Time running out for DOD's best-value authority

The Defense Department has not used its temporary authority to conduct public/private competitions for information technology services on a best-value basis, and now time is running out, according to an official at the Government Accountability Office.

GAO, seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of the authority, learned that DOD hasn't used it, according to a letter released yesterday that was sent to several congressional committee chairpersons and ranking members by William Woods, director of acquisition and sourcing management at GAO.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation allows civilian agencies broad discretion in conducting the competitions and the freedom to make a decision based solely on price or on other best-value parameters such as the competitor's experience and management capabilities. However, DOD is bound by law to prove that outsourcing a function to a private company will result in cost savings.

The temporary authority, granted under Section 336 of the fiscal 2004 Defense Authorization Act, freed DOD from that requirement. The authority expires Sept. 30.

DOD officials told GAO that there have been no competitions under which the authority would have been useful. The stated reasons included the determination in some cases that cost was the most important factor and in other cases that applying best-value criteria would have made the competition more complicated than necessary.

The Defense Logistics Agency said in the one suitable competition it conducted after the authority was granted, there were only two IT services positions out of 102 positions being competed.

The Air Force told GAO that it did not use the pilot authority because DOD's competitive-sourcing official didn't authorize its use for the individual services. Officials at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, apparently unaware of the Air Force's concern until GAO officials raised it, said none of DOD's individual components ever made a request to use the authority.

GAO identified 12 competitions in which the authority might have been used: five each in the Air Force and Army and one each in the Navy and DLA.

Woods said GAO provided a copy of the letter to DOD, but department officials chose not to comment.

Michael Hardy writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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