Waxman reforms ride on DOD bill

The tried-and-true strategy may not work without Senate and president’s support

White House Statement of Administration Policy for House DOD Authorization Act

Rep. Henry Waxman took the road most traveled to get his Accountability in Contracting Act passed by the full House and seriously considered by the Senate. The California Democrat, who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, attached most of his bill to the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization Act. The House passed the authorization bill May 17.

Lawmakers routinely use DOD authorization legislation to push major procurement reforms into law, and Waxman did so to have the Senate consider contracting reform provisions. The House passed Waxman’s entire Accountability in Contracting Act as a stand-alone bill March 15, but the Senate has not acted on it. The Senate Armed Services Committee marked up its version of the Defense Authorization Act last week, and at press time, it was doubtful any provisions similar to those in Waxman’s bill would be included.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, introduced the Accountability in Government Contracting Act, which is similar to Waxman’s bill, Feb. 17. But the committee has not acted on the legislation, and Collins has no plans to follow Waxman’s lead by attaching it to the DOD bill. Collins’ spokeswoman said the DOD legislation is not the appropriate vehicle. She said the committee would likely pass Collins’ bill sometime this summer.

“I’m not sure I would write off these as stand-alone bills,” said Alan Chvotkin, general counsel at the Professional Services Council. “The Senate could report their bill and then go to conference without going through DOD.”

The Senate expects to pass its DOD authorization bill after the Memorial Day recess. A conference committee would need to sort out the differences in the House and Senate bills, and congressional and Bush administration leaders would need to negotiate several of the provisions.

Administration officials have opposed several procurement provisions in the House DOD authorization bill, including its Buy American language, limitations on competitive sourcing and contract reporting requirements for vendors and agencies.

Waxman said his reform provisions are necessary because agencies need to increase their oversight of contractors. He said private-sector workers have become a shadow government, and agencies must hire more employees to manage them.
DOD bill could curb outsourcingProvisions in the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2008, which passed the House, would change several acquisition and outsourcing practices.

Here are highlights of those provisions. 

  • Section 325 — Defense Department managers could determine after five years whether to re-compete work that federal employees won under A-76 competitions.
  • Section 326 — DOD would develop guidance for bringing work in-house that had previously been outsourced. No additional public/private competitions could be held until DOD issued the guidance.
  • Section 328 — DOD would not have to meet any quotas for A-76 competitions and would make all decisions about outsourcing without directions or requirements from the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Section 802 — The acquisition workforce training fund would become permanent.
  • Section 803 — DOD would update its guidance on interagency contracting.
  • Section 806 — DOD could no longer award contracts for lead systems integrator functions as of October 2011 and would have to submit a plan by October 2008 showing how it would adjust its workforce to handle additional program management responsibilities.
— Jason Miller

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