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Part 2: Too Many Contracting Committees; Too Many Contracting Laws

bob7947

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In my last post on the Wifcon Blog, I proposed a House and Senate Committee on Contracting and Assistance. Why, you might ask? Remember the Clinger-Cohen Act? It was part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996, P. L 104-106. What about the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011? It was part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, P. L. 112-81. What about the new Limitations on Subcontracting provision that was mentioned on the Wifcon Forum? You may have guessed: The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, P. L. 112-239, Section 1651.

So how does government-wide contracting legislation end up in the annual National Defense Authorization Acts? Think "sticky bill!" To be more exact, and maybe more accurate as it affects contracting, remember the scene in Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks' character explains how the remnants of his unit will deal with tanks--"

." As the annual National Defense Authorization Act makes its way through the corridors of Congress, you throw your sticky bill at it and hope it sticks.

It doesn't begin nor end there. Remember our old friend the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994? It was originally introduced in the old Senate Committee on Government Affairs, now the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. This Senate Committee has a counterpart in the House of Representatives--the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, formerly the old Committee on Government Operations. If Congress cannot keep the names of its committees simple, how can it keep contracting legislation streamlined? I'll answer that--it cannot. Getting back to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, this year its chairman introduced H. R. 1232, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act. Currently, H. R. 1232 is wallowing in the full House of Representatives. It may eventually stick to something and get passed. Pray it doesn't.

Finally, there are agencies totally overseen by a single committee in the House and Senate. These committees treat their agencies as their own turf, and of course, write agency-specific contracting laws. I remember sitting with some bright, young, eager, staff members of one such committee. They were writing a piece of legislation that would affect an agency's contracting law. As I read the bill, all I could think of was--at least they heard of the Competition-in-Contracting Act. Eventually, the bill was passed without question and became another piece of garbage legislation affecting one agency's contracting. If you are working in one of these agencies' contracting offices, woe are you.

I only will briefly mention that the House and Senate Small Business Committees can initiate their own legislation and eventually pass it too.

In our wonderful game of baseball, one pitcher stands on a hill and throws the ball towards the batter to start the action. If Congress wrote the rules for baseball, all 8 players facing the batter would throw balls toward the batter and the catcher squatting behind the batter would take some cheap shots at the batter. If you work in a contracting office or if you are a contractor, you are the batter in Congress's version of baseball.



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