Future remains unclear for excised provisions

The Clinton administration is willing to try again to enact governmentwide procurement reform provisions that were jettisoned in acquisition bills, but so far an exhausted Congress is showing little enthusiasm.

Both House and Senate aides said last week they prefer to focus their efforts on making sure the new laws passed in the Federal Acquisition Reform Act, along with the 1994 Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act, are properly implemented.

Some of this reluctance also stems from this year being an election year, and Congress expects to adjourn early in October. With time off for campaigning and party conventions, lawmakers will not have much opportunity to craft new bills.

"We have a very short legislative window, and we will focus on the things that have to get done," a House Government Reform and Oversight Committee aide said.

Nevertheless, Steven Kelman, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said administration officials are discussing whether to propose language they were unable to get enacted before.

But, he added, it is unlikely he will push any bill unless Congress is receptive.

"There are things we have asked for in the past that we still believe are good ideas," Kelman said. "But we have to weigh that against all the other demands on our time and the time of senior career and political officials in terms of focus." Kelman said no decisions had been made about what to include.

But at a meeting of the Council for Excellence in Government last month, Kelman said the administration would once again propose a provision to allow simplified acquisition procedures to be used for service contracts of less than $1 million.

Procurement policy makers have a full agenda this year. Besides rewriting Part 15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, officials have less than a year to write regulations implementing FARA and the IT management reform law.

Meanwhile, the Acquisition Reform Working Group, made of nine trade associations, is packaging old and new proposals. Ella Schiralli, director of government relations with the Electronic Industries Association, said she thinks congressional aides would be receptive to moving ahead with some new procurement reform language "if there is an opportunity."

ARWG is likely to pursue yet more relief from government-unique requirements on the purchase of commercial products. But Ken Salaets, director of government relations with the Information Technology Industry Council, said his group would likely pursue further reforms administratively.

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