Former head of the Coalition for Government Procurement Larry Allen, now President of Allen Federal Business Partners, wrote a spot on article recently calling out the absurdity of the current environment of anti-contractor sentiment running rampant throughout the federal government.
Recent examples of these activities, among many, includes the Office of Management and Budget’s recent directive to ramp suspension and debarment operations, and the Air Force’s actual debarment of Iron Bow Technologies. Although this debarment was later overturned, it seems that this action was a direct result of the “get tough” policies.
Of note was the actual reversal, as a direct result of the Air Force and Iron Bow working together to address the issues leading up the debarment, and mitigation strategies to prevent any future occurrences. In other words, actions that should have occurred without the need of the seemingly knee-jerk debarment by the Air Force.
Further exacerbating the “greedy contractor” paradigm, and as noted by Allen, is Shay Assad, the director of pricing for the Department of Defense, announcing a more stringent pricing policy with contractors, in addition to the directions to cut service contracts by another 20 percent. Now with the Senate passing a Defense Authorization Bill that caps executive pay for contractors at $400,000, it seems that senior federal officials feel the need to squeeze the vice even further.
With the government continuing to freeze pay and hiring in critical areas, in addition to offering early buyouts, the expected outcome can only be further erosion of performance. With fewer government personnel, in addition fewer qualified and trained personnel since training is also getting cut, waste, fraud, and abuse will keep the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Inspector Generals gainfully employed. On second thought, GAO is also cutting staff. Perhaps the Commission of Wartime Contracting will reopen its doors in the near future to report on billions in waste, and just drop the Wartime from its title.
Contractors perform vital functions, and more pressure will be put on industry to perform more with less. However, it is being done in an environment where profit margins are being cut to the bone, lowest cost is now the only variable, and many small businesses are in danger of extinction with cuts to contracts, and subcontracts.
The fact is this: Contractors perform messy services that no one else wants to do. They fix things that break in the middle of the night. They are absolutely essential to the efficient running of the enterprise. They should be treated with the respect commensurate with the role they play.
Mistakes happen, and bad actors exist. But it’s past time to give credit where it is due.
We would be better served working together, and stopping this animosity.