Davis debuts ASIA (née SARA)

The elements of the Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA) of 2003 that didn't pass last year are back in the form of the Acquisition System Improvement Act (ASIA). Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, introduced the legislation last week.

ASIA would create an exchange program so that acquisition professionals in companies and agencies could temporarily trade places. It would encourage share-in-savings contracting through new initiatives and require agencies to design redundant telecommunications systems to improve security.

"The themes remain the same," said David Marin, communications director for the committee. The themes are: "Provide better training for acquisition employees so they can better manage ever-more-complex procurements and give them access to cutting-edge contracting vehicles that work best for the given acquisition."

Advocates of Davis' proposed reforms applaud the latest bill, which is one more step on a path that Davis has been following for years.

"Davis is to be commended," said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. "He's one of the true good government representatives we have out there who is truly trying to improve the procurement process."

His work is difficult, Mather said, because too many people believe that procurement reform was finished with the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act in 1996.

"Acquisition reform is a tough sell," he said. "People think we've already reformed acquisition [and say], 'Oh, that was the 1990s, we've done that.' "

The measures that are part of ASIA failed in SARA for a variety of reasons, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council. In some cases, there wasn't enough time for members of Congress to reach a workable compromise, and in others, there was misinformation that led the debate astray, he said.

"The major provisions of this bill make eminent sense," Soloway said. "They

provide additional incentives for performance and they provide additional

accountability."

Marin said removing items from SARA was simply part of the normal course for developing complex legislation. However, he said that the exchange program and enhanced share-in-savings authority are "common-sense items."

Officials from the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, have been especially critical of share-in-savings, calling it a "speculative and unproven financing scheme" that could allow contractors to overcharge agencies.

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ASIA specs

Among the provisions of the Acquisition System Improvement Act:

Create simplified acquisition procedures for commercial items.

Allow agency-level acquisition protests.

Consolidate various agency boards of contract appeals into two boards, one at the Defense Department and one at the General Services Administration.

Source: House Government Reform Committee

RELATEDLINKS

More ASIA specs

Text of ASIA

"Davis reiterates reform agenda" [FCW.com, Feb. 4, 2004]

"SARA rules still taking shape" [FCW.com, Jan. 28, 2004]

"Acquisition reform gets through conference" [FCW.com, Nov. 7, 2003]

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