Lee joins reconstruction effort

The Coalitional Provisional Authority-Iraq Web site

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Deidre Lee, the Pentagon's top procurement official, is joining the Coalition Provisional Authority to assist with reconstruction in Iraq.

Lee will help craft the coalition office's policies for awarding contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and to restore basic services. Lee announced her new job today at the Performance-based Acquisitions conference in Tysons Corner, Va. The conference is sponsored by the FCW Media Group.

"I'm going to go work in the back office to make sure we get the contracting done right," Lee said. "We hope to get Congressional support for the supplemental budget. We have to make sure people know what we're doing, how we're doing it, and why."

Lee will work for the provisional authority "as long as it takes" before returning to her current position, she said. Domenic Cipicchio, the director of policy in Lee's office, will be the acting director of defense procurement.

"I'm going to go [to the authority] first to assess the situation for about a month, through the end of November," she said. "I will try to make sure we understand what needs to be done. Then I'll either be invited to stay or not."

Lee said she will oversee some reconstruction contracts to make sure the authority is spending the money "correctly and transparently."

The Bush administration recently requested $87 billion in supplemental funding, much of it earmarked for reconstruction. Congress will likely provide funding, but with some strings attached.

Concerned that the White House or Pentagon will simply direct work to favored firms, lawmakers will require that all contracts associated with reconstruction be awarded after full and open competition.

One cause for concern is Halliburton, an oil and construction firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, which in the past has received numerous contracts to support U.S. forces abroad. Lee mentioned Halliburton in her remarks, saying reports that the company received contracts that hadn't been competed were false.

"Halliburton was competed," she said. "They won the contract and beat out the incumbent."

But the "full and open" requirement raises numerous questions, according to Lee. For example, will the coalition office be able to set aside contracts for small businesses? And does the requirement rule out use of the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Schedule?

They know there are lots of issues to navigate and "they want to use the total suite of procurement tools," said Lee.

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