Procurement

Can interagency contracting regain a good rep?

Roger Waldron

The removal of interagency contracting from GAO's high-risk list 'changes the dynamic of the environment,' said Coalition for Government Procurement President Roger Waldron.

Could interagency contracting make a comeback? Now that it's no longer on the Government Accountability Office's High Risk List, experts say it could return to play an instrumental part in furthering a cultural shift in government procurement.

GAO removed the once-problematic area from its 2013 High Risk List. Interagency contracting had been on the list since 2005, after problems surfaced when defense officials in Iraq hired interrogators through an interagency contract that was intended for IT purchases. An investigation in 2004 revealed a system prone to misuse and carrying little liability for mistakes.

"This takes time, but it changes the dynamic of the environment" in acquisition, said Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement and a former senior General Services Administration acquisition official.

Interagency contracting, done well, leads to fewer duplicative contracts, Waldron said. Broadly defined, it refers to an agency using another agency's contract. According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation, it is "commonly conducted through indefinite-delivery contracts, such as task- and delivery-order contracts. The indefinite-delivery contracts used most frequently to support interagency acquisitions are Federal Supply Schedules (FSS), Governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs), and multi-agency contracts (MACs)."

The technique has languished for two main reasons. It had a bad reputation, being on the high-risk list, and agency officials are notoriously territorial, pursuing acquisition as if their agencies' requirements are unique, not suitable for sharing.

But more recently, agencies have shown an increasing willingness to use multiple-agency contracts, such as the GWACs and IDIQ contracts, said Bill Jaffe, senior vice president of TAPE, LLC.

"We've actually seen a much bigger move towards contract sharing, and there are some major GWACs being competed in the near term," Jaffe said. "And yes, I do see this as opening up the door to cross-agency collaboration."

The Homeland Security Department's recent $6 billion competition for its continuous monitoring-as-a-service IDIQ is an example of a lead agency preempting duplicative IT-based contracts, he added.

"I think vehicle shopping may become more prevalent in the new world fostered by the administration, with contracting officers being more important in the process, and incumbents seeking to avoid" competitions based largely on prices, he said.

In recent years, administration officials have established more management controls for governmentwide contracts and have set up a system of clear accountability when two parties agree to work together. From Congress, lawmakers also pushed reforms to the Federal Acquisition Regulation and also requiring agencies to write up a business case before launching a new interagency contract.

Gene Dodaro, comptroller general, said on Feb. 14 that interagency contracting still has its challenges.

"But we believe there are mechanisms in place that OMB and federal agencies can use to identify and address interagency contracting issues before they put the government at significant risk for waste, fraud, or abuse," he said in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

GAO is still watching closely to be sure agencies use interagency contracting properly, he said. "They may be off the list, but they're not out of sight," he told the committee.

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.

Featured

  • 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, Feb 20, 2013 Beltway Billy

In this small part of the DoD (it appears to me), using GSA contracts has delivered the same service/items faster and cheaper than if we used our in-house contracting teams.

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