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Ever Hear of Biniam Gebre?


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  • bob7947 changed the title to Ever Hear of Biniam Gebre?

Well. As the OFPP Administrator is, by statute, also the head of the CAS Board, I'm wondering just how much the Board is going to accomplish during his tenure. I'm not happy to say I have to agree with Mr. Edwards' comment, above.

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Here is an article from The New York Times of May 28, 1976, about OFPP when it was new. They quote Hugh E. Witt, the first administrtor, a very experienced procurement professional from DOD, and Lester Fettig (they misspelled his last name), who would become the second administrator. Note that Federal procurement, then a paltry 70 billion a year business, is now a one-half trillion dollar a year business. Note, too, the last line of the article.



WASHINGTON — “We really have tiger by the tail,” said Hugh E. Witt, the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, a fledgling agency created to bring order from the chaos of Government purchasing policies and practices.

Mr. Witt may have understated his problem. Federal procurement is a $70‐billion‐a‐year business involving goods and services ranging from paper clips to nuclear submarines.

For industry, dealing with the Federal Government is a high‐risk, high‐stakes business enveloped in red tape and frequent controversy. In Washington, procurement policy has been an issue of incessant dispute involving Congress, the White House and the Federal agencies.

The law providing for the Procurement Policy Office, a semiautonomous wing of the Office of Management and Budget, was signed by President Ford on Aug. 30, 1976, only three weeks after he took office.

“It's a short law but a strong one,” Mr. Witt said in an interview shortly after his office issued its first annual report last month. All of the procurement activities of the ‘Federal Government are now under the administrative review of his office, he declared.

“We are the interface between the executive branch and industry,” Mr. Witt said. “For the first time, industry is coming to one central place to make its views known.”

So far, official wisdom in Washington is divided about the actual and potential contributions of the new office toward improving the procurement process for both Government and industry.

Senator Lawton Chiles, Democrat of Florida and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending, which exercises close review over the procurement office, said that while the office was “terribly slow in getting under way,” he was “confident it will help the business community by setting up a central policy for Federal purchasing.”

Spokesmen for several associations whose members are heavily involved in Government business also expressed approval of and hopes for the new agency.

But serious reservations were expressed about the agency elsewhere on Capitol Hill and in the agencies.

Dale Babione, Deputy Assistant secretary of Defense, said that the agency undoubtedly would provide “some pluses,” but added it imposed a new layer on the procurement decision‐making process and would almost certainly cut down the flexibility of the Defense Department in solving some of its problems. The Defense Department accounts for about 70 percent of total Federal purchases.

Richard Kaufman, general counsel of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and an expert on militaryindustrial issues, said he regarded the new operation as “a waste of time that is increasing red tape instead of reducing it.”

An official on the Cost Accounting Standards Board, which seeks to impose certain accounting standards on contractors doing business with the Government—and is therefore not popular with contractors—said that the new agency was trying to undermine the board. This official, who asked not to be named and other critics charged that The new office was too business‐oriented.

The major action by the Procurement Office so far was the publication, through the O.M.B., of an official circular instituting a procedure for the acquisition of major systems. The new policy is effective Government — wide but in practice will apply primarily to the Defense Department.

Under the new policy, the agency, usually Defense, will be able to specify only the mission that the new system is needed for, and not order the kind of weapons or other hardware it wants. This means, according to Mr. Witt, that more initiative and innovation by private industry will be allowed to flow into the Government procurement process.

Lester A. Fetig, chief counsel and staff director of the Senate Federal Spending subcommittee, said that the new process would enable smaller contractors to bid on major systems in the future and added that it would end the “feast or famine cycle” whereby defense contractors would take on many employees while gearing up for a project and then have to let them go when the contract did not come through.

Another project given high priority by the procurement agency is implementation of standing but equally longneglected Government policy of relying on the private sector to the largest extent possible to provide goods and services. M. Witt called this policy “very controversial” be. cause the Government‐employees unions did not want the Government to turn over functions it now performs to private industry.

The office is also trying to create standard regulations for contractors that would be effective Government — wide. Now, said Mr. Witt, the Corps of Engineers, the General Services Administration, the Navy and other Government agencies all have different regulations.

Mr. Witt said that the new agency could really make a difference in the procurement policy and save the taxpayers money as well as make it easier for industry to do business with Uncle Sam.

But as several critics pointed out, efforts have been going on for a long while to put a rein on the Government procurement process, none of them notably successful.


Note Witt's description of his office's powers of review. When DOD revised its acquisition policies last year I doubt that they even thought about OFPP, much less submitted their changes for its review. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

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I agree that OFPP is dead but it still has it's law and things that the Administrator is charged with doing.

I think it's good that you added an item that shows what OFPP might have been.  Since few of us were around for the issuance of the Commission on Government Procurement Report, that report listed OFPP as its first recommendation.  If anyone wants to look at the way contracting was in 1972, recommendations to improve it then, and think about where contracting is now, the Commission report is at the bottom of this page.

PS:  I don't know if it is real or not but I dreamt there is a grinning person at the front door of OMB with a stamp that is pressed on the hand of every new Administrator of OFPP when they first enter OMB.  The stamp reads "Former Administrator of OFPP" and is shaped like a ticket.

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1 hour ago, bob7947 said:

I agree that OFPP is dead but it still has it's law and things that the Administrator is charged with doing.

Yeah, but it's the Director of OMB, not the Administrator, who decides what will be done under that law. Congress can legislate, but OMB executes.

I don't expect anything of any significance to come out of OFPP unless and until we get a presidential administration that understands that it cannot get anything done without contracts and contracting, puts competent people in charge, and gets House and Senate leaders to assign all acquisition policy legislation to a single committee within each house of Congress.

That, ain't ever gonna happen. DOD, GSA, and Congress itself won't let it happen.

American government today is, and has been for a long time now, very big, very dysfunctional, and getting worse, and it isn't going to get better any time soon, if ever.

Sorry for the pessimism.

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