DOD seeks input on nontraditional contractors

Defense Department officials want to assess whether they’ve gone beyond traditional defense contractors to buy products and services from a wider variety of companies. However, they’re not sure how to collect the necessary information and are seeking input from industry, according to an April 21 Federal Register notice.

DOD is seeking a good way to define nontraditional defense contractors, the notice states. The Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation defines nontraditional defense contractors as companies that have worked with DOD but not through a contract, grant or agreement that is subject to the DFAR for a period of at least one year. Also, a company must not have held a defense or other contract worth more than $500,000 for prototype projects for that same amount of time.

In the notice, officials ask whether they should base the revised definition on the percentage of a company’s business devoted to defense contracts vs. commercial work. For example, should DOD consider a company nontraditional if 90 percent of its sales revenue is based in the commercial sector and 10 percent in the defense sector?

Officials also asked whether contractors should be allowed to certify themselves via the Central Contractor Registration database based on an established definition so contracting officers don’t have to consider each company’s status individually.

The current definition of a nontraditional defense contractor is rooted in research and development projects, which often involve experiments, demonstrations and work on weapons systems, the notice states. Officials said they believe the definition’s narrow scope might no longer be appropriate and want to expand the term to reflect the various types of defense procurements possible under existing regulations.

In recent years, procurement regulators have adjusted purchasing rules to give departments and agencies more flexibility to seek out better prices, boost competition and buy new technologies. Government buyers can streamline their purchases and follow procedures that more closely mirror commercial practices.

Since the 1970s, DOD has encouraged its buyers to reach out to the commercial marketplace, and panels and commissions through the years have continued that push. In January 2001, DOD required its agencies to develop plans aimed at increasing the number of commercial items bought using simplified acquisition procedures and other new approaches. Once a departmentwide standard is established, DOD can see if that effort has been successful, the notice states.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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