Lawmakers extend oversight in DOD authorization bill

The conferees have passed legislation that changes the rules for competitive sourcing and acquisition, and decreases funding for several programs.

Spending for future and transformational military technologies likely will be curtailed under the fiscal 2008 Defense Authorization conference report passed last week.Benefiting from those cuts are programs that provide current capabilities and protection to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.The authorization measure calls for $641 billion in spending for 2008 for the military functions of the Defense Department and for activities of the Energy Department. That sum includes $142 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.The measure authorizes $8.5 billion for military space activities “that deliver near-term benefits to the warfighter and improve space situational awareness and survivability,” the conference report states. It includes an additional $51.4 million for space situational awareness and space control programs and an increase of $125 million for Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite communications.“The current needs of our troops must take priority, and redundancy is crucial in protected satellite communications,” the report states.But Transformational Satellite Communications and Global Positioning System III took hits. Lawmakers cut TSAT by $150 million and GPS III by $100 million.“Concerns remain that the GPS III space system may be ahead of the development and acquisition plans for ground systems and user equipment,” the report states.Conferees also reduced funding for the Army’s Future Combat Systems by $229 million, to $3.4 billion. “This funding level supports the aspects of the FCS program that could…deliver needed force-multiplier technologies into the hands of soldiers in the field by 2010,” the report states.The measure authorizes $2 billion for the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 1 (formally the Joint Network Node) but embargoes 50 percent of the funding pending certification that DOD has approved the test plan.The bill reduces funding for the Missile Defense Agency by $185 million and eliminates all funding for the space test bed, a decrease of $10 million. “This allows for increases in systems that address current needs and vulnerabilities,” the report states.The authorization bill would also establish a clearinghouse to disseminate knowledge about existing commercial information technologies and an Army Working Capital Fund pilot project that would allow funds to be used for improvements to weapon systems and components. The goal is to decrease procurement lead times, improve coordination with the private sector and reduce overall costs.Additionally, the conferees want the Defense Science Board to review DOD’s policies and procedures for buying IT and for the department to document and track the use of environmentally preferable products and services. Congress wants a report on DOD’s plans to engage in green contracting.The bill also calls for an IT employee-exchange program with the private sector for up to one year.Lawmakers also took aim at the administration’s competitive sourcing initiative in the bill. The conferees approved a provision requiring DOD officials to consult at least monthly with affected civilian employees during the development of statements of work and management efficiency studies and to incorporate their views into the documents.If employees are represented by labor unions, DOD officials may consult those organizations’ representatives on the employees’ behalf.The bill would expand the definition of an interested party for bid protest rights to include the official who submitted the agency’s proposal and any individual who has been designated as the agent of the federal employees by the majority of them.Lawmakers also modified the streamlined competition for 10 employees or fewer. Among the new requirements: DOD must name an agency official, issue a solicitation and mandate that federal employees continue performing the work unless there is a 10 percent or $10 million difference in the federal and commercial bids.Additionally, lawmakers approved the Acquisition Improvement and Accountability Act of 2007 as part of the DOD authorization bill.The act requires the inspectors general at the General Services Administration, NASA, and the Interior and Veterans Affairs departments to review their agency’s acquisition polices and procedures and ensure that they comply with DOD’s by certain dates.In addition, the DOD secretary must issue guidance on interagency contracting and when the military services should use assisted acquisition services and when they should use other agencies’ contracts for products or services provided under DOD contracts.Lawmakers also prohibited the use of lead systems integrators starting Oct. 2, 2010, unless the vendor is performing acquisition support functions during development or production of a major system.The DOD secretary will develop regulations for buying commercial services and include guidelines on the appropriate use of time-and-materials contracting.The bill also requires DOD to clearly and separately identify the amounts requested in each budget account for buying contract services and the type of services being bought starting with the fiscal 2009 budget request.The conferees addressed workforce issues as well. They called for DOD to establish a defense acquisition workforce development fund to provide a minimum of $300 million in 2008, with increasing amounts thereafter, to ensure that DOD has the people and skills necessary to effectively manage its contracts.