Tightening the Reins

alaurent@govexec.com

The 1996 Clinger-Cohen information technology management reform law gave the Office of Management and Budget authority to designate agencies as executive agents for governmentwide IT acquisition. OMB is using the designations to impose business rules on governmentwide IT contracts.

In a Jan. 25 letter designating the Transportation Department as agent for the follow-on to the Information Technology Omnibus Procurement, OMB revealed that it has begun a two-year evaluation of the operation of and need for GWACs. OMB set out operating principles for those with executive agent status. Agencies can run GWACs without executive agent designations, but OMB clearly hopes its principles will be widely adopted. The principles are:

  • The multiple award contract underlying a GWAC must describe the scope, nature and purpose of work to be performed.
  • Agencies as well as private companies must be able to bid for spots on GWACs.
  • The contract should include caps on prices for defined tasks and on hourly rates, as well as other provisions reflecting the government's buying power.
  • Fixed-price, performance-based task orders should be the rule. All orders should be based on best value and past performance.
  • To ensure competition, orders should be for specific, narrow and brief projects aimed at solving part of a mission problem and should deliver benefits independent of future tasks or orders.
  • Long-term orders should contain "off ramps" to avoid dependence on a single contractor.
  • Competition for orders should quickly be narrowed to leading contenders so they will invest resources in coming up with superior proposals.
  • The ordering process should not make it difficult for agencies to convert work from in-house to vendor performance.
  • Ordering should be easy, streamlined, cost-effective and electronic whenever possible.
  • GWACs must keep performance information on individual orders and provide it to customers.
  • GWACs must maintain adequate staff to perform effective contract management.
  • GWAC financial systems must assure identification, accounting and recovery of fully allocated actual costs.
  • Projected GWAC revenue cannot exceed projected costs. Fees should be adjusted so revenues do not exceed costs. Revenues in excess of costs must be sent to the Treasury.
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