Obama: Big changes coming in federal contracting

President Barack Obama said he wants an overhaul of government contracting and signed a presidential memorandum to launch the effort today.

“It’s time for this waste and inefficiency to end,” he said at a news conference. “It’s time for a government that only invests in what works.”

Obama said the Office of Management and Budget will issue governmentwide guidance by Sept. 30 on the appropriate use and oversight of sole-source and other types of noncompetitive contracts. But he added that he wants to see more full and open competition for contracts.

By July 1, OMB will develop more detailed guidance to help agencies review their existing contracts to identify wasteful ones that are unlikely to meet their needs, the memo states.

Obama said he wants agencies to better oversee all types of contracts and carefully consider the agencies’ needs before signing any deal. The changes would minimize the risks for government and boost the value of contracts, he said.

“We will end unnecessary no-bid contracts and cost-plus contracts that run up the bill that is paid by the American people,” he said. The reforms would save the government $40 billion each year, he added.

Obama also wants to clarify when it’s appropriate to outsource federal work and help agencies find the appropriate size and experience for the federal employees who develop and oversee acquisitions.

Obama focused largely on defense contracting but said the reforms will span all agencies. He cited a 2008 Government Accountability Office study of 95 Defense Department weapon programs that found cost overruns of $295 billion and average delays of 21 months.

“I can assure you that this will be a priority for my administration," Obama said. "It’s time to end the extra costs and long delays that are all too common in our defense contracting.”

Obama said he wants agencies to enter into contracts that will bring value, adding that agencies have wasted money through poor planning while giving contractors ample opportunities to take advantage of the government.
 
“It is essential that the federal government have the capacity to carry out robust and thorough management and oversight of its contracts,” the memo states.

About the Author

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

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