Contracting reform bill heads to Senate

Acquisition reforms moved forward today when the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee easily approved the Senate’s version of the Accountability in Contracting Act, which would institute far-reaching reforms.

The bill would create a position within the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to lead workforce programs. The person in that job would supervise training, oversee an intern program and help build a strategic plan for the contracting workforce. The bill would authorize appropriators to give $5 million in fiscal 2008 and 2009 to the workforce training fund.

The challenges facing the contracting workforce have garnered top acquisition officials’ and legislators’ attention. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the bill’s sponsor, said such challenges are the most significant problems agencies face when it comes to contracting. In addition to a shortage of employees, the Federal Acquisition Institute’s annual workforce report found that the average retirement eligibility for contracting professionals will increase from 29 percent in fiscal 2011 to 50 percent in 2016, and those figures are higher at some agencies.

The legislation would also permit protests on task or delivery orders of more than $5 million, but it would allow OFPP to set a different threshold within a range of $5 million to $25 million.

On another front, the bill would require business cases and the agency leader’s approval for new indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts. The bill would also mandate reviews of interagency contracts to prevent abuses.

The committee removed a provision addressing the role of inspectors general and will work on it separately.

The committee also approved former Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) as director of the Office of Management and Budget, but it delayed action on the Telework Enhancement Act.

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