Defense authorization bill strengthens competition for task orders

Contracting officers would need to follow a stricter rule that enforces competition on task and delivery orders on existing contracts, according to the Defense Authorization bill that passed Congress Sept. 27.

A provision in Section 863 of the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal 2009 (S. 3001) requires contracting officers to obtain three bids, rather than simply notifying three bidders, for schedule procurements and task orders on multiple-award or indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council. The legislation requires the government to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation within one year of the bill's passage to reflect the new policy.

The bill was awaiting President Bush's signature as of Oct. 3.

A similar rule applies to Defense Department contracts only, but the new legislation would extend it governmentwide, Soloway said. The provision originated in legislation introduced by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins, (R-Maine), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively.

"We think it is a reasonable step to enhance competition and also prefer that the government operate under a unified set of overarching rules and policies," Soloway said.

Implementing the new policy at all civilian agencies will take some work, but it can be done effectively, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at market research firm FedSources.

Similar measures have been successful at the Defense Intelligence Systems Agency, Bjorklund said. DISA appointed an ombudsman to handle questions and disputes as they arose, On the other hand, the implementation could further tax the already overstretched government contracting workforce, he added.

DOD's experience with its own rule, under Section 803 of a previous authorization bill, suggests the measure is reasonable, said Joseph Petrillo, an attorney at Petrillo and Powell. It applies to orders worth more than $100,000.

"The rules have been in effect at DOD for several years," he said. "There is a track record and people are satisfied that they work."

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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