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Lessons from the DOD Procurement Management Review Program Annual Newsletter

The Department of Defense Procurement Management Review Team is tasked with analyzing and assisting the effectiveness of the DOD’s procurement and contracting function. The PMR team recently released its second annual newsletter highlighting their observations, best practices, and lessons learned, which can be applied across all federal departments and the private sector.

“It All Comes Down to the Documentation”

Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 4.801 requires the federal government to “establish files containing the records of all contractual actions,” and “the documentation in the files must be sufficient to constitute a complete history of the transaction.”[i]

The PMR Team noted that it continued to observe insufficient file documentation across the board in its reviews, highlighting the following as common documentation issues:

  • Files often document decisions without documenting the rationale.
  • Market research documentation didn’t explain how it was used to determine strategies.
  • Official contract files are often missing key documents.
  • Official conversations leading to contract action were not sufficiently documented.
  • Pricing of GSA orders didn’t demonstrate traceability back to schedule prices to show compliance.

In addition, the newsletter noted that Contracting Officer Representatives “often stated that their files had never been looked at by the contracting office and they were often unaware of what documentation that are required to retain.”

Lessons for the Private Sector

The newsletter certainly piques my interest as an attorney, especially as incomplete file documentation relates to potential bid protests, but I don’t mean to imply that anyone is improperly leaving information out of a contract file.

The lesson for everyone is that no matter what our job function, or who our employer is, we are all busy professionals being pulled in a thousand different directions every day. It is often hard to find the time to fully document a file. Either we just assume everyone will remember what happened, or we get distracted by a phone call or email while in the middle of working on a file and forget to come back to it.

But it is important to remember that the file will almost certainly outlast our memory, and it is critically important to document decision processes as close to real time as possible.

You can read the entire DOD Procurement Management Review Program Newsletter here, including the “Things That Made Them Smile.”

(p.s. I couldn’t let this post end without at least mentioning the final page of the memo, titled “Think Before You File.” One of my biggest pet peeves is wading through page after page of printed emails when there is only a single substantive sentence. I couldn’t agree more with the team’s proclamation that “It isn’t true the thicker the file, the better, especially when it comes to e-mails.”)