Senators, experts to watch for DOD contract reforms

A member of the Wartime Contracting Commission asked senators to question the depth of support that defense officials have for major reforms in contracting operations during wartime or emergency situations -- what are technically called "contingency operations."

“Policies are easy to make. Implementation is really what counts,” Dov Zakheim, a commissioner and former comptroller of the Defense Department, told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Readiness and Management Subcommittee.


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However, Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said the department has already gone further than policies. Officials are reorganizing their operations, training a deployable cadre of acquisition workers and improving means for gathering contractor performance data, he said.

DOD also has stepped up its suspension and debarment decisions. Kendall said the number of Army debarments has increased 89 percent to 178 debarments from fiscal 2007 to 2011.

“Much has been accomplished, but of course challenges remain,” Kendall said, adding “We are not complacent and acknowledge we still have more work to do.”

Three senators want more information on how DOD is doing in its efforts to implement the commission’s recommendations.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the subcommittee’s chairwoman, Jim Web (R-Va.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, sent a letter on Oct. 19 to the Government Accountability Office. They asked for a review of how executive branch agencies—DOD, State Department, and U.S. Agency for International Development—have addressed the commission’s findings and recommendations. They also want GAO to assess officials’ changes in response to commission’s reports, both its final report and interim reports.

“The commission found a number of systemic failures in contingency contract planning, execution, and oversight within government,” the letter states.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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