Editorial: The case for the status quo

If elected president, would Sen. John McCain ban the use of cost-plus-award fee contracts as a matter of administration policy?

Not likely. But McCain raised the issue during the first presidential debate, saying the federal government could save money by switching to fixed-price contracts. This prompted a slew of letters from government contracting officers explaining why McCain’s idea was very misguided.

It is probably fair to assume that McCain would hear similar, if perhaps more polite, explanations from his advisers, and the proposition would be quickly forgotten. But perhaps not.

That possibility, however slight, is what makes presidential transitions so nerve-racking for the federal community.

The coming transition could be especially trying for career executives because they have had eight years working under Bush administration policies and initiatives — the President’s Management Agenda, competitive sourcing, lines of business and others.

Now everything will be up for grabs, as a new administration comes in looking to make its mark.
For career feds, the challenge is to find a way to convince the new team to preserve initiatives that are worth preserving — and to avert policies, such as banning cost-plus contracts, that are based on a superficial understanding of complex issues.

The Office of Management and Budget, in fact, might have provided feds with the key: Speak in terms of the business case.

After eight years, the executive branch has collected a significant amount of fodder for anyone looking to assess the performance of any given policy.

The administration has never been shy about giving that data its own spin as a way to promote competitive sourcing, for example, or the lines of business.

Come next Jan. 20, though, such spin is useless.

How would those initiatives fare when someone with no vested political interest reviews the data?
Some programs will be an easier sell than others.

For example, the case for SmartBuy is likely to be fairly clear.

Analysts should have no problem determining whether the governmentwide licensing program has saved money or not.

Feds might have a more difficult time conveying the complexities of the lines of business.
Still, good data, combined with sound business analysis, can speak volumes. 

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