Bid it or ignore it

Is too much competition a bad thing? Some systems vendors apparently think so.

The baldest example was a letter from the Coalition for Federal Procurement to Rep.
Steve Horn (R-Calif.) asking that Congress kill a Transportation Department commodity
systems and services contract [GCN, June 15, Page 69].

In the letter, the Washington coalition’s president and executive director
appealed to Horn, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on
Government Management, Information and Technology, to halt the planned Information
Technology Omnibus Procurement II acquisition.

The buy is a follow-on to ITOP. Transportation officials want to award new contracts
before the year is out.

The letter was remarkable for three reasons. First, it’s not clear that Horn can
order an agency to stop a procurement, just like that. Second, it’s not clear he
wants to.

Third, some vendors listed on the coalition’s stationery as advisers said they
don’t agree with the letter’s conclusions and were shocked to have their names
on a letter they believe has the potential to poison their business relationships with
Transportation. A few of the vendors said they plan to bid on ITOP II.

These shenanigans ought to make vendors uneasy. True, there’s nothing new about
companies lobbying for particular programs or for procurement reforms. But end-running
agencies with quasi-open letters to Congress is rare.

Vendors certainly have the right to question the proliferation of buying vehicles. Ever
more often, vendors are spending money to develop proposals for multiple-award contracts
that merely give them a license to sell. There’s no guarantee of business, they

Fair enough. But instead of running to Capitol Hill—where lawmakers like to whack
mosquitoes with sledgehammers—vendors that dislike a procurement ought to pursue more
effective redress.

They need to take an approach that fulfills everyone’s desire for fairness,
competition and a businesslike approach to government buying.

What is this avenue? Don’t bid.

Thomas R. Temin

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