Week in Review

WWF: Procurement edition

When Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, spoke to an Industry Advisory Council audience last week, it started so innocuously. She spoke, as she often does, about her goal of making GSA the pre-eminent home for government procurement.

Then she accepted a question from "the lady in the back." Unbeknownst to Doan, the lady in the back was Federal Computer Week publisher Anne Armstrong, a former FCW editor in chief. Armstrong now works on the business side and did not attend the event on behalf of the editorial staff. Her question to Doan about competition among government contracts is one that has been on the minds of vendors.

Doan has proposed that GSA be the government contracting shop, and she has asked the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to end NASA's popular Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement (SEWP) program.

"Some of us," Armstrong said, "have been around in this marketplace [long enough] to remember the Brooks era when everything went through GSA, and there is a certain feeling now that we may be going back to Brooks because everything would be concentrated in GSA. Some people believe that competition like SEWP provides for the customer a better level of service. Do you think there is a place for competition in the acquisition community?"

Doan was critical of the question, calling it "loaded" and "a trick question." There is no need for governmentwide acquisition contracts, she argued. "This is not competition. If you think that is competition, you have totally misconstrued what competition is about. What that is is duplication," she said.

Competition is when organizations take different approaches to a problem and the market can determine which one is better. "NASA is just duplicating what GSA is doing," she said.

You can listen to the exchange for yourself on FCW.com's Download, but agree or disagree, it is a fascinating subject for debate. And the discussion that resulted from this seemingly innocuous question makes it clear that, 10 years into procurement reform, many people are nervous about what the future may hold.

Other noteworthy news

A lack of authority and a diversion of resources to crises such as Hurricane Katrina have weakened the Homeland Security Department's acquisition oversight program, the Government Accountability Office reported.... The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall of more than 500,000 rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries used in Lenovo ThinkPad laptop computers.... The Army National Guard and the Defense Department awarded SRA International two task orders with a combined value of more than $200 million for the GuardNet XXI enterprise network and other data infrastructure services.... A House/Senate conference committee raised fiscal 2007 funding for DHS nearly $3 billion more than the amount President Bush requested, with more than half of the increase going for new and expanded border-protection initiatives.... Some information technology programs suffered cuts in the final version of DOD's fiscal 2007 budget, but other IT programs moved from the base budget to a bridge fund intended for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.... The Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Business Transformation Agency took modest hits to their operations and maintenance budgets in the final version of the 2007 Defense Appropriations bill.... The final version of the fiscal 2007 Defense Appropriations bill slashed $40 million from the operations and maintenance budget of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.... A bill that Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) introduced, which requires all federal agencies to strengthen their protection of sensitive information, passed the House and moved to the Senate.... An inspector general recommended that the Transportation Department terminate a Federal Aviation Administration support services contracting program and instead consider using governmentwide acquisition contracts administered by GSA.

A roundup of the week's news, complete with links to the original stories, can be found on FCW.com Download's Week in Review.



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