House lawmaker moves acquisition reform bill out of committee

The House Government Reform Committee approved legislation during a late night session Wednesday that will reform how the government buys services and creates an acquisition workforce training program.

Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., sponsored the "Services Acquisition Reform Act" (H.R. 1837), which will exempt some service contracts from acquisition rules; promote share-in-savings contracts, which allow contractors and agencies to split savings generated by new innovations; and develop a government-industry exchange program for contracting officials. The bill will also create a fund for training federal procurement employees.

Davis introduced similar legislation last year that never made it out of committee.

"It responds to the reality that we do not have the right people with the right skills and the right tools to manage the acquisition of services and technology that the government so desperately needs," Davis said.

Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., introduced an amendment that would establish reporting requirements for provisions allowing agencies to treat services contracts as commercial item contracts, and expanding the definition of "commercial entity." Under the amendment, the Office of Management and Budget would review those elements of the bill two years after the bill was enacted. The bill passed on voice vote.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, offered an amendment that would clarify the definition of an interested party in public-private competitions. The measure was defeated 21 to 18.

The Services Acquisition Reform Act would establish chief acquisition officers at each agency. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., offered an amendment that would have made them career employees instead of political appointees. The measure was defeated 22 to 17.

"To be effective it has to be a level high enough to have clout," Chairman Davis said.

Maloney offered another amendment that would have created a database to track contractor misdeeds so that federal procurement specialists could use the information when making contracting decisions. "The current system lets them break the law and still be rewarded," she said. The amendment was defeated 22 to 18.

A bipartisan amendment offered by Maloney and Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., requires Federal Prison Industries to compete for government contracts. It passed on voice vote.

Kucinich introduced an amendment that would have created a database tracking the cost and quality of work performed by contractors. It was defeated 22 to 18.

"Quality is very difficult to measure," Chairman Davis said.

Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., introduced an amendment that would prohibit companies who incorporate in tax haven countries from doing business with the federal government. It was defeated 21 to 18.

Maloney offered an amendment that will increase scrutiny of noncompetititive contracting in the reconstruction of Iraq. It passed on voice vote.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who offered an amendment that would have prohibited the use of share-in-savings contracts, described them as "largely untested." That measure was defeated on voice vote.

Waxman offered another amendment that will make commercial items initiated under the new act subject to the Truth In Negotiations Act. Chairman Davis offered an amendment to Waxman's amendment exempting contracts less than $15 million. The two measures passed on voice vote.

Maloney offered an amendment that would have applied government accounting standards to seized Iraqi property. It failed on voice vote.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., offered an amendment that would have required OMB to hold public-private competitions before outsourcing work performed by federal employees. It was defeated 20 to 19.

The amended bill was approved by a vote of 22 to 18.

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