FAA case points to contracting confusion

Experts say latest critical IG report highlights chaos in federal procurement decisions

An inspector general recommended last month that the Transportation Department terminate a Federal Aviation Administration support services contracting program and instead consider using existing multiple-award programs such as those administered by the General Services Administration.

Some procurement experts say the FAA case is emblematic of the chaos in government contracting because GSA and other agencies are creating contracting instruments without evaluating existing vehicles.

The IG criticized the FAA program known as the Results National Contracting Service procurement program, which the FAA established to acquire a variety of engineering, technical and other support services.

The IG’s audit found that the Results program was not properly structured to meet the FAA’s needs for faster, cheaper and better support services. Among other things, it found that FAA officials awarded contracts without sufficient competition or adequate price analysis. Rebecca Leng, assistant IG for financial and information technology audits and the report’s author, wrote that exchanging the Results program with individual contracts “is not an efficient use of resources because each replacement contract will still have to be individually negotiated.”

Leng recommended that the FAA use existing governmentwide acquisition contracts because they have built-in controls, such as centrally defined labor categories and qualifications and pre-competed labor rates. Those features streamline the contract award process and help ensure reasonable prices, she wrote.

The IG’s recommendation is in line with GSA’s efforts to lure more customers back to GSA-administered contracts. Last week, for example, GSA Administrator Lurita Doan pressed officials at the Treasury Department to abandon plans to create their own departmentwide telecommunications contract rather than use GSA’s forthcoming Networx contracts.

The proliferation of federal contracts and confusion about which ones are the most appropriate for agencies to use prompted one industry official to say the situation is out of hand.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, which represents public services companies, said all the stakeholders in government contracting should sit down and reassess the contracting landscape.

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, agrees that a discussion on GWACs would be useful considering that nearly a decade has passed since the laws authorizing GWACs were enacted, and market dynamics have changed.

FAA officials said last week that the agency will replace contracts awarded under Results based on specific requirements of the individual procurements. For each substitution, the FAA will consider other multiple-award programs, including GSA schedule contracts and other FAA multiple-award programs, officials said.

“The FAA will select the procurement strategy that we believe will result in the best value for the FAA,” said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown.

Expert advises seeking appropriate contractsChip Mather, a partner at Acquisition Solutions, said the best approach to government contracting is obvious: Every agency in need of services or products should first examine existing contracts at the General Services Administration and other agencies to determine whether they could meet the agency’s requirements and mission.

“The key is the strategic part in strategic sourcing,” Mather said. “It should be driven by the requirement,” not the environment and pressures such as budgets and politics. Mather said the government needs more than a single procurement department. Taking governmentwide acquisition contracts away from agencies and aggregating them into GSA vehicles sometimes creates more problems than it solves, he said, adding that GSA is best at administering general-purpose contracts.

“The proper position of a GWAC should be based on experience and specialized expertise,” he said. “Should GSA be doing cancer research contracts, or should maybe the National Institutes of Health be doing cancer research contracts?”

— Aliya Sternstein

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