House passes services acquisition reform provisions

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) put his Services Acquisition Reform Act legislation on the fast track last night by attaching it to the Fiscal 2004 Defense Authorization bill, HR 1588. So when the House overwhelmingly passed the Defense bill last night, SARA moved closer to changing the way the government buys services.

The House Armed Services Committee approved most of the provisions of the acquisition bill before moving it to the full House, a Davis spokesman said.

'SARA is very important legislation not only for federal contractors and our federal work force, but ultimately the American taxpayer, and this bill was the best vehicle to move SARA in a timely fashion and to get the process moving,' the spokesman said. 'SARA is on its way to becoming law.'

The Defense bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Office of Management and Budget from setting goals for opening federal jobs to competition with the private sector under Circular A-76 unless the goal is based on 'considered research and sound analysis' and is consistent with the agency's mission.

The Senate last night also passed its version of the Defense Authorization Act, S 1050, 98-1, but it did not include the SARA provisions. House and Senate members now will negotiate the differences between the bills in conference committee.

Both Davis, the chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, have been named as conferees to the committee.

Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and general counsel for the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., industry association, said this was a significant step toward passing the legislation.

'The authorization bill will be signed into law, and there is a greater likelihood that an agreement will be reached on a bill like this than a stand-alone bill,' he said. 'This way Congress also can look at the totality of acquisition policy issues because there are some others ones that pertain to the Defense Department only.'

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