DOD gives new guidance on conflicts of interest

Officials choose resolving conflicts while promoting competition and preserving access to expertise

The Defense Department’s contracting officers now have clearer guidance on how to handle conflicts of interest in a way that will help them get unbiased industry advice on programs.

In a major revision, the final rule on organizational conflicts of interest tells contracting officers to minimize the risk of conflicts in a variety of ways but cautions against limiting the pool of potential advisers by using broad restrictions. DOD officials want their agencies to solve those predicaments in ways that promote competition and preserve access to contractors’ expertise.

That is a change from the initial proposal, released in April. At that time, DOD wanted contracting officers to use mitigation to resolve conflicts. But several industry groups and experts said DOD officials were not clear enough in that proposal and didn’t meet Congress’ intent for protecting the government.

After reviewing comments on its proposal, DOD officials said a formal preference for mitigation might not have been the best strategy because it could have unintentionally encouraged contracting officers to make decisions without considering all the facts and information.

Related stories:

DOD proposes new conflict of interest rules

7 do's and 1 don't for avoiding conflicts of interest

The Professional Services Council said government officials would not have supported the mitigation strategies that companies proposed.

DOD’s rules on organizational conflicts of interest went into effect in late December.

In the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, Congress required DOD to create uniform guidance on conflicts of interest and tighten existing requirements.

A number of comments on the proposed rule brought up the issue of where to place the regulation in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations System. Some experts thought it belonged in the section on improper business practices, but several said it fit best in the Contractor Qualifications section because the rule deals with a company’s responsibilities as a business partner with the government.

Officials decided to put the rule in the Contractor Qualifications section but said the placement does not lend credence to the idea that a conflict of interest is in the same category as criminal conduct.

They cautioned that another proposed rule regarding employee conflicts of interest might require them to relocate the new rule.

About the Author

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

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group