House committee: Speed delivery of supplies to troops

Armed Services report wants a contingency contracting corps led by three-star general

The House Armed Services Committee wants the Defense Department to develop a contingency contracting corps (CCC) that would be commanded by a three-star general or admiral to hasten the delivery of urgently needed equipment and supplies to combat zones.

The committee, in its report on the 2006 Defense Authorization bill passed by the House May 25, also aims to shorten contract disputes by revamping appeals boards operated by civilian and military agencies.

The report states that DOD should field a CCC because of critical shortfalls in delivering equipment to Iraq last year. The recommendations come despite language in the 2005 Defense Authorization bill that gives rapid acquisition authority to combat commanders.

National Guard and Reserve units deployed to Iraq reported that they had to purchase commercial two-way radios because of a shortage of military radio systems.

According to the report, a new CCC "will facilitate the rapid acquisition of critically needed goods and services, ultimately improving the process by which the needs of the warfighter are met." Committee members said in the report that a CCC should use an integrated contracting and financial system to further speed battlefield acquisitions.

Carl McNair, a retired Army two-star general who served as chief of staff of the Army's Aviation Command and Training and Doctrine Command, said the plans to have a CCC led by a three-star general or admiral would give the new corps considerable clout.

McNair said he envisioned a CCC composed of a relatively small cadre of acquisition specialists whose mission is to speed procurement. But, he added, no matter how much a CCC streamlines the procurement system, the command will still face hurdles of time and distance.

The Office of Management and Budget opposed the creation of a CCC in an administration policy statement on the committee's bill. A CCC would "add complexity without improving the speed or cost effectiveness of DOD's acquisition system,'' according to an OMB statement.

Trey Hodgkins, director of defense programs at the Information Technology Association of America, said a CCC "would provide another set of eyes in the process."

The new contract appeals boards proposed in the committee's bill would speed resolutions of disputes by eliminating bureaucratic layers, Hodgkins said. The new boards would handle appeals on contracts not greater than the simplified acquisition threshold of $100,000 for contracts of commercial items.

The proposed Defense Board of Contract Appeals would handle appeals for DOD and NASA contracts. Members of the new board would include judges from the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, and DOD's secretary would appoint the chairman of this new board from that panel. When board members' terms expire, the secretary would appoint new judges for a five-year term.

The proposed Civilian Board of Contract Appeals would operate under the General Services Administration.

This board would replace the current GSA contract appeals board and similar boards in the Agriculture, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs departments. OMB officials said in a statement that the Bush administration strongly supports consolidation of the boards. But officials expressed concern that the process for appointing board members might not conform to the appointments clause of the Constitution.

Michele Mintz Brown, associate partner at law firm Holland and Knight and president-elect of the Board of Contract Appeals Bar Association, said she viewed the board consolidation as complex. "I am concerned that all of the interested parties to this issue have not been heard," she said.

DOD bill veto?

The House Armed Services Committee chopped the Defense Department's funding request in the 2006 DOD Authorization bill by $310 million to $1.6 billion for base closures and restructuring that will result from recommendations made this year by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

That action resulted in a sharp response from the Office of Management and Budget, which said if the funding cut remains in the final bill, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will recommend that President Bush veto the bill. The committee report said DOD presented little analysis or justification for the commission's budget.

— Bob Brewin

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