PSC tells wartime contracting panel to take wider view of relief operations

A professional business organization is criticizing a legislative contracting panel for using a narrow lens to examine the broad issue of delivering aid in battle zones.

Professional Services Council President and CEO Stan Soloway, a Washington Technology contributor, sent a letter to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan advising it “not to look for answers to broad questions about development in contingency operations only through a single aperture, but to approach these issues holistically.”

The independent, bipartisan eight-member commission was created by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2008 to study federal contracting for the reconstruction, logistical support of coalition forces and performance of security functions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Soloway sent his letter as the commission was preparing to hold a hearing April 11 to gain insight from nongovernmental organizations on contingency operations and the role of NGOs in relief efforts.

Several members of the commission had spoken with NGO representatives while in Afghanistan about how their organizations operate impartially and with the intent of letting the Afghan people carry on the services after the NGO leaves. They also wrote a how-to white paper on relief work. The paper and those talks led to the hearing.

Soloway said there are other experts beyond nonprofit groups that could offer insights.

“Include in your field of vision the hard-earned insights of the full community of development experts, including the for-profit development firms,” he advised.

In response, the commission said it believes it has not left the business community out of its meetings and hearings and that it brought the NGOs in for their perspective on issues.

“The hearing with the NGOs focused on their white paper and was not intended to be a full review of development contracting,” said Michael Thibault, co-chairman of the commission and deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency from 1973 to 2005, in reaction to Soloway’s letter.

“Our more than 900 meetings around the country and overseas have included numerous talks with contractor officials, including members of the Professional Services Council,” he said, noting that private, for-profit contractors have also testified before the commission.

The commission's final report, with recommendations on how to improve contingency contracting operations, is due to Congress in July.

About the Author

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

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