More scrutiny of DOD services contracts under House bill

The fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act seeks greater oversight of services and speedier IT purchases

The House version of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act would require the Defense Department to hire an outside organization to assess its use and oversight of services contracts.

The House Armed Services Committee believes DOD doesn't have a strategic approach to managing its service contracts, according to the committee’s June 18 report on the authorization bill (H.R. 2637).

As a result, “the department is at risk of being unable to identify and correct poor contractor performance in a timely manner and is at risk of paying contractors more than the value of the services they performed,” the committee wrote.

The House passed the bill June 25 by a vote of 389-22. The Senate committee has approved its version of the legislation the same day.

Under the House bill, the assessment would be conducted by a federally funded research and development center. The center would look at the guidance DOD provides its acquisition workforce on how to develop a services contract, including how to define requirements and the associated performance metrics.

The center also would look at whether or not DOD has enough people in its acquisition workforce to do the work appropriately. The report would be due in March 2010.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the legislation supports the Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plan to increase the civilian acquisition workforce’s size and to reduce DOD’s reliance on contractors for critical acquisition duties. DOD officials want to hire 9,000 new government employees and convert 11,000 contractor jobs to DOD civilian personnel.

“Defense acquisition reform is a top priority for our committee,” Skelton said in statement June 17 after his committee approved the legislation.

In another acquisition reform, the committee wants to find ways for DOD to buy IT more quickly.

IT systems require regular updates, because of changes in technology, which affects critical parts of the DOD infrastructure. But DOD’s process for buying IT makes it difficult for the department to keep up, according to a DOD task force.

The acquisition process is time-consuming and cumbersome, the task force wrote in a March report. "The process should be agile and geared to delivering meaningful increments of capability in approximately 18 months or less."

The House bill would allow DOD to pick 10 IT programs every year in which to test new procurement processes.Acquisition reforms in the House's fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act concentrate on oversight of service contracts and buying information technology quickly.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Wed, Jul 22, 2009 Richard Arnold

The real losers of this world are those who arrogantly spout off about grammar errors while obviously having zero understanding of the government or contractor workforce. I've spent 25 years in the defense industry, and have been proud to know hundreds of dedicated civil servants who deeply care about our country and their missions and perform outstanding work despite the natural inefficiencies of a watchful bureaucracy. Contractors aren't sleepy. We give it our all to help the government leaders achieve their mission goals. How do the arrogant and misinformed folks who relish in silly and cheap civil servant- and contractor-bashing (without proof, relying on an authority that is obviously not real) who wrote earlier in this thread explain the miracle of US military dominance, space dominance, and dominance in just about every other area funded by the government?

Wed, Jul 1, 2009 Harry Messier

To see the quality of the contractor personnel the government hires, simply look at how the person who is informing us that contractors are "PEOPLE" conjugates verbs.

We would simply be better off paying these "people", government and contractor alike, to stay at home. Here's your severance package, now go away. The simple soul who wrote that note can't fix a billion dollar problems.

Losers hire losers. And, hiring 20,000 more losers won't help a broken system.

Wed, Jul 1, 2009 Harry Messier

Hire 20,000 new government employees? Did I read that correctly?

First, government attracts the wrong sort of employees. They lack innovative, adaptive skills to make a real differece. Retired officers/ncos? No way, they've already lost any personality, innovation, and drive. They sing the same "group think" mentality as everyone else. Smart people who might be able to make a difference - there is no way they'd go throught the silly hiring process or deal with the "not invented by an O-6" stiffling atmosphere of DoD.

Second, government is set up with so many parts that nobody is really responsible for anything. It's too confusing to assign accountability.

Third, our contractors are a sleepy bunch that rise to the low expectations of the civil servants in point one. In some cases, the contractor is simply an obstruction in a make-work job.

The "problem", mismanagement, won't be solved by throwing more people at it. Indeed, part of the solution is less people, with more accountability and capability.

Wed, Jul 1, 2009

I hope that our government realizes that contractor are people too and many of these proposals directly effect the job, lives, and careers of these PEOPLE!

Wed, Jul 1, 2009

Once again Congress looks to symptoms rather than root causes. More people (on the government end) that cannot do the job is not the fix. Better government cost estimating, requirements definition would help. Not all FFRDCs are not for profit, they are currently essentially competing with private contractors. But I guess BHO could not blame the folks that elected him.

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