Congress moves to restore simplified acquisition procedures authority
The House and Senate conference version of the fiscal 2013 national defense authorization act unveiled Dec. 18 would restore federal authority to make contracts worth between more than $150,000 and $6.5 million under simplified acquisition procedures. The bill also contains a provision that would remove the Sept. 30, 2016 sunset clause for the Government Accountability Office's authority to hear protests over task- and delivery- orders worth more than $10 million, but only regarding procurements in the Defense Department, NASA and the Coast Guard.
Congress last year let authority expire for simplified acquisition procedures used for procurements worth more than the simplified acquisition threshold of $150,000, in what congress observers among the federal acquisition community say was an oversight.
The conference bill (.pdf) would instate that authority through Jan. 1, 2015 – and calls for the GAO report on the use of simplified acquisition procedures over the threshold.
Under simplified acquisition, the amount of work the government must undertake to evaluate an offer is much less than other methods such as negotiated procurement. When choosing a vendor through a simplified acquisition, agencies need not bother with formal evaluation plans, establishing a competitive range, conducting discussions or scoring offers. Also, a contracting officer, not necessarily a source selection team, can choose the contract winner.
GAO task- and delivery- order protests
The time limit on GAO authority to consider protests over task- and delivery- orders worth more than $10 million would permanently disappear under the conference bill, but only for Title 10 agencies – the DoD, NASA and Coast Guard. Should the bill become law, this would mean that the Sept. 30, 2016 sunset date for GAO authority to hear those protests regarding civilian (i.e., Title 41) agencies would remain in effect. That difference would have the potential to create another disparity between military and civilian procurement systems, as happened recently for a period when Congress extended an earlier time limit for GAO authority for Title 10 agencies but didn't do so until a year later for Title 41 agencies.
DoD cost-plus contracting
The conference bill also includes language that would make it harder for the Defense Department to utilize cost-plus contracts during the production phase of major defense acquisition programs. The bill language would require the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics to certify in writing that cost-plus is necessary, and to limit cost-plus pricing "to only those line items or portions of the contract where such pricing is needed."