Lockheed Martin, the largest federal contractor, believes communication with agencies is working just fine.
Linda Gooden, the executive vice president of the aerospace and technology giant’s information systems and global solutions business area, said she, or her business development people, are not seeing the challenges other federal contractors say exist, especially regarding communications between agencies and contractors.
“I guess I never really saw the problem,” Gooden said in an interview with Federal News Radio during Lockheed’s media day last week. “There was a brief period where the government had a difficult time going to contractor’s sites and attending meetings with contractors unless it was multiple contractors. But for the most part, the communication is very good and very transparent. More agencies are spending time doing industry days. They are spending time meeting with contractors to make sure they are communicating their requirements, and they are spending time helping us understand where they want to go strategically. I think the communication is pretty good.” Gooden’s comments are in stark contrast to one of her main competitors, IBM. Its general manager for federal, Todd Ramsey, said recently on the The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp the Mythbusters campaign is more show than substance.
“I was on a call this week where someone read a memo that was sent to one of the agency personnel here in Washington that basically said if a contractor requests a meeting, you should ask a series of questions,” Ramsey said. “One of which is: Are they intending to bid on any RFP in the near future or do they want any information about the RFP? If the answer is yes, you should not meet with the contractor. I think it’s those types of things that are being implemented that make the Mythbusters campaign not as effective as they intended.”
Ramsey said too often discussions happen by email instead of face-to-face and that hurts a program’s success.
Ramsey’s moment of candor is unusual for most contractors.
More discussion encouraged
When both Gooden and retiring Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens were asked to respond to his comments about the state of contractor-government communication, both declined to criticize the government. Stevens agreed with Gooden saying communication with government is working well.
“In this environment, because of the work we do you might expect that we have a pretty high level of communication on going with our government customers,” Stevens said. “I think that’s been in place for a long time. I’m hopeful that will stay in place. We are encouraging more discussion now and it has everything to do with uncertainty.”
Lockheed, which earned more than $19.8 billion so far in fiscal 2012 and more than $39.9 billion in 2011, has been one of the more conservative vendors when it comes to public statements about the state of the federal market.
Stevens made it clear what he thought sequestration under the Budget Control Act would mean for vendors and agencies alike.
Gooden, from her point of view, said the market is changing because of three main reasons: technology, customer expectations and budget pressures.
“The fact that so many of the technologies are available commercially sets expectations for government customers and that turns into requirements for us as the contracting community,” she said. “When budgets are tight, you are looking for ways to save money and many of the new technologies allow you to reduce the cost of your current operation, and so taking advantage of those adds efficiency for the organization.”
Gooden said agencies are making better use of task order contracts.
“Now because of pressure on the budgets they are issuing their work in smaller increments and those smaller increments allow the government to buy things that are current and they can use now, and get things under contract very quickly,” she said. “You can get things under contract is less than 30 days. If I think back to the 1990s, it’s more like 300 days. It changes the nature of what we are doing. [New technologies] save money, they are more effective and they are more efficient.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-8 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.