Just vend and bear it

For most people, the anticipation of going to the dentist is worse than going. The same
logic seems to apply to life without the General Services Administration Board of Contract
Appeals.


Vendors fretted over the loss of the protest venue, a casualty of procurement reform.
Instead, they must face the General Accounting Office or federal court, where, it was
assumed, agencies always would have the upper hand.


Happily, or unhappily, depending on your view, there is still recourse for vendors that
feel agencies have wronged them through unfair or illegal contracting practices. Two
recent cases illustrate the point.


In a GAO protest of an Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' award to BTG Inc.,
Integration Technologies Group Inc. alleged that a subcontractor had failed to receive the
proper product certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
After a brief haggle over whether the certification was necessary, the subcontractor,
Informix Software Inc., obtained the certification and the contract proceeded.


In another case, Dynamic Decisions Inc. protested the Air Force's selection of
International Data Products Corp. as Desktop V's 8(a) contractor. A federal judge ruled in
favor of DDI on the grounds that IDP didn't meet Small Business Administration
qualifications as an 8(a) company. He voided IDP's contract but didn't order the Air Force
to award the contract to DDI.


I can't comment on either protest's merit. But the early post-GSBCA signs are that
vendors still can alter contract actions and even have them set aside via protest. Perhaps
the barriers are higher than in the GSBCA days, but that means fewer frivolous cases.


Reps. Connie Morella (R-Md.) and Steve Horn (R-Calif.) have more or less seized the
leadership role in hectoring agencies to get their systems ready for 2000.


In recent GCN interviews, the two House members chided President Clinton for not
personally making date code a bigger issue.


It's true, as Horn conceded, the president is busy. But it's also axiomatic in both
government and private organizations: Things get done a lot faster if there's a push from
the top. So, Bill, let a few agencies know you personally want the year 2000 fixes
finished in the next 12 months.


Your term doesn't end until Jan. 20, 2001.


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