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.

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