ICE-MAN meltdown

Vendors are lobbying lawmakers. They're convening panels to discuss the ICE-MAN
contract. The Office of Management and Budget is looking into it. Many, such as GCN
columnist Steve Ryan (see column, Page 30), are calling for an end to this sort of
thing.


What sort of thing? Competition between government agencies and government contractors.
In selecting the Agriculture Department for this contract, FAA rejected a bid from
Computer Sciences Corp.


The law is clear in proscribing competition between government and industry for
commercial work. It is less clear about agencies competing with vendors for government
work. Looming over all of this are Senate and House bills that would simply force agencies
to outsource any function not inherently governmental-although it's an open question
whether operating data centers fits within that definition.


Still, the question hangs in the air: Legal or not, is this fair?


Before anyone rushes to conclusions, keep in mind three things:


Nevertheless, ICE-MAN was a less-than-stellar piece of contracting. If an agency wants
another agency to work under a cross-servicing agreement, so be it. But vendors shouldn't
be drawn into a competition when, for a variety of reasons, the deck is stacked against
them.


Overlooking FAA's history of troubled contracting, agencies should be aware of the
touchiness over the potential for abuse in the new era and be doubly careful to avoid even
the appearance of unfairness.


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