Administration supports Rep. Davis' acquisition bill

In a short six months, the Bush Administration has warmed up to many of the provisions in Rep. Tom Davis' Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA).

Two senior administration officials today testified before the Virginia Republican's Government Reform Committee that the White House supports:

  • Creating a chief acquisition officer and a supporting council

  • Creating a centralized procurement work force training fund

  • Improving the use of contract incentives

  • Increasing access to commercial capabilities.

  • Angela Styles, administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the bill includes significant improvements over Davis' previous SARA legislation.

    'I believe we can reach agreement on a significant number of provisions,' Styles told the committee. 'There still are some serious and unresolved problems with the time-and-materials provision, but we share many of the committee's desires for better acquisition management.'

    Stephen Perry, administrator of the General Services Administration, told the committee his agency supports the training fund and ensuring that each agency has a chief acquisition officer. GSA has such a position already, Perry said. He added that a training fund is part of the successful formula to training procurement workers.

    SARA, which Davis introduced yesterday, would require GSA to set up a centralized training fund by taking 5 percent of all revenue from all multiple-award contract sales.

    At the last hearing in October, Styles said, the administration did not support a centralized training fund or the idea of a chief acquisition officer. But Davis' staff negotiated with the administration to gain their support, a committee aide said.

    Davis hopes to move this bill quickly through the House. He scheduled a committee markup for May 6.

    'The new service-oriented, high-technology environment has simply overwhelmed the current system,' he said. 'SARA will put the tools needed to access the commercial service and technology market in the hands of a trained work force that will have the discretion necessary to choose the best value for the government and be held accountable for their choices.'

    Bill Woods, of the General Accounting Office, also weighed in on the need for such an official. He said the audit agency does not support a centralized training fund because the potential volatility of the revenue from governmentwide contracts. (Click for a PDF of the GAO testimony)

    Davis did not receive total support for the details of the position. Rep. Carol Maloney (D-N.Y.) said she didn't think the chief acquisition officer should be a politically appointed position.

    She plans to introduce an amendment to the bill to ensure that the position is filled by a career government official.

    'The CAO needs to serve government, not [be] a political appointee who comes from the private sector who will go back to the private sector when they are done,' she said. 'It must be someone trained in procurement regulations and rules.'

    Davis tried to downplay the issue by saying the potential for a conflict of interest is small because the official would have no authority to issue contracts and would be concerned mainly with policies. A political appointee also would have better access to agency senior executives, he added.

    Ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) also voiced some concerns about the bill, saying it might go too far in relaxing procurement rules.

    Members of an industry panel consisting of representatives from the Contract Services Association of America, the Information Technology Association of America and the Professional Services Council, said they agreed with most of the provisions in SARA.

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