Set-Asides

FAR change hurtful, some say

A proposed regulation that aims to protect the government from unreliable contractors is too vague and would hurt small businesses, senior government leaders told Congress last month.

The proposed rule, issued by the Office of Management and Budget on July 9, would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation so that contractors that fail to comply with certain laws, such as criminal and tax laws, could be banned from receiving federal contracts.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) called the proposed rule "a solution in search of a problem" and asked the administration to withdraw it. The rule makes the contracting process more arbitrary, Moran said, because there are no clear-cut standards.

Numerous organizations that represent federal contractors, such as the Contract Services Association of America and the American Electronics Association, also oppose the proposed rule.

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SBA issues bundling regs

The Small Business Administration last month issued interim final regulations designed to limit the use of contract bundling - the consolidation of two or more federal procurements into a single prime contract.

The practice of contract bundling tends to block small businesses from competing for federal IT contracts because it often results in a prime contract that is so large that small businesses do not have the resources to support the work and therefore cannot compete, according to the SBA.

According to the regulations, for an agency to proceed with a contract bundle, it must quantify the intended benefits, such as cost savings and reduction in acquisition time. In addition, the regulations say that only the most senior procurement officials in an agency can allow a bundled contract to proceed if it fails to meet the benefit analysis requirements. The new regulations enable small businesses to band together to bid on a contract without losing their small-business status.

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Clinton signs Defense bill

President Clinton last week signed into law the $268 billion fiscal 2000 Defense appropriations bill, which provides $4.5 billion more than he requested, and vetoed the bill that would have funded the departments of Commerce, Justice and State.

In signing this year's defense appropriations bill, Clinton ensured funding for several programs the Pentagon considers critical to military readiness, including many high-tech systems used during the 78-day air war in Yugoslavia.

However, Clinton signed the bill despite the inclusion of funding for programs that, despite the Pentagon's insistence that they were not needed, Republicans in the House and Senate included in the bill.

The bill "is far from perfect," Clinton said. "The legislation is loaded with things the Pentagon didn't ask for and doesn't need."

Clinton vetoed the $39 billion appropriations bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State, leaving hanging in the balance several information technology programs, such as Commerce's Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System and the FBI's information-sharing initiative.

Clinton said he vetoed the bill "because it fails to fund the additional 50,000 community police we need to keep crime going down in our communities."

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