DoD chided for not competing task orders

The Defense Department has routinely waived competition requirements for multiple-award contracts and Federal Supply Schedule orders, despite legal requirements to ensure competition, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

As a result, 'there were fewer opportunities to obtain the potential benefits of competition ' improved levels of service, market-tested prices and the best overall value for the taxpayer,' the report said.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2002 requires Defense Department contracting officers to solicit offers from all eligible contractors for defense orders for services worth more than $100,000.

For Federal Supply Schedule orders in particular, the law requires defense-contracting officers to ensure the receipt of three offers or determine in writing that no additional contractors could be identified despite reasonable efforts to do so.

But GAO found that competition requirements were waived for nearly half, or 34 of 74, of the orders it reviewed at five defense buying organizations: the Communications-Electronics Command, Naval Inventory Control Point, Defense Contracting Command-Washington, Defense Information Systems Agency and Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center.

The waivers accounted for $53.3 million, or 58 percent, of the total dollar value of the orders GAO reviewed.

In 26 of the 34 cases, competition was waived because the contracting officer determined that only one company could do the work or because the work was a follow-on to a previously competed order, according to the report. Often in these cases, contracting officers waived the competition requirements after program officers said they wanted to keep current contractors on the job.

GAO found that the waivers were issued without assurances that they were justified. Its report said the requirements for documentation of waivers were not specific and that review at a level higher than the contracting officer was not required.

GAO recommended that the Defense Department develop guidance on when waivers of competition may be used, require detailed documentation to support waivers, and establish approval authority above the contracting officer level.

Defense officials agreed with the recommendations, according to the report.

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