Lee spreads 'Get It Right' gospel

Deidre Lee, director of procurement and acquisition policy at the Defense Department, continued her campaign to alert agency officials and contractors to the new "Get It Right" program.

Get It Right is the General Services Administration's campaign to prevent abuse of contracting vehicles. As GSA's largest customer, DOD plays a major role in the initiative, Lee said today at a conference hosted by the Coalition for Government Procurement.

The immediate catalyst for GSA's launch of the program was the recent revelation that CACI International Inc. had supplied prison interrogators in Iraq through an information technology contract with the Interior Department.

GSA "has been working on this for a while," she said. "But as with everything, things come to a head for a reason."

In a mid-July finding, Interior's inspector general determined that the department's personnel misused both the IT and professional engineering GSA schedule contracts to supply the interrogators.

Of that incident Lee said: "Nothing fraudulent was done. It was people trying to get what they needed to support the mission."

However, she added, the government "didn't really serve our customer well, because that same customer who needed the interrogators is now having to explain."

The initiative, which Lee and GSA Administrator Stephen Perry recently announced, will add additional layers of contract review, post-award analysis and other safeguards to prevent abuses. She emphasized that the goal is not to curtail flexibility in procurement.

"I've heard some people say we're going back on contract reform" and returning to a time when agencies strictly enforced rigid rules, she said. But, Lee said, that's not what's happening.

Instead, she encouraged the audience, mostly made up of contractors, to continue to use the GSA schedules, GSA's Federal Technology Service, governmentwide acquisition contracts and other contract vehicles to do business with agencies. "But do it right," she said.

The program for DOD includes two major components, Lee said:

* Before DOD officials can use a non-DOD contract, they must conduct an internal review to ensure that the contract is the best option. That applies to both services and supplies.

* After a contract award is made, department officials will hold a post-award review to consider whether the best choice was made and what they might do differently in the future.

Steve Kelman, former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said in a separate interview that the Get It Right program is likely to continue to inspire fears unless Lee and other officials are careful with the message they give.

"I think it's extremely important that GSA and DOD [officials] take care that they do not signal to the procurement workforce that we are heading back to a bygone era where the only job of the procurement people is to police the community and ensure rule compliance," said Kelman, now a professor at Harvard University. "Unless GSA and DOD [officials] are very careful about the message they convey, they're going to frighten and demoralize the workforce."

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