Feds increase noncompetitive contract spending

A congressional report shows that the federal government spent 60 percent more on noncompetitive contracts in fiscal 2003 than in the last year of the Clinton administration.

The Bush administration entered into 43,131 contracts, worth $107 billion, in fiscal 2003 without full and open competition. That's a 60 percent increase over the $67 billion spent on such contracts in the final year of the Clinton administration.

The report was prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee.

"The statistics in the report are not as compelling as the image of using private contractors to conduct military interrogations, but they are two sides of the same coin," Waxman said in a statement. "Increasingly, the administration is turning over essential government functions to the private sector, and it has jettisoned basic safeguards like competition and supervision that are needed to protect the public interest."

According to the report, the military spent the most on noncompetitive contracts in fiscal 2003, a total of $78 billion. Noncompetitive awards accounted for half of the Navy's contracts and 53 percent each for the Army and the Air Force.

The report concluded that the government has increased the use of single-award indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, in which a single vendor is selected to provide a range of goods and services as needed. In fiscal 2003, agencies issued 15,800 such contracts worth $5.9 billion, an increase of $1.7 billion, or 40 percent, compared to the final year of the Clinton administration.

The study did not consider multiple-award contracts such as the General Services Administration's schedule contracts to be noncompetitive.

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