Acquisition reform bill sails out of House committee

The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Friday that would exempt certain service contracts from federal acquisition rules and support training programs for government procurement specialists.

Under the 2003 Services Acquisition Reform Act (H.R. 1837), sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., some contractors providing widely available commercial services would receive exemptions from cost accounting standards on sole source agreements worth up to $15 million. The bill also encourages government agencies to enter into share-in-savings agreements, where they would share the windfall generated from new innovations with contractors.

In addition, Davis' legislation establishes a fund for training federal acquisition officers and allows these employees to work in the private sector temporarily as part of an exchange program.

Similar legislation introduced by Davis last year never made it out of committee.

The Judiciary Committee voted Friday on a version of the bill that the House Government Reform Committee approved in early May, by a margin of 22 to 18.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., disposed of the bill, which he said he considered "noncontroversial," early in Friday's mark-up session.

Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., offered the only amendment, asking the committee to delete a section of the bill that would force the Federal Prison Industries to compete with companies for federal contracts. Government agencies are currently required to buy items crafted under the FPI program whenever possible.

Scott argued that this section of the bill duplicates measures already included in a separate piece of legislation-the 2003 Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act (H.R. 1829)-and is therefore unnecessary.

Sensenbrenner urged the committee to leave the section in the legislation, arguing that agencies should not be forced to grant the FPI preferential treatment when awarding contracts. By doing so, they run the risk of wasting taxpayer money because they do not necessarily receive the best bargain for the goods and services they purchase, he explained.

The committee defeated Scott's amendment by a voice vote. After little further debate, the committee passed the bill, also by voice vote.

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