Salvaging the 'win-win' in reform

One of the primary goals of procurement reform was to offer federal agencies flexibility in acquiring the technology needed to meet their mission goals. A federal executive said recently that the reform movement has succeeded in removing acquisition from the radar screen of federal program managers.

Two interesting side effects are emerging: Without the procurement process to blame agencies must focus on management and although best value is easier than ever to acquire many vendors think there is a focus on cost and price competition that could damage the larger enterprise.

For many years vendors concentrated on winning the contract with a compellingly low bid and then they would "get well" in the out-years.

Now every buy is a competition. Margins get slimmer and slimmer. The partnership that vendors valued and agencies depended on may last only as long as one purchase. But both partners need to win in relationships. If companies cannot make a fair profit they will not do business with the government and agencies will have fewer choices.

Other observers claim lots of companies are doing well saying only a few whiners are complaining because the pressure is on.

Time will tell who is correct but it is worth remembering that an underlying principle of procurement reform is the freedom to select best value.

It seems strange that freed from the slavish requirements of cost some agencies are now so focused upon it.

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