Contracting skirmishes foreshadow broader policy battle

LAS VEGAS?During the next few months a heated debate will unfold over federal government contracting, said Lurita Doan, the General Services Administration's administrator at the Consumer Electronics Show Thursday.

"I'm really worried that rather than looking coolly and dispassionately at what is in many ways is a broken process that really needs some sort of transformation or reforms, that instead what will happen is that Washington will be looking for some scapegoats," Doan told attendees of the show's government conference.

It's widely known that the new Democratically controlled Congress plans to scrutinize the Bush Administration's contracting practices.

The first likely scapegoats will be federal contracting officers, Doan said.

"This is a real shame, the men and women who serve as contracting officers are probably in many circumstances going to be portrayed as a bunch of corrupt and incompetent people, and this is so very wrong," she said.

Reform of the contracting system is what the officers need to better do their jobs, Doan said.

Doan fears that government contractors might be the second scapegoat.

"I'm very concerned that the federal contractors who offer the millions and millions of goods and services to the government may fall victim to the myth or perception that somehow business is bad; that somehow business is out there to rip off the government," she said, adding, "This is very unfair and it is an unjust depiction."

GSA officials plan to take the lead on several thorny issues this year, including the federal procurement system that Doan describes as in a state of crisis.

"There are of course the needless bureaucratic delays and endless rules and regulations which only result in increasing the costs to do business with the federal government," she said. "I think it's going to take some heavy lifting to fix it."

Doan hopes to streamline the GSA schedule down to a 30-day process to help alleviate the problem. She also hopes to reform the governmentwide acquisition contract system.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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Tue, Jan 13, 2009 Editor

Mon, Jan 12, 2009

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