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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Hot contracts hotly debated

When we announced our list of 20 must-folow contracts in Monday’s newsletter, traffic on our Web site soared.

But don’t take its popularity to mean that everyone is greeting these contracts with open arms.

More than one commenter on our Web site has taken issue with the government having so many contracts in play.

A contractor in Fairfax, Va., wrote: “If we consolidated all the IT Services contracts listed down to just the GWACs, think of the benefit to the taxpayer, the efficiency, the standardization, the streamlined reporting, the acquisition human resources freed up, the ease of doing business, and the broader competition.

"Unfortunately, what we have here is a bureacracy out of control. Does anyone else agree that there are just too many contracts for buying the same stuff?”

Mark from Silver Spring, Md., lamented: “I wonder at what point industry will say, ‘Enough!’ The cost of bidding the many like contracts in this list (and the many others), along with the costs of operating each one over time really adds up. It makes us more expensive.

"It puts pressure on our margins. But then it does provide protection from the competitors who don't make the list for a given contract.

"So we can stay fat and lazy in those sectors. It becomes difficult to respect the federal acquisition leadership when you look at lists like this. It's a giant mess o' bureacrats!”

M from Reston, Va., said that industry will not back away from these contracts because they need them for access to customers. High costs can be passed on to the customer and taxpayers, and “parochial interests within each company will be allocating their [business development] dollars to the vehicles for the particular agency they support.”

M went on to say: “The only way to halt out-of-control contract proliferation is from within government leadership. Alas, federal acquisition ‘leaders’ are the problem. This train will never stop.”

The strong reaction didn’t surprise me. We did a story on the Justice Department’s Information Technology Support Services IV contract, No. 15 on our list, a few weeks ago.

Comments on that story were similar. Why so many contracts that do the same thing?

First, not all of these contracts are for the same types of services. The largest on the list from the State Department is for public safety and law enforcement services overseas. At least three of the contracts are for various satellite communications services. So, specialized services are needed for many of these contracts.

Second, one thing we see at work is that many agencies feel most comfortable using their own vehicles. They know their needs and culture best, so why not have your own vehicle that serves those needs?

Those two arguments probably cover more than half of the contracts, but I wonder if there is a little self-preservation at work at some of these agencies.  Are some of these contracts coming out to justify the existence of someone’s job or office?

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 02, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 4, 2009 Interested Party

We're being pulled both ways. Bundle but don't bundle. Fewer contracts mean consolidation and hopefully better pricing. Fewer contracts also mean bigger, fewer contractors to perform the fewer contracts. Make up your minds and then tell us what you want from us (the Acquisition Leaders). Everyone trys to second guess the decisions being made when they have neither the responsibility for the decision nor the information to make an informed decision. One of the significant overhead items we bear as the Government is support of socioeconomic programs. I'm not about to argue the value of these programs, however, they are a reality whether you like them or not. No matter how you look at it, we are NOT like private sector and in many ways we are NOT ALLOWED to act like private sector.

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