OMB official pledges action on bundling

Clay Johnson promises to take more aggressive steps to curb the unnecessary bundling of contracts, a practice that keeps many deals out of the hands of small businesses.

Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, has promised the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee to take a harder line against contract bundling.

In a letter to Committee Chairwoman Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Johnson promised to have the Office of Federal Procurement Policy develop a score card to measure agencies' progress in setting definitions of success and creating plans to meet them.

Bundling became a concern in past decades as agencies increasingly gathered multiple requirements into single contracts, including some tasks that small businesses could have fulfilled. After agencies bundled the smaller opportunities in with larger ones, however, they were out of reach of small businesses.

In the 1990s, Congress enacted legislation to require agencies to justify those decisions if the result of the bundling was to take opportunities away from small businesses, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council.

Johnson's letter, dated Aug. 3, came as Congress considered new legislation that would redefine bundling, Soloway said. Part of the Small Business Administration re-authorization bill would define bundling as any combining of requirements -- even if they would not have been suitable for small businesses in the first place, he explained.

“It doesn’t matter how big the requirement is," he said of the proposed change. "It doesn’t have anything to do with small business.”

Johnson's promised steps are not controversial, Soloway added, but discussing them in detail misses the larger point.

“I don’t think anybody would have any objection to having a clearer definition of success, a score card, accountability, all of those are useful tools," he said. "It would be better if it took place in the context of a larger discussion about the place of small businesses in government contracting.”

In his letter, Johnson also promised to:

  • Consider adding the President's Initiative Against Contract Bundling as a major new component of the President's Management Agenda.
  • Designate a senior position within OFPP with the primary responsibility for small-business issues, including bundling.
  • Clarify agency responsibilities to include small-business access to contracting opportunities.
  • Explore ways to increase the number of SBA procurement center representatives.
  • Johnson promised to report his progress to the committee by Nov. 15.

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