Davis pondering services bill

Legislation would promote training, private-sector best practices and share-in-savings contracting

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) announced Tuesday he is considering introducing a bill to help the federal government better manage the way it acquires services, a measure that could address several problems the General Accounting Office has identified in services contracting.

Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, said he is considering the need for a Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA) that would promote the use of private-sector best practices, share-in-savings contracting and acquisition workforce training.

SARA would address issues specific to service contracting not dealt with in previous acquisition reform efforts, including the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, Davis said during a subcommittee hearing.

Spending for services rose 24 percent during the past decade to $87 billion in fiscal 2000, according to GAO, and services now account for 43 percent of all federal contracting expenses — the largest single category. IT services account for much of that growth, GAO says, jumping from $3.7 billion in fiscal 1990 to $13.4 billion in fiscal 2000.

"Over the past decade, the growth of service contracting has largely matched the increase of service contracting in the private sector," Davis said. However, "the rise in service contracting has also coincided with several trends that suggest sufficient contract management is not occurring."

In particular, agencies do not clearly define services requirements, fully consider alternative solutions, perform vigorous price analyses or adequately oversee contractor performance, said David Cooper, director of GAO's Acquisition and Sourcing Management Division, testifying before the subcommittee.

"Further, it is becoming increasingly evident that agencies are at risk of not having enough of the right people with the right skills to manage service procurements," Cooper said.

Davis said the bill would address two main areas:

Share-in-savings contracting, in which agencies pay little or no money for services and instead pay contractors a percentage of savings they generate. Cooperative purchasing off the General Services Administration schedules, which would enable state and local governments to take advantage of low GSA prices. To stifle opposition to cooperative purchasing, Davis is proposing that only IT products be available for purchase that way.

David Marin, Davis' legislative director, said Davis is "intent on moving quickly" with SARA and would likely introduce the bill in June.

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