Rule banning brand-name specs gets teeth

Second memo in 12 months requires written justification

Second memo in 12 months requires written justification

A year ago, the administration warned agencies against using brand names in contract solicitations.

To microprocessor makers such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the regulation means agencies’ requests for proposals worth more than $25,000 cannot specify Intel Corp.’s processors, for example, unless the agency can justify the need for a certain brand.

The Office of Management and Budget recently released a memorandum that adds some muscle to the regulation. While the existing guidance has the force of law, OMB has taken the additional step of starting a rule-making process for the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

“We, of course, are going to be happy because there are not going to be as many Intel-only specifications published by government contracts,” said Steve Kester, manager of government affairs for AMD.

“The new requirement is simply saying you should follow the current regulation and not use brand names,” Kester said. “And if there is going to be a brand name used, you need to justify it and clearly explain why a specific brand produced by a single company, as opposed to allowing free and open competition.”

OMB in April 2005 issued a memo requiring contracting officers to post their explanations for asking for brand-name products on Officials said then that it was about fairness and efficiency.

Last year, officials said specifying a brand name goes against the FAR, and noted that there were enough instances that a policy reminder and requirement to list written justifications on the Web was necessary.

This latest memo will add focus on the regulation and likely affect other areas of government buying, such as office electronics, experts said.

The Air Force and Army, and the Agriculture and Commerce departments have adhered to the new regulation, Kester said.

“But there remain a number of agencies that ... are continuing to issue those brand-name specifications,” he said.

Intel and OMB were not immediately available for comment.

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Government Computer News’ sister publication, Washington Technology.

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