Let us sing the glories of an open marketplace where full and open competition not only reduces costs, but encourages companies to strive to produce the best product in the most efficient manner possible!
And once we’re done doing that, let’s take a look at the Department of Defense’s acquisition programs.
From 2007 to 2010, the DoD spent an average of $370 billion per year (or $1.5 trillion overall) buying goods and services. Of that $1.5 trillion, a full 41 percent—or $606.3 billion worth of contracts—were granted without first going through a full and open competition, mostly by making use of one of seven Federal Acquisition Regulation exemptions according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
The most commonly used exemption, stating that “only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements;” ate up $448.6 billion, or a whopping 74 percent of the total. Only about $13 billion worth of contracts, or about 2 percent, came under the “national security exception” which allows “agencies to limit potential offerors on a contract solicitation in instances when disclosure of the agency’s needs would compromise national security,” the GAO reports.
Obviously, designing and building military-grade trucks, communications gear, and helicopters is a far cry from churning out television sets, and only a certain number of companies can be—or even want to be—involved in the trade, but one line from the GAO report sticks out. It says that “contract files and contracting officials cited a limited pool of companies with the right capabilities, the difficulty of changing from an established vendor, and limited tools for soliciting competitive bids as reasons for their inability to obtain more competition.”
Makes you wonder how much of that $606 billion in non-competitive contracts was due to the actual lack of competition, and how much came as a result of officials wording contracts to avoid “the difficulty of changing from an established vendor” and having “limited tools for soliciting competitive bids” at their disposal.