Contract award revisions

Agency officials vendors and lawyers lent their support this month to a sweeping overhaul of how the government awards negotiated contracts though they said some details of the proposed rewrite of Part 15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation should be reconsidered.

Fred Gelden counsel to the Electronic Data Systems Corp. Government Services Group told acquisition policy-makers at a Nov. 15 hearing that the company "strongly supports the proposed revisions " but "we will encounter potholes along the way."

Among the provisions witnesses said should be studied further are those defining what sorts of communications between agencies and bidders would constitute "technical leveling" and how much broader contracting officers' authority will be to limit the competitive range in a procurement.

While vendors and agencies together have endorsed more open communications with each other vendors are concerned that more freedom to talk about their offers with the government might result in agencies providing too much help to their competitors.

Likewise both industry and the government think agencies could streamline procurements by better defining how many finalists they will consider for a buy but vendors worry that could mean agencies will arbitrarily limit how many bids they consider.

"In theory limiting the competitive range to promote government and offeror efficiency sounds great " said Jim O'Connor procurement policy advocate with the Small Business Administration.

"But in the real world...we believe the rules will give government contracting officials license and incentive to focus on the fewest number of offerors that are the best known or who represent the most recognized brand name " he said.

Steven Kelman administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy said in an interview that "we do need to do some clarification" of this and other provisions. But "the main message is how positive it was " he said.

Final comments on the proposal which would govern the largest information technology buys are due tomorrow.

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