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By Nick Wakeman

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Heat on contractors gets hotter

Government Accountability Office and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are keeping the heat on contractors with reports claiming a lack of oversight by agencies and a drought of competition.

GAO calls its report, "More Dollars, Less Sense: Worsening Contracting Trends Under the Bush Administration." Spending with contractors topped $400 billion in fiscal 2006, up from about $377 billion in 2005. The report identifies more than half of that as work that was awarded without competition.

However, industry officials strongly disputed the reports findings, including the definition of non-competitive in a Washington Post articleon the committee hearing and GAO report. Many of the contracts cited came from large task order contracts, where the original rates were established in open competition but individual tasks may not have been competed. Other contracts also came for emergency spending in reaction to disasters where work needed to be expedited.

The Washington Post also unveiled an investigation into a Homeland Security Department contract with Booz Allen Hamilton that grew from an original price tag of $2 million to $124 million. The work was from the early days of the formation of the department when it had little to no infrastructure, particularly in its procurement shop.

Booz Allen did not competed when the initial award was made or when the work expanded. The company has a chance to defend itself in the story. The company also won the work when DHS was able to hold an open competition.

I'll leave it to others to argue whether these reports accurately reflect what is going on, but one thing is for certain, the scrutiny is not going to stop.

The role of information technology is so central to government operations that the scrutiny of IT systems and services is only going to increase.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 28, 2007 at 9:54 AM

Reader Comments

Mon, Jul 23, 2007 Nick Wakeman VA

Services versus products is an intriguing idea. I wonder if Lockmart, GD and others will get so big that they get pushed into deciding which they will be.Thanks for the comments. Nick

Mon, Jul 23, 2007 Nick Wakeman VA

Bobby,Thanks for the great comments. Good luck in Afghanistan. Stay safe.Nick

Tue, Jul 3, 2007 Joe Berner VA

Focus on Booz Allen is misdirection, hidden in plain sight. When you have Lockmart, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics all building major government systems and all, concurently, working on various aspects of program and policy support, no matter how much you "mitigate" OCI, you have a de facto conflict for the owners/shareholders.What major systems does Booz make?Next question: If the government was unable to fulfill its missions and if extending the Booz Allen work resulted in mission success, then the issue is just one of cost. There, the article from the Washington Post falls down by emphasizing that contractors can cost as much as $250K per man-year. Oh My! Are we all so ill-informed that we do not understand why outsourcing to seemingly expensive contractors actually saves the government money? If the government was serious about putting the heat on contractors, they would force contractors to choose between services and solutions to mitigate real conflicts of interest. The current heat is just a matter of power changing hands -- heat for some, but no substantial clean-up of government procurement.

Fri, Jun 29, 2007 Robert Yarush

After three plus years downrange in Afghanistan... I'd have to say its been quite a challenge for this network engineer. Network engineering on the frontlines is relatively new to the battlefield... and so is the entry of civilian contractors on such a scale. Working for the government in general is quite a task... but being in an active warzone... in support of the warfighter is even more of a challenge. Daily operations, unlike a typical civilian job in the States it quite dynamic... an always revolving.. never ending gauntlet of tasks and rules. Communications and network security are of the utmost priority.... and because we are not in the optimum of conditions... a little slow to come at times... but the network engineer pushes on. The highly trained civilian network engineer has brought to the warfighter a form of communications not seen in wars before. Without the network engineer... without the warfighter.... Iam heading to Iraq next...my first time... I can assure you.... my network engineering skills will serve the warfighter well. Hail the Warfighter.Bobby Yarush25th Sig Co. / ITTBagram,Afghanistan

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