House OKs simplified acquisitions

Acquisition Streamlining Improvement Act

The House passed a bill April 9 that would extend a pilot program allowing agencies to award small contracts for commercial products quicker and with less documentation than standard contracts.

The Acquisition Streamlining Improvement Act gives another two years to the simplified acquisition procedures pilot program authorized in the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.

That program allowed for shorter deadlines on solicitations and cut back on government-unique requirements. It also gave agency contracting officers "greater discretion to select the most advantageous offer for the government and to do so in a businesslike manner," Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said in a statement Tuesday supporting the bill on the House floor.

The Clinger-Cohen pilot program is set to expire Jan. 1, 2003, and last year officials at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy asked Congress to make the authority permanent.

A 1999 OFPP survey of federal procurement executives concluded that the simplified procedures had a positive impact on agencies, and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, agencies often used the procedures to quickly acquire equipment and services, said Davis, who is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

However, a 2001 General Accounting Office review of the pilot program found no evidence that the method had saved agencies any time or money.

As part of the extension, the bill adds a requirement for GAO to report to Congress by March 1, 2004, on:

* The effectiveness of the simplified acquisition procedures.

* How much agencies reduced the time and cost to award contracts by using the procedures.

* Whether those reduced costs also brought agencies the best-value solutions.

* Recommendations for improving the procedures.

Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) is the other co-sponsor of the bill, which now goes to the Senate for confirmation.

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