DOD contracting practices stifle competition

Despite Congressional mandates designed to promote fair competition among

contractors vying for Defense Department information technology contracts,

the Pentagon has routinely awarded large task order contracts to incumbent

contractors without inviting other vendors to compete, according to a recent

study by the General Accounting Office.

According to the GAO report released this week, 16 of the 22 large task

and delivery order IT contracts reviewed, together worth about $443.7 million,

were awarded to incumbent contractors without other vendors being given

a fair chance to compete for the work.

As early as 1993, Congress, through the Federal Acquisition Streamlining

Act (FASA), specifically sought to promote competition by establishing a

preference for awarding task and delivery order contracts to multiple vendors

rather than a single company. In addition, guidance published by the Office

of Federal Procurement Policy states that follow-on orders should not be

substantially broader in scope or dollar value than the original order.

But GAO uncovered several examples where DOD agencies violated the spirit

and letter of the guidance. In one case involving a $149 million contract

awarded by the General Services Administration to support Army communications

systems, Army officials had not held meetings with contractors other than

the incumbent to explain their requirements. In another non-competitive

follow-on award, the National Institutes of Health awarded an incumbent

contractor a 45-month, $32.1 million task order as "a logical" follow-on

to an original $1.6 million order.

Agencies also used practices that were not designed to elicit competing

proposals, according to GAO. For example, an Air Force intelligence command

asked contractors to submit proposals for a follow-on contract within two

days. Command representatives told GAO that the purpose of the contract

was to ascertain the services of a specific employee of the incumbent contractor.

Documents also indicate that the command planned to award the order to the

incumbent contractor before the opportunity was announced, according to


"In some cases, it was apparent that incumbent contractors have an inherent

advantage in competing for an order," according to the GAO report.

GAO has recommended that OFPP clarify its guidance to agency contracting

officials and encourage greater "outreach activities" that would alert vendors

to contracting opportunities.


  • Defense
    Soldiers from the Old Guard test the second iteration of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) capability set during an exercise at Fort Belvoir, VA in Fall 2019. Photo by Courtney Bacon

    IVAS and the future of defense acquisition

    The Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System has been in the works for years, but the potentially multibillion deal could mark a paradigm shift in how the Defense Department buys and leverages technology.

  • Cybersecurity
    Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff)

    Mayorkas announces cyber 'sprints' on ransomware, ICS, workforce

    The Homeland Security secretary announced a series of focused efforts to address issues around ransomware, critical infrastructure and the agency's workforce that will all be launched in the coming weeks.

Stay Connected