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As a long-time Government contractor for large and small businesses, my experience with Government contracting officers has been mostly positive. I have had a situation for the last couple of years however where I have encountered a very abusive contracting specialist that is relatively new to the government contracting arena. I don’t blame her completely as her contracting officer has left her mostly unsupervised and, when he did provide any guidance, it was usually wrong.

That said, she has been continually NOT acting in good faith (although my lawyer, while agreeing, always stops short of actually using those words), driving small businesses nearly out of business, and costing the government a significant amount of money. I have several documented examples of her bad-faith and am disappointed that she (and her CO boss) are ruining an otherwise noble profession tasked with assuring the public trust.

This young contract specialist is power-hungry, ambitious, and attempting to quickly advance her career. I have no doubt that she is, or soon will be, seeking promotion to a Contracting Officer.

All that said, my questions are:

1. Where can I find out if/when this person is applying for a warrant to be entrusted as a contracting officer?

2. Is there some platform where I can provide input (including documented evidence) to the evaluating officials demonstrating that this individual has not acted in the Government’s best interest and cannot be considered as a trustworthy steward of the taxpayer dollars?

I apologize that there is such a negative spin to this. I have provided references for individuals seeking licensure and/or certifications in many disciplines/careers over the last several decades. I’m now to the point that I feel it is my DUTY to prevent an individual that has repeatedly demonstrated such moral turpitude and questionable ethics from gaining any credibility to be granted a position in defense of the public trust. How do I go about this?

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I am not aware, in my own particular agency, of a redress forum for interested public parties in the matter of appointing a Contracting Officer. I am not involved in the granting of warrants, and so am by no means an expert on the particulars, but I am skeptical that a forum seeking input from non-governmental entities prior to the appointment of a Contracting Officer exists. Someone may correct me here. In my entire career I have never encountered or heard of such a situation as a contractor being granted permission to provide input into the appointment of a Contracting Officer.

Informally, though, you have the option of making your case to the most senior acquisition authority in the agency, who would be either the Chief Acquisition Officer or Senior Procurement Executive. I would guess that this person would have the discretion to hear your concerns or dismiss them.

I was trained that my role as a CO was to be impartial and fair to all parties in support of the public good. If this meant initiating corrective action on the part of the government, then so be it, as my role was to be above reproach in my business dealings with the public. I do not know if that means there is an institutionalized forum for you to articulate your concerns.

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Guest Vern Edwards

I don't know if the contract specialist will face a "warrant board." Even if she does, I doubt that a letter from you to them would do much good.

I'll make a suggestion, but its effectiveness depends at this point on how reasonable your complaints are. If you come across as a crank, then all is lost. Now, here is what you could do:

1. Send a short, businesslike letter to your congressional representatives to complain. Describe specific actions by the contract specialist that you believe were injurious to you. State the dates on which she did those things. Describe how they've been injurious. Don't generalize. Be specific. Don't bother describing things she's said, unless they were really inflammatory and you can prove that she said them. The emphasis is on "prove." Describe things she's done. Do not say personal things about her, such as that she's ambitious. Do not generalize about her effect on small businesses. Do not forecast what she's likely to do in the future. Do not mention "bad faith," which is a complex legal concept that you probably do not understand. And don't use rhetoric about ruining a "noble profession." Give that kind of thing a rest. Don't ask for punishment or disciplinary action. Ask only that the specific behavior stop. Make sure to adopt a cool, businesslike tone. Don't be overwrought, but come across as genuinely concerned.

Ask your congressional reps to inquire. If your company is in a pro-government state, don't expect an energetic response from you congressional reps, but who knows. If it's in an anti-government state and if the complaints are serious enough, then you might stir up a real kerfuffle. Send this letter FedEx overnight. Type the FedEx shipping number on the letter.

2. If you belong to an industry association, send it a copy of the letter that you sent to your congressional reps for their information.

3. Wait until you get delivery verification from FedEx, then send another letter to the chief of the contracting office. Send it FedEx two day, and put the ticket number on the letter. Don't send it to the contracting officer and don't say anything to the contracting officer or contract specialist. Enclose a copy of your letter to your congressional representatives and to your industry association. On the same day, send another FedEx letter to the head of the contracting activity, with a copy of your letter to the chief of the contracting office, a copy of your letter to your congressional reps, and a copy of your letter to your industry association.

Don't expect any of this to result in any kind of disciplinary action. It won't happen. What you want to do is make her higher-ups eyeball her and maybe tell her to step it down. Their response will depend upon the reasonableness of your complaints. Higher-ups don't like having attention directed to them, so anything that's likely to prompt an inquiry might get some kind of reaction from them. You're likely to get more of a reaction from a military agency than from a civilian agency.

She'll hate you for this. There is risk of retaliation, especially if your complaints are minor or unreasonable. That's the chance you'll have to take.

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  • 9 months later...
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