More acquisition reforms coming in defense spending bill

Government contracting desperately needs oversight and reform, especially regarding the contracting workforce and small-business support, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said today.

Moran said he intends to include such changes in the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee put Moran in charge of working on the reforms.

His main concern is that as the number of contracts grows, the number of contracting officers shrinks. “The biggest problem we have now, as far as I am concerned, is…the number of contracting officers is half of what they were six years ago,” Moran said in a speech at the FedSources Federal Outlook Conference. “The number of contracts is twice as much.”

More government employees should be scrutinizing contracts, Moran added. “We have got, as far as I am concerned, to move people from the private sector into the public sector to provide those inherently governmental functions,” he said.

Others in government recognize problems with contracting. In March, the House passed the Accountability in Contracting Act, introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). The bill, which is now in the Senate’s hands, would make it tougher for workers to move from the private to public sectors. Although Moran voted for the legislation, he said it’s not enough. The reforms he plans to add to the appropriations bill would make the act’s cumbersome oversight rules unnecessary, Moran added. He would not elaborate because the subcommittee chairman first must accept any provision.

The government must also rethink compensation. The difference in pay between management jobs in the public sector and private sector is 32 percent, leaving public managers grossly underpaid, Moran said.

“Somehow we have to rectify that situation,” he said, adding that he may use General Services Administration employees to help the Defense Department with its contracting.

GSA and DOD officials are working resolve their differences and past problems regarding contracts.

Moran also wants more government support for small business. Ninety percent of the companies receiving small-business set-aside contracts will go out of business, he said. The government hinders small businesses from transitioning to midsize, he added.

“The more you prosper, the more likely you are to reach the point where you’re at an unsustainable level, and that’s got to change,” he said.

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