Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reaching Out by Reaching In--Our Pockets

Federal No-Bid Contracts On Rise Use of Favored Firms A Common Shortcut
By Robert O'Harrow Jr. Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, August 22, 2007; A01
Under pressure from the White House and Congress to deliver a long-delayed plan last year, officials at the Department of Homeland Security's counter-narcotics office took a shortcut that has become common at federal agencies: They hired help through a no-bid contract.
And the firm they hired showed them how to do it.
Scott Chronister, a senior official in the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement, reached out to a former colleague at a private consulting firm for advice. The consultant suggested that Chronister's office could avoid competition and get the work done quickly under an arrangement in which the firm "approached the government with a 'unique and innovative concept,' " documents and interviews show.
A contract worth up to $579,000 was awarded to the consultant's firm in September.
Though small by government standards, the counter-narcotics contract illustrates the government's steady move away from relying on competition to secure the best deals for products and services.
A recent congressional report estimated that federal spending on contracts awarded without "full and open" competition has tripled, to $207 billion, since 2000, with a $60 billion increase last year alone. The category includes deals in which officials take advantage of provisions allowing them to sidestep competition for speed and convenience and cases in which the government sharply limits the number of bidders or expands work under open-ended contracts.
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The Republican push to make federal government smaller is a ruse to make private contracting larger; at no bids. A dreamscape for insiders. A nightmare for taxpayers.

* For more in-depth articles from Jim on Washington at Work, check out Opinion-Columns.com