Senators try to block politics from procurement

A Senate panel moved June 17 to block information on political contributions from entering the government’s procurement process.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would bar any rule that forces companies that bid on federal contracts to say who they supported financially.

In April, the Obama administration had started circulating a proposed executive order that would require contractors to submit information about political contributions from companies and company executives.

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The proposed order upset many members of Congress.

“The president’s proposed policy would give the appearance that federal government contracts are related to political contributions,” said Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has been against the rule since it was initially reported.

In a Senate hearing in May, Dan Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, would not give his opinion on the proposed order because the order is only in a draft form. However, he did say the evaluations of companies’ bids should be objective, and would not be influenced by who or what a bidder supports.

Collins and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, offered the amendment to the authorization bill.

The House’s version of the bill also includes a similar provision against President Barack Obama’s draft executive order. The House passed its authorization bill in May.

The Armed Services Committee included several other procurement provisions in its proposed authorization act. It would:

  • Cut $1.1 billion from operation and maintenance accounts for buying contract services. The measure would freeze spending on contract services at fiscal 2010 levels, comparable to the freeze on the civilian employee workforce. It also would institute other contracting reforms.
  • Emphasize rules to gather better insights on a company’s past work with the government.
  • Expand the existing cap on compensation amount for a contractor's executive. The provision was requested by defense officials.
  • Require federal agencies to identify and eliminate improper payments. Specifically, the Defense Department would have to do a thorough review and estimate of payment errors, including the full range of transactions, and validate the accuracy of future payments before making them.
  • Include additional resources for the DOD Inspector General’s office for its oversight of DOD programs.

Read more on what’s included in the Senate’s version of the authorization legislation.

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 Virginia

Is it coincidence that federal contract awards to Chicago firms have spike over the past 2 years? I think not.

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 Vern San Diego

We don't elect contractors. THEY are not employees of the taxpayers---aka ME!! Since they aren't my employees their contributions are none of my business. My POLITICIANS, on the other hand, are, as Will Rogers put it, "The Hired Help!" They DO work for me. So every penny THEY receive and spend IS my business along with every other American. Let's get transparency where it belongs first. Just for the record, I trust contractors Trillions (key word there) more times than I trust a politician.

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 Jim FL

While this sounds like a good idea on the surface the potential for abuse is too great as it is. Just thinking out loud, maybe if there were some strict rules about who would have access to the info and what they could do with it. I'm just not convinced that anything other than more political mud slinging would come from this. DC isn't going to change.

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 bob

It's a nice idea to disclose, but the source selection process is usually tight. Problem is protests. Law must be reformed to make the losers pay to prevent frivolous protests.

Tue, Jun 21, 2011

I guess Congress believes transparency is good for everyone else in the Government except them. As usual, they are a bunch of hypocritical misrepresentatives

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