GAO pushes new interagency contracting rules


The time has come to implement a new policy framework for interagency contracts. (Stock image)

Government overseers have told the Defense Department and General Services Administration to start using new interagency acquisition policy rules -- a move one senator says could reduce these contracts' risk to the government.

A federal policy framework is now in place to deal with the risks that come with interagency contracting efforts, William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office, wrote in a Jan. 29 letter to several lawmakers. Now officials must institute the policies "in order for agencies to demonstrate whether the new policies established to address interagency contracting deficiencies produce the desired results."

In 2010, officials revised the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require agencies to decide whether an assisted acquisition is the best approach for meeting requirements and saving money. The customer agency and the agency providing the service also must sign an agreement that lays out the terms and conditions of the procurement.

Yet GSA officials have not updated the ordering guides for all its interagency contract vehicles to require customers to make the "best approach" determination. In addition, Defense officials have not updated their own acquisition regulations to reflect this similar requirement.

DOD and GSA officials replied to GAO that they are on track to complete their work.

Richard Ginman, director of defense procurement and acquisition policy at DOD, released a memo Jan. 2 that sets up a small team to review DOD's interagency contracting policies. He expects the team to start early this year and meet regularly until September.

Dan Tangherlini, GSA's acting administrator, said his agency is on it too. He expects order guides to be changed by March 31.

"Expedient action is necessary to remedy the current situation, and the agency will make the appropriate updates," Tangherlini wrote.

While the acting chief wants changes quickly, GSA has been slow. In April 2011, officials told their offices to require of customer agencies best procurement approach determinations. Yet, more than a year later, the offices that are responsible for many of GSA’s largest small-business governmentwide acquisition contracts have not yet changed their ordering guides.

Even so, the interagency contracting policy framework, based in part on legislation and congressional oversight as well as the advances by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, is beginning to result in better contracting outcomes, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Agencies now must develop business cases to support their use of this type of contracting vehicle and they each must define roles and responsibilities interagency agreements to strengthen accountability.

Collins added that federal agencies spend tens of billions of dollars annually through interagency contract vehicles, but the management of interagency contracts has been on GAO’s high-risk list since 2005.

"I am hopeful that the progress made will result in the GAO deciding to drop the management of interagency contracting from its high-risk list," she said.

About the Author

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

The 2015 Federal 100

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


  • 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