Letter: McCain off-base about cost-plus contracts

Regarding: "McCain wants to end cost-plus contracting" You know it's time to retire when you see the same solution to a problem that you remember seeing earlier in your career.

Back in the mid-80's Washington was up in arms over spiraling (out of control?) program costs. Their solution was to outlaw cost-plus contracts and require only fixed-price contracts. Didn't work then and won't work now because the type of contract (pricing agreement) is NOT the problem. Contract pricing is a function of the customer's ability to define the requirement. This ability to define the requirement directly establishes the contractor's ability to project the risk of performance under the contract.

The less we (the government) are able to define the requirement the more risk the contrator assumes with respect to performance. More risk = more profit. Another element of cost control is the degree of contract oversite on the part of the government. We have to keep an eye on the contractor and track [its] progress. These are the current (and ongoing) problems with government contracts. We have to define the requirement and pay attention to the contractor's performance. We don't have enough competent people to do this. Just changing the manner of contract pricing won't solve the problem.

Michael McManus

What do you think? Paste a comment in the box below (registration required), or send your comment to letters@fcw.com (subject line: Blog comment) and we'll post it.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

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

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group