5 Themes in the Changing Paradigm in Government Contracting

With all the drama in Capitol Hill in the past few days, the Government Sequestration looks likely going to continue into the next fiscal year at least. Some changes brought by the Sequestration seem to have a longer lasting impact in government contracting than originally expected. In a timely discussion organized by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce (TRCC) Government Contracting Council on Sep. 25th (www.tysonschamber.org/events), the keynote speaker Rob Burton shared his observation of 5 themes in the changing paradigm in government contracting.

Rob has a very unique and distinguished career in government acquisition. He spent over twenty years as a senior acquisition attorney with the Department of Defense.  He then served in the Executive Office of the President as Deputy Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP).  Now he practices law in the private sector, as a federal procurement attorney with Venable LLP in Washington, DC.

What are the 5 themes?

  • Theme #1. The “Low Price Technically Acceptable” criteria are here to stay, and are replacing, to some extent, the traditional “Best Value” criteria. This brings new opportunities to small and emerging companies that can outbid incumbents in “Price,” but “sometimes the Low Price Technically Acceptable criteria pose a challenge when it comes to evaluating proposals for complex services,” Rob cautioned.
  • Theme #2. There is a lack of transparent communications between federal agencies and vendors.  This is especially true during the market research phase of a procurement project.  Additionally, agency debriefings provided to losing bidders sometimes fail to adequately explain the weaknesses in a bidder’s proposal, leading to unnecessary protests in some cases.
  • Theme #3. The growing influence of agency Inspectors General and auditors.  Contracting managers often fail to challenge audit and IG recommendations and shy away from managing their staff for fear of an IG inquiry or criticism.
  • Theme #4. The government-wide “strategic sourcing” initiative could have a long-term, negative impact on small businesses.  Rob is very familiar with “strategic sourcing,” having implemented a government-wide strategic sourcing initiative many years ago when he worked in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.  Rob thinks that “while current strategic sourcing efforts may help reduce costs in the near term, the current strategic sourcing contract vehicles may reduce small business participation and reduce competition in the long term.”  Rob cautioned that the government needs to ensure that small businesses are not negatively impacted by strategic sourcing.
  • Theme #5. There are increasing regulatory and compliance burdens on government contractors.

Despite Sequestration, the changing paradigm in government contracting, and some headwinds for small businesses, Rob believes that “overall it is a good environment for small businesses to grow.” Federal agencies generally view small businesses as cost competitive and better at providing innovative solutions to support agency missions.

At Venable LLP, Rob advises government contractors on a wide range of procurement issues and advocates for their interests at the agencies and on Capitol Hill.  He also helps contractors market their services and products to the federal government, and assists them with the early resolution of contract disputes.

We will invite Robert Burton to be a guest in our Government Contractor Webinar series on November 7th, to discuss these themes. Stay posted.

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