Congress may renew contract bundling fight

The failure of a controversial provision on contract bundling to clear the last session of Congress has industry representatives sighing with relief, but proponents say they're determined to bring it up again in the 107th Congress.

Bundled contracts combine several small contracts into one large one. Advocates say bundling saves agencies time and money; opponents believe it cuts small businesses out of procurement opportunities.

Section 810 of the House's version of the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 2000 would have required agencies wanting to recompete bundled contracts to submit their solicitations to the Small Business Administration for review, which opponents said would have delayed acquisitions significantly.

"It would have just added more time and paperwork to the process," said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division. "A provision like that would have slowed down the acquisition process."

The ITAA and other groups had lobbied against the provision. It passed the House but was dropped during conference committee meetings.

Grkavac said there's a good chance the provision will have support again this year. "I think it is still alive and well," she said. "This type of provision could certainly surface again in the 107th Congress."

A spokeswoman for Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Small Business and a supporter of the provision, said small business advocates in Congress will continue efforts to ensure that agencies meet their small business procurement goals — and that may require SBA oversight on bundled contracts.

"We'll be pushing for those kinds of reasonable reviews" in the 107th Congress, said Barbara Warner, a spokeswoman for Velazquez.

The final authorization bill did include a requirement for collecting information on bundling's impact. The idea is "to start gathering some data so that some long-term decisions can be made about this manner of procurement," said Darryl Hairston, deputy associate deputy administrator for government contracting and business development at SBA.

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