Bill would allow federally funded centers to get exclusive access to government work

Defense Department officials want to give Federally Funded Research and Development Centers access to government research and development work for up to five years, bypassing  market competition, according to a new defense bill.

DOD would be allowed to enter into a multi-year sponsorship agreement, or contract, with a research center that receives federal money as long as there are certain provisions related to its orderly conclusion. The contract would also have certain negotiated terms on who pays various expenses as it ends, according to language in the new fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310).

The House Armed Services Committee introduced the bill March 29, although it includes only DOD’s legislative requests. The committee will issue its version of H.R. 4310 May 7.

An agreement, or contract, is generally a sole-source arrangement. However, once it’s in place, work is assigned without a required bidding process.

The Professional Services Council raised concerns about the provision on April 12, in a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of PSC, said private-sector companies can do as much of the work as the research centers. Therefore, the research centers should compete against companies to win contracts, particularly contracts that can last several years.

Soloway also expressed PSC’s opposition to the request for multi-year authority on a contract or agreement.

A multi-year contract is different from a multiple-year contract. In a multi-year contract, the agency can buy goods and services beyond one year. A multiple-year contract is one year with option years, limiting how far into the future the agency can make purchases against that contract and requiring a deliberate decision to extend the contract each additional year.

Soloway said he only wants the centers to compete for the work, rather than have it handed to them. The competiton provides the best value for the agency, he said.

“It is about properly balancing their role, recognizing the changed realities of the marketplace, and injecting competition wherever appropriate,” Soloway said.

About the Author

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

Reader comments

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 Just another KO

At the very least there should be a posting requirement, like for other SSJ, J&A, LSJ, etc and since this sounds like an IDIQ, those Task Orders should be subject to protest under FAR 33 just like any other IDIQ's TO would be. Let's keep that playing field as level as possible. FFRDC's operate a little too far on the fringe if you ask me.

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 William Clardy

Those unnamed "Defense Department officials" might want to remind themselves where they should have read about Congress' authority "To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years". A 5-year binding contract sure sounds like an administrative attempt to bypass that 2-year limit.

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