Bill would allow federally funded centers to get exclusive access to government work

Defense Department officials want to give Federally Funded Research and Development Centers access to government research and development work for up to five years, bypassing  market competition, according to a new defense bill.

DOD would be allowed to enter into a multi-year sponsorship agreement, or contract, with a research center that receives federal money as long as there are certain provisions related to its orderly conclusion. The contract would also have certain negotiated terms on who pays various expenses as it ends, according to language in the new fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310).

The House Armed Services Committee introduced the bill March 29, although it includes only DOD’s legislative requests. The committee will issue its version of H.R. 4310 May 7.

An agreement, or contract, is generally a sole-source arrangement. However, once it’s in place, work is assigned without a required bidding process.

The Professional Services Council raised concerns about the provision on April 12, in a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of PSC, said private-sector companies can do as much of the work as the research centers. Therefore, the research centers should compete against companies to win contracts, particularly contracts that can last several years.

Soloway also expressed PSC’s opposition to the request for multi-year authority on a contract or agreement.

A multi-year contract is different from a multiple-year contract. In a multi-year contract, the agency can buy goods and services beyond one year. A multiple-year contract is one year with option years, limiting how far into the future the agency can make purchases against that contract and requiring a deliberate decision to extend the contract each additional year.

Soloway said he only wants the centers to compete for the work, rather than have it handed to them. The competiton provides the best value for the agency, he said.

“It is about properly balancing their role, recognizing the changed realities of the marketplace, and injecting competition wherever appropriate,” Soloway said.

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

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 Just another KO

At the very least there should be a posting requirement, like for other SSJ, J&A, LSJ, etc and since this sounds like an IDIQ, those Task Orders should be subject to protest under FAR 33 just like any other IDIQ's TO would be. Let's keep that playing field as level as possible. FFRDC's operate a little too far on the fringe if you ask me.

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 William Clardy

Those unnamed "Defense Department officials" might want to remind themselves where they should have read about Congress' authority "To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years". A 5-year binding contract sure sounds like an administrative attempt to bypass that 2-year limit.

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