Every component in the Department of Homeland Security awarded at least one Procurement Innovation Lab project in fiscal year 2021 — a first for the program that focuses on taking “smart risks” to quickly put ideas into practice.
The PIL also received additional funding from the Office of Management and Budget to expand the “coach-the-coach” training framework across the federal government, with PIL projects reaching to the departments of the Interior, Education, Health and Human Services, and Commerce, as detailed in the PIL’s FY2021 yearbook.
“Using a new Knowledge Management System as well as more targeted outcome measures, the PIL has improved the use of data analytics to support more informed decision making and better insight into the impacts of procurement innovation,” Chief Procurement Officer Paul Courtney said at the beginning of the report. “Data-driven decision making also informs our broader policies and practices across the DHS procurement function.”
“The PIL framework, backed by data-driven outcomes, builds stronger comfort in taking smart risks across our DHS procurement community,” Courtney added. “As the complexity of our mission requirements and associated procurements continues to evolve and grow, this risk-tolerant, mission-focused mindset is a must have within our procurement culture.”
The PIL launched in 2015, and the following year the Acquisition Innovation Associate Council was created at OMB. The core of PIL coaches act as business advisors to DHS procurement teams in the framework of testing innovative techniques, and successful techniques are shared broadly across DHS and even further through the council at OMB.
The PIL determines how innovative procurement techniques lower barriers for small and non-traditional businesses, encourage competition, shorten the time to award, and increase the likelihood of successful contract performance. After a procurement team member approaches the PIL, two PIL coaches hold a brainstorming session with the procurement team to discuss goals and pick a PIL technique or devise a new one. The teams stay in regular contact as the PIL assignment moves forward. After the contract award, the PIL interviews all successful and unsuccessful vendors and gives the feedback to the contracting officer.
Experiences are shared through PIL webinars (which have seen more than 16,000 participants since 2015), boot camps (23 virtual boot camps were held in FY21) and coaching clinics (three have been conducted since the formal launch in fiscal year 2020).
The 100th PIL project was awarded in February 2021 (by ICE team Contracting Officer Tracy Riley, Program Lead Stacey Bivians, and Procurement Attorney Javier Farfan), the first government/industry-wide webinar was held in March 2021, the first government/industry boot camp was held in June 2021, and the first PILcast — YouTube episodes that “deliver bite-sized information and dialogue on narrow procurement innovation topics” — was launched in August 2021. PIL has gone from 17 procurement projects awarded in FY 2019 to 37 in FY 2020 and 34 projects in FY 2021; last year’s projects had a cumulative value of more than $12 billion including $501 million in orders and contracts.
The average number of days from the release of the solicitation to award for all PIL projects in FY21 was 138 days, with the longest time to award 673 days and the shortest time just 31 days. The highest BPA/IDIQ was valued at $3.2 billion, and the lowest at $10 million; the highest order/contract was $118 million, with the lowest at $4.2 million. In FY21, 20 projects were not protested, eight had protests that were denied or dismissed, one protest was withdrawn, two protests resulted in corrective action, and three protests are pending.
The report compared the PIL’s new Knowledge Management System to the way IMDb logs data about entertainment industry projects and players.
“Data input for each project includes project number, status, total value, independent government cost estimate (IGCE), set-aside or unrestricted, spend category, PIL coach, FAR section, various dates (first engagement, solicitation release, due dates in both phases, completed evaluations, award, etc.), all vendors and vendor POCs, all government POCs, innovations used, documents, and more,” the report states. “DHS OCPO strives to be a more data-driven organization, so the investment in KMS was not just to support the PIL. Other OCPO divisions are building out KMS modules, with the goal of achieving stronger data insights across the organization.”
The PIL’s Digi-Badge micro-credential program also continued to grow, with 659 new Digi-Badges issued in FY21 and USCIS leading the pack with 83 percent growth.
New techniques being used at PIL include use of the Highest Technically Rated Offeror with Fair and Reasonable Price evaluation model first tested by the General Services Administration (GSA) under the OASIS GWAC to “only evaluate price as fair and reasonable while focusing on the technical factors,” considering fusion procurements for closely related requirements (“a single solicitation that allows for stand-alone awards to multiple vendors against multiple scopes,”), and using case studies as “a focused way for vendors to elaborate on specific projects – vendor responses are provided through a case-study format detailing methods, metrics, and outcomes/results from specific project-based experiences.”
The report presented PIL-cademy Awards for the following achievements in FY21:
- Most PIL Innovative Techniques Used: ICE LEIDS, with 13 innovations
- Highest Dollar Value (BPA/IDIQ): FEMA COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign – National Medical Staffing Services at $3.2 billion
- Highest Dollar Value (non-BPA/IDIQ): CBP – IVV&T at $118 million
- Lowest Dollar Value (non-BPA/IDIQ): FEMA NIMS at $4.2 million
- Fastest Solicitation to Award: FEMA Course Review at 31 days
- Most Offers/Quotes Received: FEMA COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign – National Medical Staffing Services, with 54 offers
- Most Saved Percentage from IGCE to Award (non-BPA/IDIQ): USCIS QISD at 45.8 percent
- Most Saved Percentage from IGCE to Award (BPA/IDIQ): TSA Specialized Security Training at 56.5 percent
- Most Popular FAR Section: 8.405-3, with 11 projects
- Most Popular Technique: On-the-Spot Consensus Evaluations and Confidence Ratings (Tied) at 30
- Highest Dollar Amount Awarded to Small Business (non-BPA/IDIQ): DOI BSEE EITCS at $70 million
The inaugural PIL Lifetime Achievement Award was given to former DHS Chief Procurement Officer Soraya Correa, who launched the PIL and “continually championed taking smart risks to ensure positive mission outcomes through the procurement process not only at DHS, but across the federal government.”
Fiscal year 2022 brings the launch of the PIL Idea Competition to “use the power of crowdsourcing to tap the collective intelligence of the DHS acquisition workforce” and PIL Boot Camp – The Next Level (a training pilot for DHS employees who are PIL Boot Camp graduates focused on techniques for betterment, affordability, and mission-focused evaluation criteria).
The PIL team also plans to “develop a concise executive briefing, summarizing all 19 innovation techniques and ensuring senior leaders have appropriate level insight into the value impact of each innovation,” “launch OCPO Process Transformation Projects, working with the CPO to empower and support leaders and practitioners throughout DHS to improve selected business processes,” and “provide detail opportunities to DHS employees and to external agencies for short or project-based details… for months, weeks, days, or hours.”
The PIL also anticipates “heightened federal focus on procurement innovation stemming from” the Promoting Rigorous and Innovative Cost Efficiencies for Federal Procurement and Acquisitions Act of 2021.