Broadcast 1473 (Special Edition)

The Space Foundation Conference

06 Dec 2010 Dan Walt
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Guest: Dan Walt. Topics: Federal government procurement process, NASA procurement, types of contracts, commercial space. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. During this comprehensive discussion on federal government procurement, including NASA, our guest mentioned several relevant websites. Listen carefully and jot down the URLs he provided if interested. Mr. Walt referenced many of them throughout this two hour program. We started our first segment by defining procurement. In the broader sense, Dan Walt said it referred to acquisitions and much of the first segment was devoted to his explaining the process, including oversight. We also talked about the authorization and the appropriation process in terms of procurement and the bigger the target, the more likely it is that Congress focuses on that target for budget cuts - at least in normal times. At the end of this segment, Dan started getting listener questions asking about the various types of government contracts and what constitutes commercial as compared to a government project. In the second segment, Dan started the contract discussion by talking about three primary contract types, fixed contracts, time and materials, and cost plus contracts. He defined each type in detail and fielded several questions about each type. Listeners asked if the contract type defined commercial or not. You do not want to miss this discussion. As you will hear, its more likely that commercial is defined by closely behaving as a true commercial venture would behave. The more addendums, amendments and special provisions that take the contractor away from acting like an arms length commercial company, the less commercial the relationship with the government despite the type of contract being used. Listen carefully to this discussion, its important. Other issues came up such as sharing risk, uncertainty versus certainty, and Space Act Agreements. Mr. Walt said that commercial was actually defined in the FAR and he urged listeners to check out that official definition. He said it was in the FAR Part 12. Listeners inquired about the expense for company booths at conferences and who pays for them. We also talked about Contract Administration and oversight. Intellectual property was an important part of this discussion and here Mr. Walt urged companies to work with an IP attorney as this was a very complicated issue. He acknowledged that such complications pose higher cost penalties on the smaller companies. Near the end of the program, Dan introduced us to the issue of training for the government agencies, including NASA, that supervise these contracts. He said that external oversight is mostly provided by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) which is an arm of Congress. As the show ended, we talked about CR and its possible extension for a full year, Dan's personal view of the current situation with FY 11 being on CR and his view of looking ahead to FY 12. His personal view was that we would have a FY 11 budget in the February-March period but he stressed that this was purely speculative on his part. If you have questions or comments for Dan Walt, please post them on the blog URL above and send them to Dan in care of me at drspace@thespaceshow.com.

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