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Comment $245M value is a cap; IDIQ contracts are vehicles (Score 1) 335

Don't you think it might make sense to try these new things out in the field before awarding an IDIQ contract? I haven't read the contract but it sounds suspiciously like some of the other government contracts in that the supplier gets paid no matter what. If something goes wrong then you have to sign another contract, and pay more money, to get it fixed.

A few points:

As part of the procurement and contract competition for AIT-2 (Advanced Imaging Technology - Second Generation) the bidders supplied machines which were used in live tests by the government, in real-life conditions. The performance of the machines in those tests was part of the evaluation and source selection process.

The contract is Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity. This is the exact opposite of "You must pay no matter what." The TSA may buy up to $245M off this contract. However, it is not committed to buy anything at all. That's what ID/IQ means, and that flexibility is exactly why the government designed this type of procurement vehicle. It is a promise from the contractor that, should the government choose to do so, it may buy any amount of the goods or services at a pre-arranged, competitively-bid price. They may buy 100 of these machines. They may buy one. Or even none. The vendor is bound by the pre-negotiated terms, however. (To answer the "First they hook you, then they raise the price" complaint, I should say that even the out-year price increase is part of most procurements of this type. It is common for there to be some built in year-to-year price adjustment (generally called "escalation") to account for increasing out-year labor costs. However, that too is pre-negotiated, and set at the time of contract award. The effect being that every part of a vendor's price is subject to competition from other vendors at the time of proposal submittal.)

Maintenance arrangements for any machines the TSA chooses to purchase are part of the procurement. Therefore, that is also pre-set. Further, it is part of the $245 contract value. It simply isn't possible for the vendor to surprise the TSA with new charges to fix broken devices.

There may be many reasons to dislike the TSA in general, and their scanning machines in particular. But being upset about theoretical contract issues that people make up out of whole cloth isn't one of them, and it isn't very useful.

I agree that the procurement system is cumbersome and slow. Very few people, either inside the government or out understand it. The people that do can earn quite a good living helping companies sell and government agencies buy. I know a few.


Comment Whiskey people can be a nice bunch of folks... (Score 5, Informative) 402

It may well be the entire industry that acts that way. A couple of years ago I was at a tasting event with the either Grandson or Great Grandson of Jim Beam, and he was the same way. .

You're probably talking about Fred Noe III. Yep, he's a nice guy. As is Bill Samuels Jr. over at Maker's Mark. If you take a distillery tour here in Kentucky or attend a tasting at a Derby party or the Bourbon Festival, you might run into these guys. Or one of the many other storied distillers. To see Jack Daniels distillery, of course, you'll have to go to Tennessee. Even though the brand is now owned by a Kentucky company, (Brown-Forman) they are still most definitely a Tennessee whiskey.

For a little bit more about the whiskey business, check out this photo book at the author's website:
or at amazon:
Or just go visit a distillery.

Disclaimer: I know the author, but don't receive any compensation for the book. I just think it's a beautiful book.

Comment This is exactly why Electoral system is good... (Score 1) 971

...No, really. One way to measure the effectiveness of a voting system is the power of an individual voter to change the outcome of the election with his/her vote. Vote aggregation systems like the electoral college give an individual voter greater probability of affecting the outcome of a close election. There have been some very good analytical papers about this. Any system that lets a single vote move a block of aggregated votes has this characteristic.

I'm not ready to throw out the Electoral College system. In fact, I rather admire it. Just as I don't want New Yorkers deciding how I should talk or Californians deciding how I should think, I don't want mainstream group-think to decide all the politics of the day, either.


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A large number of installed systems work by fiat. That is, they work by being declared to work. -- Anatol Holt