Letter to the editor

Following is a response to an FCW.com poll question that asked: "Is it possible to have a fair competition between public and private groups bidding for the same work?"

Can bidding to provide outsourced contracts be fair?

While this is a hypothetical question, I can see several scenarios where the outsourcing provider desires a biased outcome.

First, let's assume that the extra overhead to prepare the bid is identical. Likely it won't be since the federal group will be required to provide statuses and report to many more stakeholders than an outside vendor would.

Now, let's look at reasons for deviations in the bid outcome (unfairnesses?):

* Secondary sell expectations. As an outsource supplier with large involvement in equipment, I may cut my project costs to a minimum in the expectation of selling equipment that my deliverables will dictate. Internal government staffs will not have that "advantage."

* Unrealistic low bids. I may bid the job low just to get the job of maintaining a system that I have delivered and have the only people skilled in its development and maintenance.

Or I may underbid to get my foot in the door, gambling that I will get follow-up work or the hiring agency will drop its internal capacity to do the work (thus being at my mercy in the future).

Or I may underbid because I have staff that I would retain and get bench pay otherwise.

Remember, the government group will be attempting to prepare an "honest" bid, while the outsourcers are attempting to get the job.

Finally, I may underbid to achieve a strategic victory over a competitor I'm either trying to buy or run out of business (to give two plausible reasons).

Kenneth Harvey U.S. Postal Service


We welcome your comments. To send a letter to the editor, use this form.

Please check out the archive of Letters to the Editor for fellow readers' comments.


  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.