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May 18, 2010


Observer V

Neil--with due respect to POGO's good work, there's a reason you don't hear much from contractors. They read and feel an excessive bias against them. I don't have a quant. content analysis, but the high odds are you'll bash a contractor, compared with a fed. Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad.

I agree strongly that more contractor info should be disclosed. But I trust you recognize that most of the nondisclosure is enforced by the government, e.g., the muzzle on contractor public comment on contracts in progress, or contractor's releasing deliverables without permission.

I also believe POGO does not understand the consequences of releasing past perf data. Such a release will tend to suppress and eventually snuff out competition, which is desperately needed. Contracting officers and/or proposal eval panels will find reasons to exclude just about any contractor over time, especially if you include "misconduct" like settlements with no admission of wrongdoing.
There is no expiration date for a black marks on a company's record and reputation, even if there has been a total changeover in management or approach and even if civil or criminal penalties have been paid.

With past performance grist, your bad-contractor database could upscope to, say, 1000 firms, and most of them will have black marks that never go away.

Frankly, a few should retire from the business, but the government can't possibly do without them. And the vast number of contracts being performed are untroubled.

The government could backfill for the excluded contractors with inexperienced small businesses, HUBzone prevaricators, grossly inefficient universities, or FFRDCs with their swollen salaries and overhead and sole-source, cost-plus mentality.

And, except for the unions, perhaps, few people would want to see the government try to add, say, 0.5 to 1.0 million workers, to pick up the slack.

Also notice that government agencies, while they may suffer the occasional tough audit or a criminal prosecution of an employee, do not have their performances systematically and comprehensively evaluated in public. This ought to be your first concern because: (1) many federal programs make a lot of stumbles and often are awfully conceived and implemented. (2) civil servants are rarely penalized for their mistakes, which must have something to do with agency performance. Federal agency performances mostly can't honestly be attributed to Congress, bad technology, or other parties' screw-ups

Think of how big a companion data base of federal agency and federal employee conduct would be. And it would be a lot easier to compile from existing sources. (And be sure to include the settlements!) This should be a high-priority POGO undertaking.

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