Performance-Based Contracting in the Air Force

A Report on Experiences in the Field

by John A. Ausink, Frank Camm, Charles Cannon

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In recent years, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has initiated and the Air Force has aggressively implemented a policy aimed at the widespread adoption of performance-based services acquisition (PBSA), an outcome-oriented approach in which the buyer tells the offeror what it needs rather than how to meet that need. In efforts to define which PBSA practices have worked to date and which merit improvement, this documented briefing summarizes the experience of 15 Air Force bases that were responsible for the successful implementation of 22 performance-based contracts awarded between FY 1998 and FY 2000. The study found that Air Force personnel were generally pleased with the results of PBSA as well as with many of the practices it encourages, including teamwork, market research, and the use of past-performance data in evaluating offerors. By contrast, all those interviewed concurred that they had not received sufficient formal training on PBSA or on the application of that policy in the field. The study also found that no effort had yet been made to compare the performance of current contractors hired using PBSA practices with that of their predecessors hired through other practices, pointing to an acute need for more assiduous data collection on the efficacy of the PBSA approach to acquiring services.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Project Air Force.

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