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Project on Government Oversight

Testimony before Defense Acquisition Review Panel should not be limited to defense contractors

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September 2, 2005

Ronald T. Kadish
Chairman
Defense Acquisition Performance Assessment Project
8283 Greensboro Drive
McLean, Virginia 22102

Dear General Kadish:

We have attended two of your public meetings and been impressed with the vigor you and your colleagues on the DAPA panel have displayed in pursuing the very broad and challenging mission you have been given by Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England. At the same time, we have been somewhat dismayed that it seems the vast majority of public testimony you have heard has come from representatives of the defense contractor industry.

As I understand it, the DAPA staff also has been interviewing a variety of government, trade association, and military participants in the Department of Defense acquisition system. Of course, input from those sectors is critical to your study. However, it appears there are no plans to interview non-governmental organizations whose mission is to protect taxpayers rather than generate corporate profits. I believe independent, non-partisan groups like the one I work for, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), could offer you a less self-interested view of the procurement process.

Founded in 1981, POGO strives to promote a government that is accountable to the citizenry. For many years, POGO has closely studied, researched, investigated, and interacted firsthand not only with DoD's acquisition system officials, but also with insiders and experts seeking to reform the process. We have shared our investigations in written reports and Congressional testimony, and kept the media informed of our findings and proposed solutions.

For instance, on May 17, 2005, POGO General Counsel Scott Amey made a presentation before the Acquisition Advisory Panel, a group authorized by the Services Acquisition Reform Act of 2003. As you know, the panel's statutory charter is to review and recommend any necessary changes to acquisition laws and regulations as well as government-wide acquisition policies with a view toward ensuring effective and appropriate use of commercial practices and performance-based contracting. Mr. Amey told the panel that the current system was vulnerable in five areas, including negotiations, competition, accountability, transparency, and contracting vehicles. I've attached a copy of the most salient points he made in his presentation.

In March 2005, I specifically raised serious issues with two types of reforms – "commercial item" acquisitions and "other transaction authority" (OTA) – in written testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Airland Subcommittee. The two contracting vehicles, highly favored by defense contractors and increasingly used by government contract officers, are reducing both transparency and accountability in the DoD's acquisition system, I told the Subcommittee. A copy of my written testimony is also attached.

In recent years we have studied other problems with the federal government's way of doing business. Last year, for example, we released an in-depth report highlighting problems with the revolving door between the government and large private contractors – where conflict of interest is the rule, not the exception. POGO's report, "The Politics of Contracting," details specific revolving door cases and sheds light on the flawed system that allows them.

In 2002, POGO began a push to shed light on the so-called acquisition reforms of the 1990s. Our March 2002 report, "Pick Pocketing The Taxpayer: The Insidious Effects of Acquisition Reform," exposed these "reforms" that actually unraveled useful taxpayer protections created during the infamous defense contractor scandals of the 1980s.

Because of this unique perspective we have on the acquisition system, I would like to extend POGO's sincere offer to provide the panel with either oral or written testimony that would give you an informed and impartial view of the Pentagon's procurement process. Because we are independent and have been working on defense acquisition projects for nearly 25 years, I believe we could provide the panel with some important and relevant information, as well as offer possible solutions to the challenges you are attempting to address in your sweeping and much needed inquiry.

Thank You.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director

 

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