Pentagon to get authority to finish stalled job competitions

The Defense Department has won permission from the House to finish roughly 30 competitive sourcing studies that have been on hold since October, and the Senate is likely to add its approval in January.

Defense halted the competitions to avoid violating a provision in the 2004 Defense appropriations bill, which requires all multi-function job competitions to be finished in 30 months or less, down from 48 months, the old deadline. The requirement threatened to scuttle about 60 competitions that had taken too long.

But Defense will be allowed to finish roughly 30 competitions that were near completion under a compromise brokered by Defense officials and congressional staffers, according to Joe Sikes, director for competitive sourcing and privatization at Defense. The compromise, included in the omnibus spending bill approved by House lawmakers on Monday, lets Defense finish all studies where Defense has issued a solicitation for private bids, even if they take longer than 30 months.

"Where solicitations have already been issued, the new [30-month] deadline will not apply," Sikes said on Tuesday. About 5,800 Defense civilians are involved in competitions that will be allowed to proceed, he added.

However, Defense cannot resume any halted studies until the omnibus becomes law. On Tuesday, the Senate put off a vote on the bill until late January. "We're still restricted right now," said Sikes. "It's up to the legislative process."

Defense still will be forced to cancel some studies after the bill is signed into law. If they are restarted, these competitions may be subject to the much tighter 12-month time limit for all competitions set by the Office of Management and Budget in May.

The 30-month time limit was included in Section 8022 of the final Defense appropriations bill (Public Law 108-87), which President Bush signed into law on Sept. 30.

According to Sikes, the measure originated with staffers on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who were concerned that some competitions at Defense had dragged on for years. But after meeting with Defense officials, they agreed to narrow the application of the 30-month time limit so competitions could proceed, he said.

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