Panel to suggest greater competition, more transparency

The themes of competition, transparency and integrity could dominate the recommendations of the Acquisition Advisory Panel when it releases its draft report in the coming weeks.

Panel Chairwoman Marcia Madsen said the recommendations should be on the panel's Web site in about two weeks. Madsen spoke Monday as part of a session on acquisition at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, the American Council of Technology and the Industry Advisory Panel put on Va. ELC annually.

The Services Acquisition Reform Act established the Acquisition Advisory Panel to review procurement laws and regulations and recommend changes.
The panel is looking at issues such as commercial best practices, small-business contracting, competition, interagency contracting, performance-based contracting and the acquisition workforce.

One of the panel's findings points to the government's slowness in changing its acquisition practices to keep up with changes in the marketplace, said Madsen, a partner with Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw LLP, a Washington law firm.

"The commercial world is constantly adjusting its practices in response to what is happening in the market. The government sets them down in statute and regulations," she said.

The commercial world also makes better use of competition in its acquisition practices, while competition appears to be limited in the government, she said. The panel found that 32 percent of government contracts were not competed in 2004.

"Competition works, but requirements must be defined and clarified in advance," she said.

Transparency in the procurement process also will help foster competition, the ELC panelists said.

A chief complaint is the poor quality of the procurement data collected by the Federal Procurement Data System.

While the information coming out of the General Services Administration is of relatively good quality, there is little insight into the $140 billion spent on interagency contracts, Madsen said.

The acquisition workforce also is at the heart of many of the procurement issues that will get a lot of attention in Acquisition Advisory Panel's report. In 1990, 33,000 contract officers handled $150 billion in contracts. In 2004, the federal government had 27,000 handing $400 billion.

In addition to Madsen, the ELC procurement panel included David Drabkin, GSA's deputy associate administrator for acquisition policy and senior procurement executive; Rob Burton, associate administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy; and David Nadler, a partner with Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a Washington law firm.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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