Buzz of the Week: Procurement deja vu

Procurement deja vu
If Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep last year and awakened last week, he surely would have felt the deja vu. The big issues of the week ended up being retreads of ones that have been much discussed for…years.

The big one came up at the confirmation hearing of Jim Williams, nominated to be the administrator of the General Services Administration. The dominant topic: Sun Microsystems and the GSA schedule contract it canceled last year.

There are two questions to the Sun controversy. One: Did the government get bilked because Sun was offering lower prices to commercial customers despite the schedule contract requirement that vendors offer the government the prices they offer their best customers? And, two: Was there any interference by GSA officials to get Sun’s schedule contract issues resolved?

Williams seemed very well prepared for the topic, which was not surprising considering how much debate it’s already spawned. To the first issue, Williams said that he continues to believe that the schedule contract that was eventually negotiated between GSA contracting officials and Sun was fair for the government and that he was — and is — willing to walk away from any contract with any vendor that is not fair for the government. “I believe I made it clear that if we didn’t get a good deal, we would walk way,” Williams told lawmakers.

For the second part of the question, Williams said he did not feel that he was improperly involved in the Sun issues — although he said he would do some things differently if he had it to do over again. He emphasized that he believes that if the government did not get the best prices, that ought to be rectified. “If [a company has] done something to cheat the taxpayer, go after them,” Williams said.

The other deja vu topic was former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, who got a new gig this past week as a radio commentator on Washington, D.C.’s Federal News Radio. In WFED’s press release, it noted that Doan has been described “as controversial, outspoken, a contrarian, a catalyst, a breath of fresh air, and an inside Washington outsider.” Lisa Wolfe, the station’s program director, said, “Those characteristics make her a perfect fit for commentary and analysis on Federal News Radio.”

Wrapping both of these issues together, as if on cue on Thursday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, raised questions about the necessity of the Doan-created Multiple Award Schedule Contract Advisory Panel. The group was created to provide some assessment of the schedule contracts and how they might be improved. Waxman questioned whether such an assessment was necessary.

Who knows what might happen if Rip were to sleep for another year.

Editor’s note: FCW’s parent, 1105 Government Information Group, and WFED’s parent company, Bonneville International Corp., have a content partnership.


#2: Conan: Fiscal disciplinarian
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has drafted an order that would temporarily reduce the pay of approximately 200,000 state workers to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 an hour. The pay cut would remain in place until the governor and the state legislature have agreed on a budget, at which point employees would receive the wages, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The maneuver is like that scene in “Conan the Barbarian” where Conan, played by Schwarzenegger, fights the giant snake in the pit, except this time Arnold is fully dressed and there’s no snake...OK, it’s really not like that scene at all, but you have to admit, that was cool.

#3: A Monster of an opportunity
Veteran-owned small businesses can now post job openings for veterans, including service-disabled veterans, on at a discounted rate. The job openings will be posted for 60 days, twice as long as for other employers.

It’s thanks to a deal that the Veterans Affairs Department struck with Monster Government Solutions. The Monster mash-up may be a small bit of help, but every bit counts.

#4: Internet of the future
Imagine a soldier’s ammo pack that can send a message to the soldier and back to base when supplies run low. That’s one of the many possibilities that IPv6 opens up, according to Pete Tseronis, senior technical adviser in the Energy Department’s CIO office and chairman of the CIO Council’s IPv6 Working Group.

Of course, the gulf between imagination and reality is wide, but it’s time to think ahead, Tseronis said. And oh, maybe they can do it for your refrigerator, too — one day soon it’ll e-mail you to remind you to pick up milk.

#5: Risky list-ness
The Office of Management and Budget’s list of high-risk technology projects got a little shorter in OMB’s latest quarterly update, but that’s not the point. According to Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and information technology at OMB, the list’s purpose is to keep track of projects that are especially mission-critical, and/or require greater-than-average vigilance.

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