning texting or excessive food donations. Or make sure all your service contractors know that they can't interrogate detainees. Like, ridiculousness. So that's why I like these. These let you get to the bones of the agreement, like working in a real commercial environment. What do you really care about? I care about security, I care about IP, things of that nature, and it cuts out all the other crap. So I really love other transactions. It does require a special warrant. Good news, they kind of give them out to everyone, it's fine. 


So, and then price reasonableness. I was at a recent conference over the summer and I was, Stephanie Wilson from Army, she had some really great ideas on price reasonableness in this OTA mastermind course she gave. You can use things that it's not fair and reasonable. It's not FAR part 15 fair and reasonableness, looking at all the cost elements. She's used things such as ROI, or hey, it's within my budget, that's a reasonable price. Don't make it harder than it needs to be. We are stewards of the taxpayer dollar. But at the same time, I mean, if you can sleep at night and you don't mind, then that's reasonable, just use your common sense. 


These are just some AFWERX pathways. They do different things like challenges and colliders and pitch days. They're all really great ways to get after things in person and fast. So pitch days and challenges, these could be, like, day events. Where everyone's in a room collaborating and then at the end of the day some people walk away with contracts or agreements. And then the SBIR/STTR. I do love the SBIR/STTR program. I do not always love the way it's run. We've been talking about some trouble that's been going on with the TACFI submissions today. But it is great to get after those technologies that we don't know we need. That's why I love the open topic, 'cause we have our strategic capabilities, but we don't know what we don't know. And the commercial industry has proven time and time again that they know way better than we do. And they can come up with solutions to our problems that are way above anything we ever thought. So that's why I like the SBIR/STTR program and working with small business is so much easier than working with the Lockheeds of the world. So that's another reason. So that's just a quick overview of the different types. 


A new thing you see a lot with AFWERX Air Force are the selectable unfundeds. This is a great avenue for govies, if you are working with a customer and you signed an MOU, they go through the process but they're selected but they're not funded. This is a great opportunity for those customers that actually have funding available. You can then take that and make award and all the work is done for you. So it's already been competed, it's already been evaluated, all that documentation's done for you. I can get a selectable unfunded awarded in three to four hours, from start to finish. So those are really great opportunities if you're trying to move fast and get things done. TACFI/STRATFI, this is the Air Force making their small and big but, big bets on ya. They require matching funds, but it's, oh TACFI, it's been the bane of my existence all week because proposals are due today. So it's a sequential to your Phase II and it's an attempt at bridging the Valley of Death. The great thing about it is they provide matching funds. So as a government customer, if you're able to put up, like, $3 million to prototype this effort. Well they can submit for a TACFI or STRATFI, and then the SBIR will match that 300. So now your investment just doubled, for no other reason than this program exists. So it's a great way to get after things. You can accelerate your prototyping, you can get through production faster. And it'll help you while you're working the budget process, 'cause that takes forever. So definitely take advantage of TACFI/STRATFI. They have a very high acceptance rate, unfortunately is what I hear. About 70 to 80% of the TACFI proposals, I hear, are accepted. So it's a great opportunity to just double your money. So it's a no brainer, except that now as a govie you have to submit the proposal, sorry. So the contractor can do everything and then the government person goes in and hits the submit button. We found a workaround.

[Audience] Yeah.

But that's not the way it's supposed to be done. 


So then, and then there's also focus topics. So those government, you guys, you have actual problems you're trying to get after. AFWERX, Air Force specific. They provide opportunities for you to provide those specific topics or focus topics to the solicitation, so that you can get after your own problems without having to, 1, use your own money, and 2, run your own competitions. 'Cause that takes a lot of resources that we just don't have these days. So this is a great program to take advantage of if your program office has specific topics they're trying to get after. 


And then we have Phase IIIs. These are my bread and butter. There's a lot of them out there. It's a great tool to move into production. Competition is great, don't get me wrong. It's a beautiful thing. But Phase III allows you to go direct to that small business that has been developing this prototype. The process to award can be as fast as you want it to be. I've gotten 'em done in just a couple weeks time. It really depends on the complexity and how committed you are to getting it done. The beauty of Phase IIIs, there's no limitations. You can award as many Phase IIIs as you want. They can be as long as you want, and for any dollar amount, none of that matters. They do retain their data rights for 20 years. So, I mean technology changes so much in 20 years, we're not gonna care about that. But it's a great way to do it. And so long as that Phase III work derives, extend, or completes work under Phase I or II, then you can move on to a Phase III. And that word derives, you can drive a truck through that, like, so long as the technology derived from that Phase I or Phase II is being used, you can do it. And another important aspect, I always hear people say, "Oh yeah, if the Phase I or Phase II is successful." It doesn't have to be successful. You could have a Phase I awarded today and tomorrow I can award you a Phase III. We don't know if that Phase I's gonna be successful. Or better yet, you could have a Phase I or Phase II that failed miserably, but then someone believes in you and they want you to keep trying. They can award you a Phase III and you can continue on. So that's one of those little fallacies. It's not like prototype OTs, you don't have to be successful. 


And this is where it really gets fun for most. decentralized IDIQs, leveraging other people's hard work. So I've done the hard work and I have a lot of decentralized IDIQs that I'm administering right now for SBIR Phase IIIs. They're really great tools to use if you can take advantage of 'em. There's a directory that'll tell you where they all are, but they're great because if someone did all the work up front and they did it really well, it's gonna be super easy for you to place orders. I have one DevSecOps IDIQ, and pretty much everything you can think about is prepriced on the contract. We got small, medium, large teams, we got enablement, we got production, we got training, everything's preprice. So you, basically, don't even need to request a proposal. You can have a project description, identify that B-table pricing, submit it, and you can make an award, 'cause everything's done for you. It can literally be done the same day. So take advantage of those decentralized IDIQs that are out there, I have four of them right now, all focused on autonomy and things of that nature I can share with anyone. 


And then, last but not least, for the industry partners, if you do have SBIRs, I highly recommend you go and you enter them into Ignite. If you're a govie, I highly recommend you set up an account with Vision. Vision is a program management tool and collaboration. Airmen across the Air Force, across all the Services really at this point, have been using it to input their projects. And then what Ignite is doing, it's doing all those words up there, but it's helping match the government's problems with the solutions. So we're always doing market research, we're always trying to find people that can solve our problems. This will say, "Hey govie, you have this problem? I think maybe these vendors might be able to help you solve your solution." So it's only as good as the information that's in it. So I try to promote it as much as possible. Government needs to identify their problems, put it in the system. SIBR Awardees need to identify themselves, put themselves in the system. Everyone benefits from it, it helps the Warfighter. We can just move faster, get things done. It'll be a great. So, if I was king or queen for a day, there are a few things I would change.