Panel issues plea for more procurement reform

The Procurement Round Table, a nonprofit organization made up of former acquisition officials, has called for the establishment of a high-level panel, similar to the "Section 800 Panel" of the early 1990s, to oversee further streamlining of the federal acquisition process.

In a new report, "The Federal Acquisition System: Transitioning to the 21st Century," the Procurement Round Table (PRT) argues that additional commercialization is necessary to keep the federal acquisition system viable in the emerging marketplace. Advances in technology, coupled with the dramatic rise in e-commerce, a greater overlap between the public and private sectors, the continuing trend toward corporate mergers and acquisitions, and the growing importance of the international market are all changing the dynamics of the federal procurement system, the report said.

In a letter accompanying the report, PRT Chairman Elmer B. Staats said that although reforms in the early 1990s accomplished a great deal in streamlining and commercializing the acquisition system, "the current business environment is changing rapidly with major emphasis on the global marketplace, rapid technological change and electronic commerce. Reform and change in the federal acquisition system is not proceeding rapidly enough to keep pace."

The PRT report put forth five recommendations for preparing the acquisition system for the new millennium:

  • Redefine the scope and vision of the entire system.
  • Promote results-oriented, long-term relationships between the government and its suppliers.
  • Implement policies enabling government information technology systems to interface with each other and others in the industry.
  • Adopt a business-based approach to cost accounting, budgeting, and policy guidance.
  • Rely more on commercial industrial capabilities.

The Section 800 Panel was created by the Defense Department as a result of the fiscal 1991 Defense Authorization Act. The purpose of the panel was to review and streamline existing DoD acquisition laws. The group's subsequent report, "Streamlining Defense Acquisition Laws," was instrumental in laying the groundwork for several pieces of major procurement reform legislation passed in the early 1990s.

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