The Defense Department is asking Congress for special authority to buy products and services from “innovative” businesses that have done little or no business with the government.
First, give the department credit for recognizing, after repeated visits to Silicon Valley, Boston and elsewhere, that it has a problem. Because of scores of unique requirements designed mostly for yesterday’s market and the generally plodding nature of the acquisition system, many commercial tech companies aren’t all that excited about working with the government. This isn’t anything new—it’s a drum many of us have been beating for years. And the department asked more than a year ago for input on non-value-added, government-unique process and compliance requirements it should do away with. Thus far, there’s been no action on dozens of recommendations that were made.
Beyond that, however, real questions arise as to whether the proposal itself makes sense—whether it is wise to create yet another set-aside under which limited or no competition would be allowed. Sure, there are innovative companies that do not do business with the government today that might find such a program at least palatable. But that alone does not make the proposal a good, idea.
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