Better Oversight Needed in Government Contract Awards

With two recent high-profile challenges to federal-government contract awards, I wonder if it isn’t time to establish an independent government agency responsible for negotiating federal contracts. This independent entity would review requests for proposal from federal agencies and publicize such requests. The agency would then receive bids from contractors and oversee the evaluation process, working with the federal agency that requested the proposals to ensure that both sides are satisfied with the result.

The need for such a body is illustrated by two recent cases. Boeing Company contested an Air Force contract in February, and Hamilton Sundstrand (a unit of United Technologies Corp.) cried foul over a NASA contract earlier this month. In both cases, the complainants asserted they did not receive satisfactory explanations as to why their bids were not selected. Boeing also complained that the Air Force changed its requirements midstream, resulting in a more favorable proposal from its competitor, Northrup Grumman. With an independent organization to oversee contract negotiations, all parties would be able to resolve their conflicts in an environment free from undue external influence, much like the arbitration panels used to negotiate out-of-court settlements in a variety of situations.