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We recognize that there is ample rhetoric among COs and the profession that is completely false. People have already commented in the past that, despite the rhetoric, a CO is not a business partner or business professional functionally within agencies operations.

Another statement that I have heard fairly often from some COs is "Well I am responsible and not willing to spend time in jail for this decision." This has always struck me as being ridiculous. Other than for cases involving fraud, can anyone provide me a case where a CO was sent to jail for anything other than an outright crime (fraud)? Where does this rhetoric come from? I find it debilitating, and it is often used as an excuse when they interpret the FAR too narrowly and what they have been asked doesn't have a clear allowable pathway that is spelled out to them. Where does this rhetoric come from, and has there ever been a case where a CO was sent to jail because of faultly logic IAW FAR? They don't put COs in jail for mistakes, or laziness, or because of the way they interpreted (or misinterpreted) something (a wiseguy would say they do....they just call them policy shops).

I always wondered and have yet to find a good answer. When COs say this I usually just look at them like I smelled some Limburger, or start laughing at them which is never helpful. Thanks in advnace for anyone who bites on this.

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Guest Vern Edwards

In this country, for now, you can go to jail only for committing a crime, i.e., violating a law that prescribes jail as a penalty, such as the Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. 1341, which people violate quite often. A friend of mine researched the ADA and could find no record of anyone ever going to jail for a violation.

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Guest Vern Edwards

See John Martino, GAO Decision B-262168, May 24, 1996.

http://www.gao.gov/assets/330/325996.pdf

A CO contracting action in violation of law or regulation is an unauthorized commitment and should be processed as such, especially if the action was not just an honest mistake. See FAR 1.602-1( b ). If agency regulations provide that the CO can be held liable, then the CO can be held liable. Possible, but unlikely.

In the Martino case, the subject is said to have lied to investigators about conducting a price check before exercising an option. The GAO decision does not mention that fact.

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Don Acquisition - agreed, but there is a difference between following the FAR and interpreting the FAR. Some COs have a restrictive interpretation where there is no explicit restrictive regulation and misapply restrictions. This is why we are viewed as clerks rather than knowledgable advisors (ie., looking for reasons to say no rather than yes).

Vern - I thought that was the case and I find it interesting. I had not been able to find a case either. Thank you sir!

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The "I don't want to go to jail" comment has always irked me as well. You aren't going to go to jail for acting ethically and honestly. I think that's key: If a CO is acting in good faith and interpreting the FAR honestly and to the best of his/her ability, it is nearly impossible for a CO to go to jail. If a COs ethics and honesty break down and the CO starts taking kickbacks, bribes, leaks source selection information to favored vendors, or engages in quid pro quo favors, then sure, that CO is risking criminal penalties.

However, I've never heard the "I don't want to go to jail" comment mentioned in that context...a context in which the sentiment would be understandable. (However, my first inclination to hearing talk about bribes or kickbacks would not be "I don't want to go to jail" it would be "I will not entertain such talk because my integrity is too important to me.")

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  • 3 weeks later...

The term "Go to jail" does dramatize situations. Do acquisition professionals go to jail? Yes. Are senior acquisition officials relieved of their duties when they wilfully flout regulation or law without monetary gain, yes they do.

The "Go to jail" term is handy when being fending off coersion to make bad contracting decision.

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KO's serve as a check and balance to requiring activities. I believe we are a "Government Partner" but not really a "Business Partner." Our job is not to keep the customer happy at all cost and give them what they want. Our job is to ensure they do things properly and get what they need. Sounds trite, is often espoused, but it really is the truth. It also can be pretty darn challenging when you know you are doing the right thing that will in the end be best for everyone while everyone is mad at you.

Jail? Only times I have seen this is for highly egregious behavior, always uniformed, always OCONUS, and nearly always for incredibly blatant and stupid stuff.

Costing you? That is a more distinct possibility- but again- very rare.

I would think for most KO's- the threat of a career killing warrant yank leading to a dead end policy job is a sufficient deterrent- and this DOES happen hence why a true deterrent.

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One quick clarification- not my intent to disparage all policy jobs as "dead end." Considering that I spent some time in policy, it is not obviously not dead end.

My overall point though I believe still holds: the threat of losing your warrant is a considerable deterrent and usually sufficient. The inability to obtain a warrant in the 1102 job series precludes one from many opportunities. What remains is policy, procurement analysis, cost & pricing, etc..

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