Analysis: New Guidance Creates Contracting Conundrum

In the span of just two days last week, three government offices issued advice about improving the $550 billion per year federal procurement system long plagued by waste and inefficiency.

On Sept. 14, the @li2=922&is_lhid=0&key=ZZTFDMCRQN&portal_key=Govex&ps_id=lI4c9NgLNm&q=QQ:lqOTqjptCQGISBSDPZPORJJOAPZOBHI.BUUUUBIUPDIDDVOqptJ:pnCAOqmj_J:pnCSO4aJm8CIHIRA:GPPBKVV&section_key=&site_id=&">Office of Management and Budget outlined in a memo ideas about how to "save money, reduce risk and get better results" from government contracts. On the same day, the Defense Department released guidance for "obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending." On Sept. 15, a presidential task force published its recommendations for improving federal contracting opportunities for small businesses.

The flurry of top-level attention is a welcome sign that the Obama administration is serious about reforming procurement at a time of fiscal constraint and budget deficits.

But the recent directives also unintentionally underscore the immediate need for better coordination among agencies and a more coherent reform agenda. Examined side by side, they reveal conflicting guidance that could sow even more confusion in a world so complex it vexes the most sophisticated lawyers and accountants. "The rule set becomes further confusing through these many efforts, and makes me worry what exactly will be the ‘real’ rules as those leading these initiatives depart and new ones arrive," former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said in an interview.

This article was originally published in