Taking the bullets out of reform

Only months after the enactment of major procurement reform legislation participants have begun likening the federal contracting arena to the Wild West - a time when law was often unwritten or created by the powerful.

Indeed the rules have changed dramatically. Agencies now have many choices when it comes to buying products. It is now possible for an agency to pick up an entry-level PC system offered on one Army contract for about half the price of similar equipment offered on other governmentwide contracts simply by shopping around.

But for some the options are mind-boggling the choices difficult. These folks are beginning to look for guidance in how to make those choices.

We support efforts by the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies to craft guidelines on how to manage and make purchases from multiple-agency IT contracts. NASA's plans to give contracting officers a set of criteria that can be used to judge which acquisition vehicles to use for a given purchase are particular ly welcome.

As the pendulum of acquisition reform continues its swing lessons learned in the marketplace will provide their own guidance.

Until that time nonrestrictive guidelines will serve to take the bullets and arrows out of procurement reform.

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