Delivering projects on time and within budget demands that every player on the team, whether industry or government, completely understands the purpose, technical requirements, delivery capabilities, and resources available. Most would agree that the quality of the final product reflects the level of understanding achieved at every step of the acquisition process.
In 2015, as part of the 2020 SAME Strategic Plan, the Board of Direction adopted a simple yet powerful way of enhancing the Society’s role in leading collaboration between industry and government to assist with improving project delivery. The result was the SAME Industry-Government Engagement Plan.
The SAME Industry-Government Engagement Plan consists of a national component (CEO Roundtable) and a local component (Issues Workshop). The approach is already providing members and partners with value, complementing SAME’s well-developed offering of market research engagements such as the upcoming Federal Small Business Conference for the A/E/C Industry in Pittsburgh, Nov. 15-17.
National Impact. Held annually, SAME’s CEO Roundtable focuses on a major strategic topic of interest to industry and government executive leaders. The first Roundtable was held last fall in Washington, D.C., and addressed public-private partnerships. This year’s will focus on project delivery and be conducted during the Small Business Conference. The Service Engineering Chiefs and their counterparts from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other federal agencies personally participate. Industry involvement is open to executives who are chosen through an application process that is based on their proposed contribution to the topic. CEO Roundtable results are then codified in an SAME Perspectives report that is widely distributed.
Local Engagement. Issues Workshops leverage trusting relationships within a Post—especially local Sustaining Member memberships. The intent of these workshops is two-fold: one, to be able to resolve a challenge where it can be most impactful immediately (locally); and two, to enhance understanding between industry and government whether on a technical or procedural level. If the issue is deemed to be related to a policy or national level concern, the issue is elevated to the SAME National Office for coordination with the appropriate agency executives. Success then is simply resolving the issue and informing executive leadership of the local perspectives, whether resolved locally or not.
OPPORTUNITY IN CHARLESTON
To kick-start the Post component of the Industry-Government Engagement Plan, the SAME National Office solicited input from industry and government to help identify potential issues. One of the responses came from a Charleston, S.C.-based contractor who shed light on his company’s struggle as a service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB) in winning contracts with the Charleston District of the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
The contractor recommended that USACE “use existing sole source rules for contracting SDVOSBs” and in particular, use the rigorous VA approach for vetting SDVOSBs.
Ironically, Charleston District had attempted to do that and lost the resulting protest on the grounds that only the VA had the authority to use any process other than the Small Business Administration (SBA) “self-certify” process.
The SAME Charleston Post decided to sponsor an Issues Workshop that would bring the parties together. The SAME National Office assisted in the preparation for, and the conduct of, the workshop. Key participants included local representatives from USACE, VA, SBA, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, and Joint Base Charleston, along with other SDVOSB contractors and a large business.
On Aug. 11, 2017, the Charleston Post Issues Workshop was conducted as part of its Industry Day program. The audience of nearly 150 people participated in a moderated panel approach.
Preparatory research ahead of the workshop had revealed that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed in December 2016, withdrew the VA’s authority to have its own process for certifying VOSBs and SDVOSBs. The legislation further directed that the VA and SBA draft a joint rule by October 2017 to establish a common vetting process.
None of the participants were aware of the NDAA requirement. Follow-on discussions with VA leadership at the national level confirmed that the motivation for the NDAA directive was the validity of many contractor complaints, especially fraudulent self-certification.
On Aug. 11, 2017, the Charleston Post Issues Workshop was conducted as part of its Industry Day program. The audience of nearly 150 people participated in a moderated panel approach. After an overview of the intent of the workshop, the panelists focused their remarks on soliciting input on issues that might emerge as a result of the joint rule being developed by VA and SBA. The vibrant, and sometimes passionate, responses from the audience were then captured to be used in producing an initial response to the requirement for a common rule.
LEADING COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS
While the outcomes of the Charleston Post Issues Workshop may be unique, due to the discovery of the NDAA requirement, the positive benefits of the workshop were immediate and are relatable elsewhere. Dialogues were opened. Understanding reached new heights. Relationships were strengthened. The ensuing unity of effort to provide constructive input to the VA and SBA will add tremendous value to the delivery of future projects and will benefit both industry and government partners.
In addition to the Charleston Post, both the Tulsa Post and the SAME Pacific Region have recently conducted valuable and unique Issues Workshops. SAME has led collaboration between industry and government by providing the most ethical forum for collaboration—with an untarnished record—for nearly a century.
As SAME approaches its Centennial in 2020, we can be assured our next century of service will produce even greater impact as the Industry-Government Engagement Plan is embraced by everyone on the project delivery team.
How to Host an Issues Workshop
To ensure a successful outcome for all stakeholders, there are a few key steps in preparing to host an SAME Issues Workshop.
Define the issue. This can be done through a call for papers, word of mouth, questionnaire, or even visiting your local government partners to find out what their biggest issues are.
Invite the stakeholders. Determine the participants by figuring out who is affected by the issue, what offices or entities manage the governance around the issue, and ensure you have people from both sides of the issue.
Notify SAME National. We want to know what your issue is and when you are conducting your workshop. We may be able to send a representative from the National Leadership Team. We can assist with questions you may have.
Set the Stage. Ensure you have put thought into logistics. Will you have a roundtable discussion? Will you have a panel and a moderator? Is the date and location convenient? Who is taking notes and who can write a summary to be shared externally? Can somebody take pictures?
Follow-up. Send results to SAME National. Is there any follow-up required to resolve the issue or bring it to somebody else’s attention at a higher level? Other Posts or government agencies may be experiencing the same issue.
For more information, visit www.same.org/ige, or contact Kathy Off, CGMP, PMP, Strategic & Stakeholder Relations, at 703-549-3800 Ext. 153, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Article first published in the November-December 2017 issue of The Military Engineer.]