Editorial: Rules of the road

How many governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) does the government need?

Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator David Safavian has taken the right steps by assessing the GWAC landscape.

"We plan to evaluate whether these vehicles are effectively aligned to bring the agency's programmatic or contracting expertise to bear on high-priority management initiatives," Safavian said.

With officials looking at reorganizing the General Services Administration, this is the right time for OFPP's review of the government contracting world as it stands today.

Most discussions focus on two options, with the procurement pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other. One option is that GSA could become the contractor of choice for federal agencies, and that has several benefits. GSA, unlike most agencies, has the contracting expertise. Unlike almost every other agency, GSA's mission is to buy stuff.

The second option and countervailing argument is that competition is good, and GWACs provide GSA with competition so that the agency remains focused on good service.

No easy solution exists, and proponents on both sides make valid arguments. Both paths have pitfalls, too. If contracts were to be unified within GSA, would it take us back to the days of the Brooks Act? On the other hand, the current environment led, however indirectly, to contracting abuses in which Abu Ghraib prison interrogators were purchased using an information technology contract.

The United States has thrived on an economic system that encourages competition. When that competition slipped out of whack, new rules had to be put in place to create proper boundaries within the competitive marketplace.

What we need are fresh ideas for preserving both competition and the integrity of the system. Is it possible, for example, to create a new model in which agencies continue to run GWACs but with guidance and oversight — mentoring, if you will — from procurement experts at GSA?

This is a great opportunity to find a new approach, rather than sending the pendulum swinging side to side. n

— John Monroe and Christopher J. Dorobek

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above