Jude Tomasello, Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) program manager for medical simulation, gave a general overview of DHA’s acquisition process, its role in that process, and addressed some common myths during the Central Florida Tech Grove “Juice Bar” event, “Acquisition Illumination,” on Jan. 17.

 

Tomasello began the presentation by talking about his experience at trade shows, and how he has encountered members of medical simulation community who didn’t understand how to conduct business with the government or the Department of Defense.

 

“They’d say [about their product], ‘Hey this is cool, right?’” Tomasello said. “‘Whip out your government credit card and buy a thousand of them.’ I’ve had to tell them: ‘It doesn’t work that way. There’s a whole process, and it’s unbelievable in its bureaucracy and its complexity, but it’s there for a reason.’”

 

After having such conversations multiple times, Tomasello developed a briefing to help educate members of the medical simulation industry on “how a requirement becomes a capability,” which he described as similar to the “how a bill becomes a law” cartoon from ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock series.

 

Tomasello briefly described DHA’s history and explained that “what we do mainly, is acquisition.” He went on to explain the importance of his agency’s focus on 1) transitioning medical training science and technology projects, 2) supporting the shared services’ medical training requirements, 3) responding to the geographic combatant commands’ requirements, 4) standardizing medical training solutions, and 5) centralizing the sustainment of medical training solutions, to accomplish DHA’s mission.

 

Next, Tomasello discussed the different stages of the acquisition lifecycle and how DHA’s role could change during that process of a capability needs statement ultimately evolving into a solution delivered to the user. Later in his presentation, Tomasello debunked nine recurring myths he’s dealt with in his career.

 

“The first one is that acquisition strategy, contract type, period of performance, and technical parameters are determined and fixed at the beginning of the acquisition process – not true,” Tomasello said. “By the beginning of the acquisition process, that’s when you’re drafting the requirement. We don’t [start] at the beginning saying, ‘It’s going to be a fixed price, for five years, we’re going to have these many quantities ordered to these sites…’ We may know some of that, but it continues to evolve throughout the process.”

 

Tomasello also educated the audience on the mistaken belief that government representatives don’t read the proposals they receive and stated, “We have to read the proposals and believe me, we do.” He explained that the process had sufficient checks and balances, and enough people who read the proposals from the lowest-level evaluator, through the evaluation board lead, to the contracting PCOs, division chiefs and lawyers who may have to discuss aspects of the proposals in detail, “and if we haven’t read them, things won’t go well [for us].”

 

“‘The government wants the process to be lengthy and complicated’ – no, we don’t – but it is, and it is because it has to be,” Tomasello said about another common myth he’s had to address. “There are a lot of checkers checking the checkers to get it right… that we did the right thing and that we did it the right way, and that takes time. As a program manager, I don’t like the time it takes, but I like the discipline, the governance and the rigor that goes into the process because you end up with a better contract and a better capability when something gets built and fielded.”

 

Tomasello finished his talk by fielding more specific inquiries from the in-person and virtual audiences during a Q&A session.

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