Show Us the Money!

The rallying around the flag (and the Defense Department) after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks appears to have faded on Capitol Hill.

DOD officials appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week were told that the $379 billion fiscal 2003 budget request, an increase of $48 billion, is a "tough sell," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.).

The Armed Services Committee may be persuaded, he said, "but you're going to have to sell it to the rest of Congress."

Bunning said the Pentagon's budget proposal doesn't go far enough. "The budget you have sent up here takes care of legacy defense...and not much else," he told Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz during a hearing.

Section Eight-Oh-What?

Remember the infamous Section 803 that was all the rage just a few months ago?

The provision, as originally proposed in the fiscal 2002 Defense authorization bill, would have required DOD contracting officers to compete all task orders of $50,000 or more among all eligible schedule contract vendors. Procurement officials acknowledged that would have essentially prohibited DOD from using most multiple-award contracts, including the General Services Administration's schedule contracts.

A more watered-down version was passed, but industry group officials warned that the devil would be in the details — how exactly would this provision be carried out?

The April 1 Federal Register included the specifics on that provision. Essentially, the draft would require service buys valued at over $100,000 to be competed among at least three vendors. It also would require that the department determine "in writing that no additional qualified contractors [can] be identified despite reasonable efforts to do so."

DOD is holding a public hearing on the draft provision April 29 in Arlington, Va. Industry group officials said that they would offer comments, but most were still reviewing the provision.

Details about the hearing and the Federal Register notice can be found at tion803.htm.

Purchase Card Probe Expands

Those hoping that the brouhaha over DOD's purchase card program would soon fade might be disappointed to hear that the investigation has been expanded to more DOD organizations.

The General Accounting Office is auditing purchase card records at sites across the services. And those will likely result in more congressional hearings with more embarrassing findings of what folks have been charging.

Rep. Steven Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee, knows about the future hearings.

DOD recently established a task force that is developing a package of fixes, including proposed legislation or administrative changes. Officials expect those remedies to be completed by June.

DOD officials still are promoting the cards as a simple way to reduce the paperwork that went with even simple purchases. "The purchase card program provides a less costly and more efficient way for DOD organizations to buy goods and services," according to DOD's Web site.

There are 207,000 cards issued throughout DOD, nearly half of them in the Army and Air Force, two services that have escaped closer inspection so far.

DOD's Web site also cites at least four cases where billing officials were held accountable for illegal or improper uses of the card, including one man who pleaded guilty to using the card in a "fraudulent scheme" and was sentenced to a year in jail and two years probation, and had to repay $120,000.

Charge carefully!

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