PSC: Open dialogue needed for contracting reform

Thursday - 3/5/2009, 8:21pm EST

Stan Soloway:

Open dialogue should include all parties involved.

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By Brian Drew
Internet Editor,
FederalNewsRadio

The Obama administration issued a new executive order aimed at reducing government waste, fraud and abuse by revamping the way the government hands out contracts.

The administration plans on doing this by dramatically cutting the use of no-bid contracts, shrinking outsourcing of government operations to private companies and keeping a much closer watch on the procurement process.

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, tells FederalNewsRadio that he likes the ideas laid out in the presidential memo and agrees Iraq and Hurricane Katrina have heightened attention to government contracting, but took issue with some statements made by President Obama when announcing the initiative.

I think he was trying to be constructive, but in the actual memo itself, it talks about the decline of full and open competition. I read that and I thought, factually that's correct, but there's actually been an increase in services, which is the majority of what the government buys, an increase of competition overall, and people think that's counterintuitive. The answer is that 'full and open competition' and 'competition' are not synonymous terms.

Soloway says that he hopes that businesses will be included in the dialogue about changes to the procurement process.

If that broad dialogue takes place, and is really fact-based, and has a broader perspective of federal acquisition, not just looking at high-profile acquisitions, but separating out how we buy weapons systems from how we buy services, separating out what we do in a emergency environment versus a routine environment, and really looking at it from a strategic perspective.

Soloway says that the past few years have created a "culture of fear" within the acquisition workforce that has stopped innovation, because of fear from making a mistake.

When it comes to the stimulus, Soloway says that the focus shouldn't only be on spending the money fast, but also making sure that it is spent well in the first place, and that performance should be as important as spending the money quickly, in the long run.

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On the Web:

FederalNewsRadio - Fixing the procurement system

Dorobek Insider - Obama talks government procurement - a broken system, he says

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