DOD preps contracting rule

Final version, expected today, will emphasize competition on multiple-award contracts

Federal Register

The Defense Department is expected to publish today the final version of a rule that seeks to boost competition in DOD multiple-award contract buys.

The rule, referred to as Section 803 in reference to the citation in the fiscal 2002 Defense authorization bill, is expected to be published in the Federal Register, DOD officials confirmed.

The rule has been relatively controversial because the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy attempted to add a provision that would restrict DOD buys using the General Services Administration schedule to firm, fixed-price task orders.

Deidre Lee, director of Defense procurement, said the rule has been refashioned to emphasize competition on multiple-award contracts.

Section 803 essentially requires that DOD compete task orders of $100,000 or more. The rule is expected to answer what constitutes competition.

Lee, speaking to industry executives at the Coalition for Government Procurement's fall conference in Washington, D.C., said that the rule requires contracting officers to solicit enough offerings to receive three bids. How much effort does it take to get three bids? "It depends," she said.

She noted that getting a bid from the incumbent vendor and two others that do not want to bid on the contract does not meet the criteria. Furthermore, listing task orders with a 24-hour turn around is inappropriate and unprofessional, Lee said.

If contracting officers are unable to get three bids, they may notify everybody, but only as a last resort. However, some parts of the GSA schedule contracts have more than 2,600 vendors, making that task daunting.

There is a concern that contracting officers could be overwhelmed by the number of bids that they could receive. And all bids must be fairly reviewed, Lee said. "There is a workload concern," she said.

Most multiple-award contracts make task orders available to all vendors, and GSA's Federal Supply Service's e-Buy program sends vendors registered on the GSA Advantage online buying site e-mail updates about potential opportunities.

The final rule was expected last summer, but DOD missed that deadline because of questions about the controversial GSA schedule provision. Officials also did not want to issue the rule before the end of the fiscal year.

NEXT STORY: Officials plot homeland priorities

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