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Acquisition Reform Begins Anew/Part 1 March 6, 2009

Posted by Stephen Abott in Analysis, News.
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600px-united_states_department_of_defense_sealsvgBoth sides of Pennsylvania Avenue are hard at work at another round of DOD acquisitions reform. At the White House the President signed a memo ordering a review of government contracting – this will set guidelines for significant changes in how DOD and the rest of the government operates.

One of the major components of DOD budget growth has been the troubling growth in acquisitions program costs and the contracts awarded to conduct them. As Wired Magazine’s Danger Room blog notes, ” Sweetheart deals, busted budgets, and lax oversight, and missed deadlines are pretty much the norm, on every major deal.” The President’s memo is designed to lay the groundwork towards creating a framework to deal with the larger contracting problem – not to rely on ad-hoc procedures to solve contracting disputes individually, says CSIS’ David Berteau. However, the memo merely orders the OMB “…to develop and issue…Government-wide guidance to assist agencies in reviewing…” contracts to identify wasteful spending and to “…formulate corrective action in a timely manner” – thus, little immediate action will be taken.

It also takes a stab at reigning in outsourcing by ordering OMB to set guidance for the use of outside service providers. The decades-long increase in the reliance on contractors has been accelerating and this is an attempt to slow the process that some think forces the Pentagon to rely too much on outside experts and resource providers. It is important to remember, though, that the memo does not order immediate changes but calls on the OMB to create guidance. OMB’s final product will be closely watched by the contracting community and may enhance calls for further reform.

The second half of this post will discuss S. 454 – the Levin/ McCain bill to reform DOD acquisitions.

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