Subcontracting rule changes are planned.
Responding to frequent complaints that primes promise subcontracting opportunities to small firms but don't deliver, she said OMB will ask for public comment on "ways to incentivize prime contractors, to hold them to these goals." She spoke Aug. 13 at a Women's Business Procurement Summit in Washington, sponsored by the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce.
Tougher subcontracting enforcement is part of the Bush administration's strategy to mitigate the impact of bundling on small businesses. In a proposed rule released Jan. 31, the administration said agencies should use a prime's subcontracting performance as an evaluation factor in awarding future contracts.
Styles said the final rule to implement the anti-bundling strategy will be released this fall, but there will likely be an additional round of comment and rulemaking on subcontracting issues. "You will see some changes in the subcontracting area," she added.
The proposed rule would require agencies to review and justify all bundled contracts above specific dollar thresholds. Justification would also be required for bundled task orders on GSA schedules and other multiple award contracts.
Styles said the cornerstone of the bundling strategy is to hold agency heads accountable for their performance in breaking up unnecessarily bundled contracts and providing opportunities for small businesses. OMB requires quarterly performance reports from each department and agency. Those reports have not been made public.
She also said OMB is running into "a lot of push-back" from companies over its proposal to post the text of federal contracts online. She said contractors are afraid that proprietary information would be published, but OMB has promised to delete such data.
"Contracts are public documents. They're just impossible to find," she remarked.
She said publishing the contracts would provide a marketing tool for companies that want "to understand how things work."