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CON 100 NVCC Mission First Contracting Ethics and Integrity Issues Case Study


Case Study Topic 2: Mission First: A Case Study in Contracting Ethics and Integrity

  • You are an experienced contracting officer, newly assigned at a Defense agency whose contracting organization has experienced a lot of turnovers. Your branch consists of you, two contract specialists who have been with the agency for several years, a college intern, and “TJ,” a support contractor who recently retired from federal service. There are also several vacant positions. Your branch manager, John Smiley, is one year away from retiring from federal service. His office is adorned with a large sign that reads, “Mission First.” John is normally a pleasant fellow but seems to become easily irritated whenever a customer calls to complain about the support provided by the contracting organization. You have been on the job less than a month and have already overheard John snap at your colleagues on several occasions, saying, “I don’t care. Just get it done. Mission first.”
  • You’ve just set aside the afternoon to process a new award document using the agency’s automated contract writing system. While you focus on the onerous data entry requirements of the new system, your concentration is broken by the intern’s voice: “John wants us all in his office in five minutes for a meeting.”
  • At the meeting, John explains that the agency’s annual Operations and Maintenance budget has received a sizable supplemental appropriation to support ongoing contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The agency’s senior leadership wants this funding obligated as soon as possible. The branch has just been inundated with quickly-prepared purchase requests, and customers are demanding prompt action. John hands everyone a pile of purchase requests, and announces, “I want these awarded by the end of next month. Failure is not an option.”
  • Returning to your desk, you start to review the purchase request folders and become alarmed at what you see. All are for various service contract requirements but are lacking well-written Performance Work Statements (PWS). Many seem to have been specifically written for an incumbent contractor and even have the contractor’s name included in the PWS. Several folders contain documents labeled “Independent Government Cost Estimate (IGCE)” and other documents that appear to be contractor quotes in the exact same amount as the IGCEs. Other purchase request folders have a contractor’s time-and-materials/labor hour quote and a note from the requesting office’s coordinator (the agency does not have a dedicated Price Analysis department) saying, “Looks okay.” Almost all the folders include draft memoranda “Justifications and Approval for Other Than Full and Open Competition,” but almost all are poorly supported and legally insufficient.
  • As you walk to John Smiley’s office to discuss your concerns, you note that TJ, your support contractor, has already begun processing his assigned workload and is preparing award documents for John’s execution. You glance down and notice that the first one is made out to the same company that employs TJ. As if reading your mind, TJ shouts, “No worries. It’s all good. I don’t have execution authority.” As you continue past the contract specialists, you are amazed at the progress they have already made in preparing award documents. You are concerned that your colleagues appear not only to be disregarding requirements for publicizing contract actions but also to be carelessly using the agency’s contract writing system in selecting clauses and preparing the prospective solicitation and contract documents. You also suspect they are not bothering to read the associated pricing memoranda and supporting draft justifications and approvals.
  • In John Smiley’s office, you express your concerns that these purchase requests cannot be processed in a timely fashion as received. John listens and then says, “Look, we do not have the luxury of time to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s here. Our mission is too important. Do the best you can. Just remember, we have never failed to meet our obligation targets.” 
    1. Identify the contracting ethics and integrity issues that are presented in this case.
    2. Describe WHAT you would do and WHY you would do it.
    3. Describe WHY it is important for members of the acquisition community to have a shared sense of professional integrity.
    4. Identify the contracting ethics and integrity issues that are presented in this case.
    5. Describe WHAT you would do and WHY you would do it.


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