One of the best questions that came up at the recent 2019 Imagine Nation ELC conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was during a panel on acquisition. It went something like this: If the Federal Acquisition Regulations are a Frankenstein monster of cobbled together rules and requirements, why not just start over?
While the 2,000 page FAR probably has some body parts that agencies could do without, there is no reason to kill the monster.
Meagan Metzger, founder and CEO of Dcode, which promotes the use of commercial technology in the public sector, said there are important concepts that the FAR promotes that every contracting officer or program manager needs to know.
Chris Hamm, the director of FEDSIM at the General Services Administration, offered a common refrain—the FAR lets you do almost anything, especially under Parts 8.4 and 12.
Then why are agencies and vendors alike so excited about Other Transaction Authorities (OTAs) or Commercial Solution Openings (CSOs) as a way to avoid—get around—using the FAR?
New data from the Professional Services Council’s 2019 Vision Forecast found the Defense Department’s use of OTA’s mushroomed by 40% in 2018 over 2017 and some estimates say the Pentagon could spend as much as $7 billion through this approach in 2019.
GSA and the Department of Homeland Security also have begun using similar authorities.
GSA, for instance, has done eight awards under its CSO authority. Tom Howder, the acting deputy commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, said at the PSC event that 75% of the awards went to companies without a GSA schedule, meaning non-traditional contractors.