Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bridge Contract Transparency and Accountability Act

Senator McCaskill (Missouri) recently introduced the Bridge Contract Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018. If passed and signed into law, the Bill will require Agencies to limit the use of Bridge contracts and the FAR Councils to report on how prevalent such contracts are used.

Bridge contracts are non-competitive contract extensions with existing contractors to bridge the time between the original end of that contractor's contract and the competitive award of a follow-on contract. Senator McCaskill and others in Congress believe they are used far too often and that's a problem because they are usually cost-reimbursable and the bridge contractors have little incentive to stay efficient and minimize the duration of the bridge performance period.

This new bill will require agencies to develop policies and procedures that seek to minimize the use of bridge contracts while providing for continuation of services and ensure appropriate planning by contracting officials. Such planning must include:

  1. Sufficient time and planning to review contract requirements, compete contracts as appropriate, enter into contracts, and consider the possibility of bid protests.
  2. For contracts that do not meet timeliness standards or which require entering into bridge contracts, the contracting officer must notify his/her boss's boss's boss.
  3. That top boss must approve any bridge contract that exceeds a year.

The bill also seeks to gather information on the use of bridge contracts. Within six months of passage, the bill requires OFPP (Office of Federal Procurement Policy) to report on government-wide policies, practices and uses of bridge contracts. Then every year, OFPP must submit reports showing, among other things,

  1. The number of bridge contracts entered into during the previous five fiscal years
  2. The estimated value of each contract that required the use of a bridge contract and the cost of the bridge contract or contracts
  3. The reasons for and cost of each bridge contract
  4. The types of services or goods being acquired under each bridge contract
  5. The length of the initial contract that required the use of a bridge contract, including the base and any exercised option years, and the cumulative length of any bridge contract related to the initial contract.
  6. A description of how many of the contracts that required bridge contracts were subsequently re-competed and how many of those re-competed contracts were the subject of a bid protest.
Of course, the elephant in the room is bid protests. If it weren't for bid protests, the number and duration of bridge contracts would significantly decrease.

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