GAO Reports Defense Department Barely Moving toward a Comprehensive Service Contracts Database

Earlier in April, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the second in a series of new, congressionally mandated reports assessing the Department of Defense’s (DOD) efforts to compile an inventory of service contracts. Congress intends for the Pentagon to include these reviews in its yearly budget work and expects “inherently governmental work” currently performed by private contractors to be brought back “in-house.” This review process will help the Pentagon find ways to reduce costs and limit the over-reliance on contractors.

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Study Shows Private Contractors Usually Cost More than Public Employees

Conventional wisdom in Washington dictates that the private sector can always provide services at a lower cost than the federal government. A new study from the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), however, turns conventional wisdom on its head, demonstrating that the government rarely reaps the purported benefits of lower costs through the outsourcing of service work. In fact, POGO found that, on average, the government pays service contractors more than 1.8 times the amount it pays federal employees with the same education, doing the same job and performing similar tasks.

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CWC's Final Report: Make Investments in Contracting Oversight

On Aug. 31, the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) released its final report to Congress, detailing contracting issues in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although most media outlets focused on the sensational estimates of funds lost through waste and fraud over the course of the wars – possibly totaling $60 billion – the report makes a much broader and compelling argument for systemic contracting reforms and better contractor oversight. With the current atmosphere of austerity on Capitol Hill, Congress should heed these recommendations.

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Army Report Highlights Need for More Contracting Officers

A recently released review of the U.S. Army's acquisition process reveals that the service must invest in more acquisition personnel and better training to help address failed weapons programs and their associated costs. Arresting staggering cost increases is an important objective for the Army, but Congress's current obsession with deficit reduction may become the greatest impediment to saving taxpayer dollars.

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Commission on Wartime Contracting: Iraq Contracting Disaster Looming

On June 6, the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) held a hearing to examine the Department of State's (State) continued preparations for taking control of operations in Iraq from the Department of Defense (DOD). In the past, the CWC has been less than sanguine about State's ability to run contingency operations in Iraq and has chided the agency for slow-walking reforms, especially in relation to contract oversight.

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States Lead the Way on Contract Disclosure

Citizens have a right to know whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely. Unfortunately, the terms of government contracts are not routinely disclosed. A recent audit of ten federal agencies found that none of the agencies comprehensively posted contract information online. States, on the other hand, have begun innovating on contract disclosure.

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Reducing Influence Peddling in Government Contracting

Published April 27, 2011—In this piece, Gary Therkildsen and Gary D. Bass of OMB Watch argue that the federal government, namely the executive branch, must get serious about making public the information on any and all lobbying related to the federal procurement process. The authors use the Boeing tanker contract scandal as an illustration of the need for reform. This piece appeared as part of the "Solutions: Making Government Work" column on Truthout.

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Commentary: Contracting Oversight in the 112th Congress

With the GOP winning control of the House on Nov. 2, Republican members of House oversight committees are poised to determine how the lower chamber of Congress uses its investigatory powers for the next two years. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the likely chairman-to-be of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has released what his website calls "a blueprint" for oversight of the executive branch, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a document shortly after the elections calling for greater congressional oversight overall. With plenty of contracting issues that remain unexamined or in need of further investigation, what will this shift mean for congressional oversight of government contracting in the next Congress?

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Congressional Oversight Panel Examines TARP Contracting

On Sept. 22, the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP), the body tasked by Congress to oversee implementation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), examined the Department of the Treasury’s use of private contractors under the program. Witnesses from government, the private sector, and the nonprofit world critiqued Treasury’s use of financial services contractors and highlighted lessons about improved competition and openness that the government should take from the soon-to-be-ended program.

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Posting Federal Contracts Online: The Next Step in Contracting Transparency?

The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on May 13 that could establish standards for posting federal contracts online. Providing the public online access to electronic copies of federal contracts could create a new level of accountability in federal procurement, but some contractors have opposed the idea, claiming it would cost too much and could reveal confidential business information.

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