With fall approaching, innovation is in the air

Labor Day weekend also brings us an air of anticipation associated with the recent enactment of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

This column was originally published on Roger Waldron’s blog at The Coalition for Government Procurement and was republished here with permission from the author.

Labor Day weekend marks the traditional end of summer, a last free weekend to kick back and enjoy the sun, beach, and barbecue before another busy school year begins. Of course, it also marks the beginning of football season, and I apologize to any Louisville Cardinals fans who are reading this, but I must begin by saying, “ROLL TIDE!”

This year, Labor Day weekend also brings us an air of anticipation associated with the recent enactment of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Indeed, the legislation contains several provisions that have the potential for wholesale reform of the procurement process, two of which, Section 876 and Section 880, are the focus of this week’s blog.

Section 876, which provides a new capability for the Schedules program by expanding the authority previously granted to the Department of Defense (DoD) in the FY 2018 NDAA, empowers agency heads with the discretion not to include price or cost as an evaluation criterion when awarding services contracts that are acquired at an hourly rate. Effectively, the legislation establishes a so-called “unpriced” Schedules contract, a concept that has long been supported by the Coalition, which will:

  • Radically reform and/or eliminate the current pricing strategy used for awarding contracts, and thus, streamline the contract award process to maximize efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Reduce costly, burdensome oversight mechanisms associated with the Price Reductions Clause (PRC);
  • Enhance competition by allowing customers to focus on speed and need by driving competition for agency-specific service requirements at the task order level;
  • Provide greater flexibility in the structuring of contracts by lending itself to common commercial practice; and
  • Decrease barriers to entry into the market for small businesses and innovative solutions, thus, empowering Federal customers to leverage technology and improve their efforts to meet end mission goals.

In addition, Section 880 gives agency heads another tool in their proverbial tool box by providing additional clarification regarding the appropriate use of lowest-price technically acceptable (LPTA) source selection criteria. Specifically, the provision states that, to the maximum extent practicable, the use of LPTA should be avoided for select procurements, including for the acquisition of:

“information technology services, cybersecurity services, systems engineering and technical assistance services, advanced electronic testing, audit or audit readiness services, health care services and records, telecommunications devices and services, or other knowledge-based professional services.”

With these new authorities now available to GSA, the Coalition looks forward to the implementation of both capabilities in a timely fashion. When considered alongside existing tools, such as the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS), these provisions will help drive competition, cost savings, and efficiency through the Schedules Program.

Roger Waldron is the president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, and host of Off the Shelf on Federal News Radio.

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