Bipartisan bill strives for ‘more nimble and meaningful’ federal contracting

Iowa Republican Sen. Jodi Ernst is co-sponsoring legislation to streamline federal acquisition.

Iowa Republican Sen. Jodi Ernst is co-sponsoring legislation to streamline federal acquisition. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Legislation from Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, would “streamline procedures” for both solicitation and awards by slimming down the procurement process.

A new bipartisan proposal seeks to simplify the federal contracting process — and potentially allow for more small businesses to work with the government — by reducing burdensome requirements and creating “a more nimble and meaningful bidding process and evaluation of proposals.”

The Conforming Procedures for Federal Task and Delivery Order Contracts Act was introduced by Sens. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, on Jan. 19. 

The bill seeks “to streamline procedures for solicitation and the awarding of task and delivery order contracts for agencies” by shrinking “the procurement process for contractors bidding on work as well as for the government, ensuring necessary due diligence is done while allowing awards to be made faster and to a wider array of contractors, including small businesses.”

This includes reducing “duplication of documentation requirements for agencies” and applying some of the contracting measures that the Department of Defense “currently has in place to all federal agencies.”

Ernst — the ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee — said in a statement that “too much bureaucratic red tape stands in the way” when it comes to smaller companies effectively competing for federal contracts. 

“By making the award process faster and wider, Iowa’s small businesses and entrepreneurs can better compete and succeed,” she added, referencing the benefits the bill would have for her Hawkeye State constituents. 

In a statement, Peters also said the legislation “streamlines the contracting process for federal government agencies, and as a result will boost small businesses trying to stay competitive and will increase efficiency for all government agencies, benefitting people across the nation.”

This isn’t the first time that Peters and Ernst have teamed up on legislation to improve the government’s procurement process, which is receiving renewed attention as lawmakers discuss the role that emerging technologies can play in bolstering the capabilities of federal services. 

The senators previously authored legislation, known as the PRICE Act, to “promote innovative acquisition techniques and procurement strategies” to improve the contracting process for small businesses. Their bill was signed into law in February 2022. 

Peters and Ernst also introduced legislation in July 2022 that would require the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration “to streamline the ability of the federal government to purchase commercial technology and provide specific training for information and communications technology acquisition.” 

Following a Jan. 10 Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on how artificial intelligence can be used to improve government services, Peters — who chairs the panel — also told Nextgov/FCW “how the federal government procures AI… is going to have a big impact on AI throughout the economy.”

“And I think that's a very effective way for us to think about AI regulation, through the procurement process,” he said.