WT Opinion Body - Path to Profits

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Procurement Reform, Take 22

I greatly enjoyed your Oct. 9 editorial. As a longtime veteran of the procurement wars, I enjoy the complexities and the constant change. About 10 years ago, agencies began to issue large indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, which steadily took advantage of the vendor community. The contracts often had either overlapping scopes of contracts among agencies within, say the U.S. Department of Defense, or were underfunded and the maximum quantity that could be ordered far exceeded the funds.

Vendors were winning prize boxes, which were empty. The National Security Agency awarded one such contract, to AT&T for mini's several years ago as did the Air Force. In that deal, AT&T won what could have been 22,000 systems but it ended up being about 10 percent to 15 percent of that amount. The government found vendors' competitive juices flowed fiercely, like Pavlov's dogs, and that their understanding of basic contract law issues was poor.

This led to the current plethora of agencies competing among themselves and the current dilemma. The General Services Administration, for example, has FEDSIM (Federal Systems Integration Center), FSS (Federal Supply Service) and FAST (Federal Acquisition Services for Technology) all competing within GSA as well as GSA competing with the Defense Information Systems Agency, National Institutes of Health, NASA, Navy, etc.

Industry has enough money to buy three drinks, but they can't figure out which of 232 bars to drink in.

We recently saw a firm win $15 million in schedule business without discounting one penny because of problems with the Federal Acquisition Regulation 8.4, and the new FAR 15 rewrite are rife with potential problems. Contracting officers can now easily be slowed rolled by agency techies.

Small firms are going to be severely injured. Primes need subcontractors but they often starve subs after award. Small businesses will come to loathe reform. They lack the marketing dollars to influence as well as the large firms, and they lack the sex appeal of a Microsoft.

Procurement reform is great for our business because of the chaos and confusion. It is probably not good for the agencies in the long haul, due to fewer bidders, more sole source and higher prices. It is certainly not good for small firms or the taxpayers.

Terry Miller
Government Sales Consultants Inc.
Great Falls, Va.

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