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In Praise of Nick Nayak and the DHS Office of Procurement Operations

A few weeks back, I wrote an “Open Letter to Nick Nayak” in which I expressed, in some rather direct language, my frustration at attending a DHS Office of Health Affairs Industry Day on the Biowatch Generation 3 technology – an Industry Day where oral questions were prohibited and where the DHS officials did nothing other than read verbatim from the slide presentation. Apparently that blog struck a nerve because the response was quick and, as it turns out, rather satisfying.

Not only did I hear from private sector representatives who shared my frustrations at having attended similar “transmit only” Industry Day events, Nick Nayak and his wonderfully-effective Procurement Ombudsman and Industry Liaison (his actual title,) Mui Erkun, set about to correct the problem.

The result is DHS Acquisition Alert 12-02 entitled, “Guidance on Conducting Industry Days.” The 10 page document, released on October 6, sets forth explicit guidance for all DHS procurement officials and contracting officers. It is crystal clear in its admonition that for DHS agencies, Industry Day events are to be conducted so that there is a “dialogue” with industry attendees – one where questions are taken from the audience. “Sit and Listen” sessions are (and should be) a thing of the past. Hallelujah!!!

Nick, Mui and the entire DHS procurement team deserve a lot of praise for getting this document out the door when they did. Of course, they could not have done this without the support of the DHS leadership at the NAC, and Under Secretary for Management, Rafael Borras, deserves credit for this accomplishment as well. Acquisition Alert 12-02 is a major step forward in building trust within the private sector and greater transparency will lead to lesser amounts of timidity in engaging the people and companies that strive to help DHS protect America and American interests.

The real test will be whether DHS procurement officials, contracting officers and the legal eagles in the component agencies take the “guidance” to heart. But it is a great start. Changing culture is never easy. But no one signed on at DHS because the job was going to be easy, now, did they?

Nick Nayak and his team deserve our thanks. Let’s not be shy about telling everyone we know.

David Olive focuses his blogging primarily on the “business of homeland security” — the interaction of the private sector with the Department of Homeland Security and other national security agencies. Read More