Congress wants DOD to Use More Commercial Items and Services

December 14, 2015

Congress Weighs In on Defense Procurement Gaps

Source: Government Executive, Stan Soloway, November 30, 2015

There is still a significant schizophrenia within the government generally, and particularly in the Defense Department, over the use of commercial items and services. As arcane as this issue might sound, it is actually one of the core lynchpins to the government’s ability to drive innovation and gain access the best solutions from the broadest possible array of providers. In other words, arcane or not, it really matters.

For two years in a row, DOD asked Congress for legislation to dramatically change the statutory definition of a commercial item or service. Both times Congress summarily, and wisely, rejected these proposals. Then in early August, DOD issued a proposed procurement rule that would achieve much the same result as the legislative proposal, albeit in a more nuanced way. And Congress noticed.

In early November, more than 50 members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, signed an unusually sharp letter to the department calling for the proposed rule to be rescinded. In their view, the rule is counterproductive and focused on the wrong issues. Moreover, the 2016 defense authorization bill includes language that pushes DOD to rely more on commercial practices, either directly or through their traditional contractors.

The letter is significant. It is highly unusual for such a diverse array of members of Congress to sign such a strongly worded letter on such a “down in the weeds” procurement rule. The fact that they did so suggests that they understand a few things that continue to elude too many in the Defense Department.  Read More …

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