News in Brief

Prepping HealthCare.gov, rethinking DOD contracts and more

Obama: We're triple-checking HealthCare.gov

In his post-election press conference, President Barack Obama touched on the impending open-enrollment season to buy, renew or change insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

"We're really making sure the website works super well before the next open-enrollment period," Obama said, generating a wave of laughter among reporters and others in the East Room of the White House. "We're double- and triple-checking it. And so I think a lot of people who maybe initially thought we're not sure how this works, let's wait and see -- they're going to have an opportunity now to sign up."

Open enrollment kicks off Nov. 15.

DOD official to contracting officers: Don't feel pressure to obligate money

The pressure that Defense Department contracting officers feel to obligate money quickly is the "largest single impediment" to the issuance of fair and cost-effective contracts, said Shay Assad, DOD's director of defense pricing.

Speaking Nov. 6 at a conference hosted by the Coalition for Government Procurement, Assad said he has stressed to DOD leaders that contracting officers must see contracts less as items that need to be quickly approved and more as projects that must make fiscal sense.

"One of our biggest challenges is we have a little bit of a misalignment within the department in the value to the taxpayer -- that is, what it actually costs to buy something -- versus obligating money," he said.

"This idea of 'get it under contract and let's figure it out once we're under contract'" is an outmoded way of thinking and a bad business practice, he added. "It's something that we absolutely are trying to kill within the department if we can."

Davis: GOP wins could be good for acquisition reform

The Republican surge in Congress could smooth the way for acquisition policy reform, according to a former congressman who weathered similar electoral upheaval 10 years ago.

Former House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis said at the Coalition for Government Procurement's Nov. 6 conference in Washington that the new GOP-controlled Congress must now prove it can work with the White House or face repercussions in the 2016 elections. He added that acquisition reform might offer a mostly noncontroversial issue on which Democrats and Republicans could compromise, especially in the coming lame-duck session.

Davis, now director of government relations at Deloitte, is no stranger to political riptides. He was initially elected to the House in 1994, the year Newt Gingrich's Republican Contract with America ushered in the first House Republican majority in 40 years. And Davis lost his committee chairmanship in 2007 when Democrats retook the House majority.

Davis said the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act will likely be tacked onto the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill. He added that most members of Congress do not understand arcane federal procurement rules, which might allow some room for federal officials and vendors to educate legislators on the issue and pave the way for approval.

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