Senate unlikely to consider DoD acquisition bill

The upper chamber will review IMPROVE Act provisions through the Defense Authorization bill. The Senate also is considering other acquisition bills focusing on ...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Senate Armed Services Committee likely will not consider the House version of the bill to improve how the Defense Department conducts acquisition.

Peter Levine, the counsel for the Senate committee, says instead the upper chamber will consider provisions the House includes in the 2011 Defense Authorization bill. House lawmakers already have said they plan to include a significant amount of the IMPROVE Act’s language in the authorization bill. The White House also has come out in strong support of the bill’s provisions.

“The bill is a little mishmash of provisions and I’m not sure I detect a specific theme to it,” says Levine Thursday during a panel discussion in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the Coalition for Government Procurement. “I suspect we will do what we do, go through one provision at a time and we will find some we like and find some we don’t like. We will work with the House individually through each provision as we go.”

The House passed the IMPROVE Act late Wednesday nearly unanimously. It will attempt to reform four large areas of DoD contracting, including the acquisition workforce, military financial management, expanding the number of vendors who do business with DoD and ensuring against waste, fraud and abuse.

Jim Schweiter, a former House Armed Services Committee staff member and now an attorney with McKenna, Long and Aldridge, says he agrees with Levine about the House bill lacking focus.

“In many ways, it tells DoD to do things they already are doing,” Schweiter says. “There are a lot of feel good amendments in there that look at things like efficiency.”

Schweiter says a couple of the new amendments that stood out were Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) provision to create an industrial base council, Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.) language to ensure acquisition training includes market research and several buy American provisions.

Along with the IMPROVE Act, Congress is looking at several other acquisition related bills.

Molly Wilkinson, minority counsel for the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, says ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced two acquisition workforce bills.

One would create a Master’s program for people just finishing undergraduate studies who then would go into a three-year program where they would take a combination of classes and rotation assignments in government.

Wilkinson says Collins also is looking into adding a rotational assignment with industry.

The second bill would provide a larger budget for the Federal Acquisition Institute, bring it under the Office of Federal Procurement Policy and create governmentwide training and standards for acquisition workers.

Wilkinson also says Collins is concerned about the administration is considering the high road contracting program.

Collins has written two letters to the White House and hasn’t received a briefing about it.

“This is worrisome to us,” she says. “It is still speculation at this point. The administration is looking at developing a criteria scoring system based on labor benefits a particular company gives. You will be given a score based on the number of sick days you give, the wages you pay, and etc.”

She adds that in theory the score would be used during evaluations of contract bids.

“It would be problematic to small businesses and squeeze them out of the marketplace,” she adds.

Collins also is working with Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the committee, on a new cybersecurity bill. Wilkinson wouldn’t offer any details about what’s in the bill, but says it should be ready in a matter of weeks.

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