VA says using contracts for private medical care would be too burdensome

The Veterans Affairs Department spends billions of dollars on private medical care without contracts and, although the process does not comply with acquisition regulations, using contracts would be too burdensome, said a VA official during congressional testimony.

The FAR“VA acknowledges that our long-standing procurement processes for care in the community need improvement,” said Edward Murray, VA’s acting secretary for management at a June 1 House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations hearing.

The VA is expected to spend about $10 billion on healthcare outside of the VA health system in fiscal 2015, said Murray. Lawmakers were concerned by the amount of money spent on private healthcare – VA cites distance to health centers and a shortage of clinicians as barriers to care – and the lack of contracts.

“If the atom bomb can be built and wars conducted under the acquisition regulations, surely VA can deliver patient care under them as well,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.).

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New DoD acquisition rules skipped public comment period

The Defense Department (DoD) issued 49 new acquisition rules between fiscal 2010 and 2014 that didn’t include any public comment period. The department said “urgent and compelling” circumstances forced the agency to move quickly on a rule in order to make a procurement, says an April 17 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

pentagon-sealThe DoD’s acquisition rulemaking procedures generally require it to issue a proposed rule first that provides no less than a 30-day public comment period, GAO says. However, the requirements may be waived if DoD determines that “urgent and compelling” circumstances make compliance with the requirements impracticable.

In those instances, DOD issues a temporary interim rule that provides at least a 30-day public comment period. DoD may then issue a subsequent final rule after considering any comments received, the report says.

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014, DoD published 279 final and interim Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) rules.

Of the 279 final and interim DFARS rules, 139 were issued without prior notice and comment before they became effective.

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Agencies need governmentwide guidance on suspension and debarment process, GAO official says

Though the suspension and debarment system has been around for many years,  there is little guidance for it, Government Accountability Office Acting  Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management John Neumann said at a June 12  House Government and Oversight Committee hearing.

“You won’t find anywhere in the U.S. code other than a note in the financial  chapter,” Neumann said. “That’s part of the problem. We created a system, but  did not supply guidance on how it should operate.”

The Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee, established in 1986,  monitors and coordinates the governmentwide system of suspension and debarment,  but agencies aren’t required to work with the ISDC, Neumann noted.

ISDC relies on voluntary agency participation in its informal coordination  process, which works well when used, he said. However, Neumann found that not  all agencies coordinated through ISDC, and agencies without active suspension  and debarment programs generally were not represented at monthly coordination  meetings.

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DoD proposes anti-counterfeit IT measures

The Defense Department has proposed updating its acquisition regulations to  require major contractors subject to cost accounting standards – and their large  subcontractors – to have anti-counterfeit avoidance and detection systems in  place for electronic parts.

The long-awaited proposal, issued mid-May,  would implement requirements from the fiscals 2012 and 2013 national defense  authorization acts, passed amid concern  that counterfeit milspec electronic parts have made their way into weapons  systems, potentially undermining their reliability or making them open to a  remote cyber attack – although cybersecurity experts have said  the risk presented by the latter possibility is relatively low.

The proposal would require companies with cost-reimbursement contracts  subject to cost-accounting standards (a requirement that can’t be valid for  contracts worth less than $700,000) to mount an acceptable anti-counterfeiting  effort that would include training, inspection, parts traceability, use of  “trusted suppliers” and a methodology to rapidly determine whether a suspect  part is, in fact, counterfeit. The proposed rule doesn’t define what a trusted  supplier would be.

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SBA’s advocacy office catches fire from business and academic communities alike

The business community’s ombudsman within the Small Business Administration defended his office’s record against attacks from both the right and the left on Thursday.

Chief Counsel for Advocacy Winslow Sargeant was accused by business groups of allowing agencies to write regulations with little input from affected companies while an academic charged that his office is a tool of corporate anti-regulatory lobbying.

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., chairman of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight and Regulations, called the hearing out of concern that agencies may not be complying with the 1980 Regulatory Flexibility Act.

“Each year, federal agencies publish between 3,000 to 4,000 new regulations and many of those rules impose burdens on small businesses,” he said.

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