Reform still needs work, feds say

During the coming year, agencies must ensure that they fully understand and comply with acquisition regulations to forestall action from Congress that could take away all the benefits of reform, federal officials said Feb. 12.

Last year, Congress proposed several bills to counteract the lax management of competition on multiple-award contracts, such as a bill to curtail further outsourcing until agencies fully prove its benefits. Many in Congress, the General Accounting Office, and past and current administrations have expressed concern that agencies are bypassing the competition rules in favor of quick awards.

These actions in Congress make it clear that agencies must take seriously the threat that "if you don't follow these rules — they're simple rules — you're going to lose the tools," said David Drabkin, deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy at the General Services Administration, speaking at the GSA Federal Supply Service's Professional Services Expo in Washington, D.C.

Acquisition reform did produce many concrete benefits, such as the ability to procure necessary goods and services within hours and days instead of weeks and months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

But some agencies remain in "the procurement backwater" and do not understand how to use the tools and regulations offered by acquisition reform, Styles said. This became evident after Sept. 11, when OFPP had to assign members of its staff to help agencies that did not have the acquisition expertise needed to function in that environment, she said.

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