Oversight

House panel seeks probe of contractor data calls

Shutterstock image (by iNueng): businessman carrying folders and papers. 

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Government Accountability Office Comptroller General Gene Dodaro Sept. 27 asking the GAO to look into how the Department of Energy is handling requests for data from contractors.

The letter, signed by four Republicans and four Democrats, pointed to language in the April 2014 Augustine-Mies Commission report on governance of the nuclear security enterprise which said that "dysfunctional relationships between the government and its Management and Operating (M&O) site operators has encouraged burdensome transactional oversight rather than management focus on mission execution."

Along those lines, the committee members expressed concern that the DOE and its sub-agency the National Nuclear Security Administration may be overloading contractors with data calls, wherein government program managers will ask for updates on projects or programs and request that a contractor pull and send a certain amount of data.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, said there are two main types of data calls: those required by contract and "unique" data calls, a single instance request for specialized information. While the time, effort and costs of data calls can vary wildly, it is often the unique requests that can create the biggest burdens for contractors.

"Depending on the nature of the request, they can be simple and not very costly or enormously expensive," said Chvotkin.

The committee asked the GAO to look into Energy and NNSA policies and practices around how they conduct data calls, whether the information requested is typically routine in nature, what sources of data are used by contractors and how capable current federal enterprise software systems of capturing this type of data.

"[Contractors] have designed and produced every nuclear warhead in the U.S. arsenal, and play critical roles in DOE'S environmental, energy, and nuclear security missions," the members wrote. "Because of this reliance on contractors, efficient and constructive DOE-contractor relationships are critical in enabling DOE's ability to drive performance improvements and ensure value for the U.S. taxpayer."

When reached for comment, Chuck Young, GAO's managing director for public, confirmed the agency received the request and it is currently being reviewed, a process that typically takes 2-3 weeks. Young said he did not know whether any specific event or complaint may have prompted the committee to send the request.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at djohnson@fcw.com, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


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