Sorting keys to reform

Office of Federal Procurement Policy

The Office of Management and Budget is developing a plan to refine the federal

procurement process, keyed to recommendations from a yearlong governmentwide

study handed to the agency last month.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy commissioned the study, which

was conducted by the independent Information Technology Resources Board.

The study reviews changes brought about by acquisition reform measures such

as the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 and the Clinger- Cohen

Act of 1996.

Congress and OMB officials had expressed concern about the effectiveness

of the changes and wanted to know what improvements could be made.

The ITRB came up with nine recommendations, which OFPP will combine

with input from industry and other agency reviews, said Kenneth Oscar, acting

deputy administrator of OFPP.

"We'll take these recommendations and other peoples' recommendations

and bring them together into a single plan for implementation" for future

regulation, guidance and training, Oscar said. The agency will submit the

plan to Congress by January.

The ITRB recommendations shift the focus of contracting to the business-

oriented decision-making process that OFPP, the General Services Administration

and Congress have been stressing that agencies must use. Whether creating

an interagency contract in the best interests of the agencies or deciding

to use another agency's existing contract, the focus is on making informed

decisions, not just the easiest ones, Oscar said.

"We want to make sure you're just not buying blindly off a schedule,"

he said.

Often, the issue is better education to ensure that agencies understand,

said Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement,

an industry association that represents more than 300 firms in the federal

market. Many coalition members on GSA's Federal Supply Service schedule

have found that agencies are so happy using the quick-and-easy procurements

that they don't consider the details, he said.

"If there is a concern with abuses, it probably stems from a need to

make sure that people are using a good contract correctly," Allen said.

One key ITRB recommendation is to make sure that both the agency managing

the contract and the agency buying off the contract understand their responsibilities

in the acquisition process, Oscar said. This ranges from knowing how to

develop a performance-based statement of work to meeting small-business

goals.

OFPP's implementation plan likely will include a new requirement that

calls for something to be written into each contract describing "who is

doing what," he said.

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