SARA rules still taking shape

Now that the Services Acquisition Reform Act has passed into law, procurement experts are waiting to see the form of rules that will implement the law. No rules have yet been proposed.

Although the legislation is good in theory for services procurement, the wording of agencies' rules will affect the application of the act, and it could contain some pitfalls, said John Howell, a partner at Dorsey and Whitney LLP. Howell was speaking at a conference in McLean, Va., sponsored by the nonprofit trade group Coalition for Government Procurement.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, spearheaded the drive to get SARA passed for a second time last year. Although some provisions were taken out as the bill worked its way through Congress, major provisions passed.

According to the act, most agencies will have a chief acquisition officer. The government will establish a fund for acquisition workforce training. And some services procurements, those valued at under $25 million and with performance-based requirements, will be treated as streamlined acquisitions.

"It means various laws are rendered inapplicable at both the prime contract level and the subcontractor level," Howell said. "This is the incentive" to use performance-based contracting.

SARA accomplishes this by using a commercial designation for such deals. "What bothers me about this is the idea that if you do not have a performance-based [contract], that may not be deemed commercial," Howell said.

The rule enacting that part of SARA should ensure that the commercial label isn't limited, he said. "The key here is to watch the requirements process," he said. "The first rule should be, 'Do no harm.'"

Meanwhile, Davis plans to try again to get the remaining parts of SARA, including extended share-in-savings authority, passed into law, said John Brosnan, senior procurement counsel for the Government Reform Committee.

There are other matters on the agenda this year, he added, including competitive sourcing under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76. So in addition to work on SARA, "We're also thinking about some governmentwide reporting requirements," he said. "Maybe some protest rights for federal employees that lose an [A-76] competition."

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.