Senate candidate pledges reforms to federal procurement process

Former Virginia Gov. George Allen (R) is running for Senate. Former Virginia Gov. George Allen (R) is running for Senate. Steve Helber/AP

Republican George Allen, the former Virginia governor locked in a contentious battle to reclaim his old Senate seat, addressed a roundtable of defense contractor executives Tuesday to propose reforms to the federal procurement process.

Allen, who is running against former Democratic governor Tim Kaine, suggested sweeping changes, ranging from shortening the protest process for companies that lose out on contracts to increasing government access to off-the-shelf products.

The GOP contender said one key aspect of his proposal is for government to emphasize “best value” when awarding contracts, rather than simply giving the contract to the lowest bidder -- a concept known as Low Price Technically Acceptable.

“If you needed heart surgery would you go to the one who was giving you the lowest price?” Allen asked the roundtable.

Allen also suggested streamlining the protest process so it takes 60 days instead of 100, altering regulations that force small businesses that outgrow their “small” label to lose their contracts and increasing the government’s use of commercial products.

Allen said both sides of the political aisle should accept his ideas.

“I look at these, generally speaking…they should be nonpartisan,” he said. “These sorts of reforms, as far as procurement, would get our government more efficient, more effective and with greater accountability.”

The contractors met Allen’s ideas largely with enthusiasm, although one proposal worried some executives in attendance. Allen suggested shortening contract time frames to “keep contractors on their toes” and thereby increasing competition. But some warned it might have the opposite effect because fewer companies would want to invest in the process of bidding if they would not be rewarded with at least a five- to seven-year contract.

“Point taken,” Allen said of the cautionary words. “Thank you.”

The former governor addressed a variety of issues at the event -- held at the offices of defense contractor Camber Corp. in Arlington, Va. -- including the threat of the automatic across-the-board cuts known as sequestration.

“This is the latest failure in leadership from Washington,” Allen said, “which I oppose and my opponent continues to say it was the right thing to do.”

He added “to have half the cuts come from the primary responsibility of federal government is just so irresponsible.”

Asked about another round of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission process, Allen said definitively he would vote against it.

To effectively legislate on these issues, Allen said his experience in the Senate -- he served one term from 2001 to 2007 -- would award him “first pick” in committees, which he would use to place himself on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Kaine in August pledged to defend federal employees. That event did not address contractors specifically.  

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