Section 803 remains on hold

Having already missed the deadline for instituting a new policy aimed at boosting competition in Defense Department multiple-award contract task orders, the Bush administration apparently will delay implementing the law for yet another month.

The law, generally referred to as Section 803 because of its place in the fiscal 2002 Defense authorization bill, required that DOD write a policy and have it in place by late June.

That deadline, however, disappeared when the White House sought to add a provision that would have restricted time and labor buys on the General Services Administration's schedule contracts. DOD and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy recently agreed to exclude that controversial provision, which DOD and industry officials said would make it virtually impossible for the services to operate.

With that issue resolved, many expected the final wording of the rule to be issued soon. Industry officials, however, said that they have been told that Section 803 will not be implemented until the start of the government's new fiscal year, Oct. 1.

"I'd say that DOD wants to get through the fiscal 2002 buying cycle before implementing the new rules," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, a Washington, D.C., industry group that has been tracking this issue. "That would seem to make operational sense. No need to confuse buyers at the 11th hour of the buying season with a major new rule."

He noted, however, that there would have been no grounds for confusion if OFPP had not proposed the additional provision at the last minute.

Section 803's competition provisions have been almost completely eclipsed by OFPP's proposed additions to the rule. The original provisions of Section 803 essentially require that for task orders of $100,000 or more, DOD contracting officers must notify all vendors on a multiple-award contract or notify a sufficient number of vendors in order to get three bids.

The original wording created concern among vendors and GSA officials that the provision would make it impossible for DOD to use the schedule contracts. DOD officials have noted that it is nearly impossible to notify the more than 2,600 vendors that have schedule contracts.

DOD officials have said that the final rule will focus on the actual purpose behind Section 803 — increasing competition — and requires DOD agencies to do everything they can to get three bids on task orders. Therefore, notifying all schedule contract vendors will be done only as a last resort.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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