READERS REACT

How close is too close for contracting officers and contractors?

Let’s see if we have this right. According to the Obama administration, federal agencies would do a better job of developing good programs if they collaborated more with contractors from the beginning. But according to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), contracting officers are already getting too friendly with contractors and compromising their objectivity. What’s a contracting officer to do?

Based on the comments we received on our story about McCaskill’s concerns, most contracting officers just want to do their jobs. Here is a sampling of the comments, which have been edited for length, clarity and style.

Keep it workable

As a taxpayer, I think reviews and recommendations are necessary. As a federal contracting professional with 18-plus [years of] experience, I think her bias toward auditors is unfortunate and calls into question our entire procurement system. If the contracting officer is not the final authority, then industry will not know if the negotiations are ever final. It will create undue instability without any significant tangible improvement in processes. If auditors find COs have not struck the right bargain, then improve processes and training for COs but do not take away their authority.
— Anonymous

Let's have the auditor sign the contract — and defend it in any subsequent audit/protest. As a 17-year contracting officer, I'll be happy to assemble the file and forward it to the auditor for negotiation and award. If you want to make us clerks, say so.
— Michael McManus

Adversarial: Not good

As much as I respect and admire Sen. McCaskill's efforts to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse in federal contracting, I could not disagree more with her premise. First, contracting officers and industry should have a strategic partnership because both parties are trying to execute the same goals and objectives. Of course, government and industry have different means to achieve these goals, but it is through understanding each other and open communication that both parties will be successful. Adversarial relationships are neither objective nor productive. They just create friction and missed opportunities for successful outcomes.
— Jaime Gracia

Auditors play an important role in the acquisition process, but they are much like the devil's advocate: They look for the dirt, but they don't make the decision. Auditors’ asserted impartiality is at times as much an indication of what they don't know as it is what they do know. The good [senator] continues to give credence to the perception that contractors are crooks and cannot be trusted — unless, of course, they are doing work in her district. The best contract operates when “we” replaces “us” and “them.”
— SPMayor

Tie the knot

Long-term contractors are used and treated like employees, so it is only natural that the daily working relationship is like with other co-workers. The simplest answer, which happened around here while the insourcing push was still on, was to just hire the contractors in place and make actual employees out of them.
— Anonymous

Excuse me?

Yes, true, true. But then, Congress has contractors and lobbyists writing their legislation, so like pot and kettle, eh?
— Anonymous

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications: civic.com, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.

Featured

  • Contracting
    8 prototypes of the border walls as tweeted by CBP San Diego

    DHS contractors face protests – on the streets

    Tech companies are facing protests internally from workers and externally from activists about doing for government amid controversial policies like "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.

  • Workforce
    By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268

    At OPM, Weichert pushes direct hire, pay agent changes

    Margaret Weichert, now acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, is clearing agencies to make direct hires in IT, cyber and other tech fields and is changing pay for specialized occupations.

  • Cloud
    Shutterstock ID ID: 222190471 By wk1003mike

    IBM protests JEDI cloud deal

    As the deadline to submit bids on the Pentagon's $10 billion, 10-year warfighter cloud deal draws near, IBM announced a legal protest.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.