Davis resurrects acquisition reforms

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) has resurrected acquisition reforms that did not make it through Congress last year.

Olivier Douliery

Acquisition reforms that didn't make it through Congress last year have been brought back to life by their author, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.)

Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, bundled the reforms in a new bill, the Acquisition System Improvement Act.

The ASIA bill, introduced in the House April 28, contains elements of Davis' 2003 Services Acquisition Reform Act. Pieces of SARA became law last year after they were amended to the 2004 Defense Authorization Act.

Among its major provisions, ASIA would create an acquisition work force exchange program with the private sector. The bill also would extend simplified acquisition procedures for commercial items up to $5 million until January 2009.

The new bill "continues my efforts to provide the federal government greater access to the commercial marketplace and to get the right people with the right skills in place to manage the acquisition of services and technology so necessary to the government," Davis said.

Another provision would ensure continuity of operations during a disaster by requiring vendors to provide redundant telecommunication services to their agency customers.

Redundant services include physically separate entries for voice and data lines so that damage to a single conduit or wireless transceiver doesn't shut down a system, and routing of services over physically diverse local network facilities so that the failure of a single switch, router or cable does not disrupt agency communications.

ASIA also would:
  • Increase use of share-in-savings contracts beyond information technology

  • Consolidate agency contract appeals boards into two: one for defense agencies and one for civilian agencies at the General Services Administration

  • Extend simplified acquisition procedures for commercial items up to $5 million until January 2009

  • Add to statute the current regulatory process for a vendor to protest a contract award to the head of an agency. The provision provides a 20-day stay of the award while the protest is reviewed.

  • IT industry representatives welcomed the new bill, but said it might share the same fate of SARA, which was broken into pieces that were attached to other bills.

    "Certainly, while Congressman Davis would like to move the bill as a standalone measure, historically bills like this have been attached to other bills, most recently the Defense Authorization Act," said Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, a Washington trade group.

    That's because members of Congress will be leaving Washington by October to work on their re-election campaigns, and any bill not passed by then has little chance of passing before the end of the calendar year. The defense bills are most likely to pass Congress by the end of September, industry experts said.

    David Marin, deputy staff director for the Government Reform Committee, said it's too early to discuss Davis' strategy for ASIA, "other than to say he'll consider any and all ways to get the legislation through committee and to the [House] floor."

    Allen said coalition members would like the opportunity to participate in acquisition work force exchanges. "There is a lot they would like to learn, and a lot they feel the government could learn [from the experience]," Allen said.

    Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., industry group, said he was pleased with the provision to expand share-in-savings beyond IT contracts, because the contracting method benefits both government and industry.

    With share-in-savings contracting, the contractor pays for system development upfront and is compensated from the savings or revenue it generates for the agency. The contractor takes on greater-than-usual risk, and if the project is successful, gets greater-than-usual compensation.

    The bill shows that Davis "recognizes there is still work to be done" on procurement reform, Soloway said. "To have any chance of passing, the bill has to move quickly."

    Staff Writer Gail Emery can be reached at gemery@postnewsweektech.com. Jason Miller is a staff writer with Government Computer News. He can be reached at jmiller@postnewsweektech.com.

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