Procurement experts weigh election results

Shifting political balance in Congress could bring changes to procurement, IT.

The reaction to Tuesday's election at the Coalition for Government Procurement (CGP) conference was mixed, but many experts said the shift in political power may not make a lot of difference for the IT and procurement communities.

However, acquisition is likely to come under more exacting oversight if Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif..), becomes chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as expected, said Larry Allen, president and CEO of Allen Federal Business Partners, who was ending his tenure as CGP president at the conference.

Jennifer Kerber, vice president of federal and homeland security policy at TechAmerica, said IT is a bipartisan issue. It helps the government in many ways, including cost-cutting and rooting out fraud and waste.

In the election, Republicans took control of the House, while Democrats retained control of the Senate.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) could still remain chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, with the Democrats in control there.

In a recorded speech presented at the conference, McCaskill said she would continue to look at contracting issues through her eyes as an auditor and a prosecutor. McCaskill has held hearings on interagency contracts and the special regulatory allowances for Alaska Native Corporations. The senator plans to introduce legislation to end those special rules when Congress reconvenes this year.

A major push from President Barack Obama was reinvigorating the U.S. economy with $797 billion in government spending through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which became law in February 2009.

With the new Congress, Obama will be forced to reevaluate his approach to the stimulating the economy, one expert said.

“It will have to be centered on long lasting, private sector job creation rather than public sector and temporary jobs as before,” said Michael Balsam, chief strategy officer at Onvia, a research firm.

In a separate interview, Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council, said the power shift won't change the spotlight on the role of contractors in government. Insourcing efforts are likely to slow as the new Congressional leaders consider the efficiency of federal and contract employees, he said.

"Much of next year’s market for services contracts will be determined by the actions in the lame duck session and how to deal with the Dec. 3 sunset of the continuing resolution, likely by passing another short- or long-term continuing resolution or an omnibus spending package," Chvotkin said. "Either way, the budget will be austere and agencies will be pressed to stretch their dollars. This could affect already planned procurements or new spending in the pipeline for FY 2011."

The new House majority in particular will put its focus on efficiency and effectiveness of federal employees and contractors, he said. 

"Agency budgets are likely to get even tighter if the majority holds to its campaign promises to cut the budget and reduce deficit," he added. "The question is not if there will be cuts, but where and how deeply. This year, it appears even [the Defense Department] is not exempt from scrutiny."