According to Stan Soloway, president and CEO of contractor trade association the Professional Services Council, due process and fairness are becoming “increasingly quaint notions” for federal contractors.
Soloway’s commentary in this week’s Washington Technology is full of outrage. The target of his ire is the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC), which in its February interim report recommended automatic suspensions of contractors who are indicted for “contract-related” misconduct.
Soloway likens this to “declaring guilt before all facts are known.” Yet this sort of shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach seems to be acceptable behavior in the private sector. Back in January 2010, POGO blogged about defense contractor Agility, which had been accused—but not yet convicted—of defrauding the government. According to the U.S. Army Contracting Command, Agility was fired as a subcontractor on LOGCAP IV by DynCorp International. DynCorp’s contract with Agility stipulated that an indictment for any reason could result in termination.
As far as we know, Soloway never wrote a commentary decrying DynCorp’s rush to judgment.
Nevertheless, Soloway’s position seems to have traction among some high-ranking officials. At yesterday’s CWC hearing, Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top contracting official, warned that the CWC’s mandatory suspension recommendation could have a “chilling effect” on contractors. “There is a potential unintended consequence of turning suspensions and debarments from tools to protect the government’s interest into tools that automatically punish contractors,” Carter testified. (The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provides that suspensions and debarments are to be imposed “only in the public interest for the Government’s protection and not for purposes of punishment.”)
Carter and Soloway believe that suspension and debarment officials should be afforded greater flexibility and discretion. POGO agrees. We also agree that the fundamental purpose of suspension and debarment is to protect the government and taxpayers’ interest. However, we realize that, as the CWC emphasized in its latest report, the government is not using suspension and debarment as often as it should.
Neil Gordon is a POGO Investigator.
Image: CWC's logo.
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