Defense bill dilutes agencies' business judgment, experts say

The government has invested money in training and rebuilding an acquisition workforce that has strong business prowess, but proposed rules could hinder the employees' business decisions.

As separate versions of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act wind through Congress, experts say provisions will further complicate the already rigid procurement process, even pulling back officials’ authority to make key decisions.

The government has invested money in training and rebuilding an acquisition workforce that has strong business prowess. Federal officials now want the acquisition workforce to use its business-smarts to get the best value for each tax dollar spent.

However, increasingly strict procurement rules can disempower the business people inside departments’ contract offices, Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council (PSC), said June 14 during a discussion on the proposed defense bills.

“You can only have so many rules to try to guide such a rigid process and, as we all learned over the last 25 years, the more rigid the process, the more likely it is to be suboptimal, not optimal,” he said.

On May 18, the House passed its version of the authorization bill, which includes 48 procurement-related provisions. Half of them relate to small-business contracting, such as new set-aside rules and an increased annual contracting goal. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved its version of the legislation June 4. It currently has 28 provisions with significant effects on acquisition policies. The full Senate has to vote on the bill still.

In the House bill, agency officials would not be allowed to insource work from a small business unless they have publicly released  the procedures and methods for making the decision. The bill also lays out more rules and a broader definition on bundled contracts. A bundled contract is several smaller procurements tied into one larger contract.

Officials and experts have raised concerns that small businesses lose out on work when bundling contracts. Meanwhile, agencies can get work awarded faster. In reaction to the legislation, the Obama administration in May said the bundling provision makes the procurement process more complex. It could lead to litigation, and constrain agencies’ decision-making on when it’s best to bundle.

For the small-business contracting goal, the House wants it to increase from 23 percent to 25 percent. The administration said the goal is “laudable but overly ambitious.” In large part, it takes away the government’s ability to focus its efforts where it sees best.

Among other provisions in the Senate bill, defense officials could not enter a noncompetitive services contract without a firm, fixed price unless the prime contractor agrees to do at least half of the work. The provision relates to pass-through costs. In addition, the bill would require defense officials to conduct a complete risk assessment of contractors handling critical functions in contingency operations.  After assessing risk, officials then would have to develop a mitigation plan in case an issue arises. Critical functions are jobs that agency employees should really be handling.

The bills still have a long road before arriving at a final version and then going to the White House for a signature. If it ends up with a number of these provisions in it, federal acquisition officials will have their work cut out for them.

“As a federal executive, you’ve got to be worried about the greater complexity in the system and the lack of ability to make business judgments," said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for PSC.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.