By SCOTT AMEY
Jason Miller at Federal News Radio reported (click here for the audio) that the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) has draft guidance on holding meetings with industry representatives. This is a great move considering that the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) issued two memos educating the federal acquisition workforce about ways it can better team with industry.
The draft guidance states that government and industry meetings should only be scheduled after agency officials receive information about those requesting the meeting, the meeting’s purpose, names and titles of those participating, contracting opportunities they are seeking as well as additional information about prior NPPD meetings with the entity, potential conflicts related to current and former DHS/NPPD officials, and the entity’s history of contracting with DHS.
If the government is serious about learning from industry throughout the acquisition process, there should be polices to ensure that those meetings are above reproach. The draft guidance by NPPD would do that. It would create a level playing field for all contractors and help acquisition employees avoid ethics violations, including violations of the Procurement Integrity Act, personal and organizational conflicts of interest, revolving door abuses, and violations of lobbying rules. The draft guidance might also help achieve OFPP’s goals to engage small businesses and subgroups of small businesses, and improve communications with contractors that the agency has not worked with before.
OFPP’s first memo, dated February 2, 2011, is entitled “ʻMyth-Busting’: Addressing Misconceptions to Improve Communication with Industry During the Acquisition Process.” The memo stated federal personnel need to have access to market information and engage contractors to find “an effective solution at a reasonable price.” Ten misconceptions are detailed and disputed by facts that outline how important it is to meet with contractors and communicate with a broad range of vendors during meetings and industry days to improve government spending. This sounds great so long as there is a level playing field for all contractors to work with the federal acquisition community.
A second OFPP myth-busting memo was issued on May 7, 2012. This memo addressed misconceptions held by contractors and again promoted the central theme that improved communications are required for the government to get the most out of the $530 billion spent on contracts each year.
According to Federal News Radio, the contracting industry has reacted negatively to the draft meeting guidance. That isn’t a shock, and my guess is that the contracting industry (especially the large contractors who receive the majority of federal contract dollars) doesn’t want people to know who, how often, and to what extent industry officials are inside government offices chatting up government officials. I personally would love to see how many of these meetings produce sole source contracts or contracts resulting from an unsolicited proposal!
Scott Amey is the general counsel for the Project On Government Oversight.