Figuring procurement regs is a zero-sum game

Joseph J. Petrillo

To find out what was new in the world of government procurement theory, I called that noted scholar of acquisition systems, Prof. Donnerkopf.

'Great things are happening,' he responded to my inquiry. 'After considerable study, we have concluded that the problem with procurement regulations is that there are too many of them.'
'Amazing!' was all I could say.

'Yes, isn't it? We have established conclusively an important relationship: the more regulations, the less each one means. We refer to this effect as Degenerative Obfuscatory Disorder, or DOD.'

'Tell me more,' I inquired, as my hands reached for the keyboard to get this all down.

'We understand this relationship so well, that we can express it mathematically,' the professor continued.

'Really, how did you do that?'

'You wouldn't understand. But I'm about to publish the formula in the next Journal of the American Society of Philosopher-Kings.'

'I'm not sure my readers will see it there. Can you tell me what it is?' I asked.

'No problem. First, you need to calculate the total number of signifying elements in the regulation.'

'What are signifying elements?'

'Well, of course, they are any conventionally joined group of socially determined symbols expressed in a fixed but ascertainable form, in the context of the full economic substratum.'

'I still don't understand.'

'You really are an ignorant fellow,' Donnerkopf chided. 'At the risk of oversimplification, you may think of them as words and numbers.'

'So you add up all the numbers and words in a regulation?'

'It's more complex than that, and requires a staff of graduate students, but you can think of it that way if it helps you to understand. We, however, refer to them as Government Semiotic Aggregations, or GSAs.'

'So the more words, er, GSAs, the less the regulation means?'

'That's not all. We have found a precise mathematical link between the GSA value and the total quantified meaning of a procurement regulation.'

'Total quantified meaning?'

'Well, that's putting it in laymen's terms. We refer to it as the Numerical Assessment of Significant Accumulation, or NASA.'

'I think I'm getting lost.'

'Stay with me now. What we have found is that the two numbers are linked by a constant, the Formulaic Absolute of Relevance, or FAR. From here on, it's all very simple; the law of DOD is:


'Proving that the more words in a regulation, the less meaning.'

'Wow, that's revolutionary!'

'Yes, I'm sure to win a Nobel Prize or an important presidential appointment. And the implications are clear. To have better procurement regulations, all we need to do is reduce the number of words.'

'To what?' I had to ask.

'Ideally, to zero.'

Joseph J. Petrillo is an attorney with the Washington law firm of Petrillo & Powell. E-mail him at jp@petrillopowell.com.

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