Practice saying no; you'll thank us later

Steve LeSueur

What do you say when a valued government customer asks you to perform work that may not be within the scope of your contract? In the past, contractors looked for ways to accommodate their customers. But efforts now under way to tighten the rules make just saying "no" the prudent course.

In a front-page story in this issue, Staff Writers Gail Repsher Emery and Roseanne Gerin report that the White House, General Services Administration and members of Congress are examining ways to prevent out-of-scope contracting. The General Accounting Office added fuel to these efforts with a report saying that some contractors were performing out-of-scope work on many of the contracts for rebuilding Iraq.

This comes at a time when CACI International Inc. is under fire for alleged out-of-scope contracting in Iraq. CACI is the subject of investigations by GSA and the Defense Contract Audit Agency for potential misuse of the contract used to provide interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Whether CACI did anything wrong -- and the company strongly denies it did -- is yet to be determined. But the accusation alone has been a public-relations nightmare for the defense company.

The push by the Bush administration and Congress to eliminate out-of-scope contracting and the intense scrutiny of contracts by GSA and GAO suggest that contractors themselves should assess more carefully the scope of their work. As one expert told Washington Technology: "You can no longer rely on the government to make the determination for you."

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