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Federal Procurement Chief Outlines Priorities.

Bush administration supports continuation of public-private competitions I

Government procurement policies will not change drastically in light of the planned "war on terrorism," a senior procurement official told defense industry executives.

"The Defense Department hasn't said yet that they need more acquisition authority, so we are not going to do anything right now to change our policies. We have a wait-and-see attitude," said Angela B. Styles, the president's appointee as administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

The OFPP is part of the Office of Management and Budget.

The OFPP, which has been without an administrator since June 2000, is undergoing change and reforms, she said. Styles spoke recently at a luncheon with defense industry representatives. She is responsible for advising the administration on government-wide procurement initiatives.

The Bush administration's priorities in procurement policy involve competitive sourcing, which is based on public-private competitions. The White House also seeks to improve the level of government performance and to return the government to the principles of competition, she said. Styles mentioned that one of her planned initiatives is to phase our the mandatory source status for the Federal Prison Industries (FPI), a policy that has been criticized by the business community for being anti-competitive and detrimental to small, niche-type suppliers.

Under a law in place since the 1930s, if the federal government wants to buy any product that FPJ produces, it must purchase the product from FPI. FPI is a quasi-governmental organization that manufactures items at facilities manned by federal inmates.

Styles wants to allow the private sector to compete for these contracts. Currently, if a federal agency wants to use a private sector source for a product that FPI produces, they have to submit a waiver to the FPI. "Our office will work to phase out the policy," she said. The Competition in Contracting Act, which deals with this issue, is favored by the current administration.

Styles said another OFPP priority is to change the way that rules are published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register, a government-wide publication, is used by the agencies to publish rules and regulations, which are governing tools for the federal agencies. They do not have to be codified by Congress. "There is a lack of quality and logical analysis in what we see published in the Federal Register," Styles said.

"We don't often see a rational analysis," she said, especially in the preambles to rules, which are supposed to contain background information, reasoning for the proposed rules, and a summation of industry comments.

"We can do a lot better to explain to you why we are making the decisions we are," she said.

"The OFPP should have a greater leadership role in the rule-making process. Right now, I am holding back on rules that I don't think are specific in their explanations."

Styles reported that she had testified before the House of Representatives subcommittee on technology and procurement policy and made the case for another of her priorities, competitive sourcing. She said that competition helps to attract "viable, responsive, innovative and cost-effective public and private competitors to the federal sector."

She testified that "when a commercial function performed by the public sector undergoes competition, that competition results in significant economic savings to the taxpayer," she said. "The use of public-private competition consistently reduces the cost of public performance by more than 30 percent," she said.

Styles explained that the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act, which was codified in 1998, seeks to publicize those government functions that can be outsourced to the private sector. The FAIR Act requires that a list be published each year for jobs that are available to non-governmental entities, but also maintains "a list of activities that are inherently governmental, that cannot be outsourced," she said.

The enforcement of the FAIR Act at all federal agencies, Styles said, underscores her office's "commitment to competition.

"It is a tool to encourage good management at the agencies. I want good cost, good quality and availability of service. I'm not really concerned about who's providing it," she said.

"We're not trying to de-layer the workforce. Nor are we discouraging agencies that want to bring things back in-house. This is an opportunity to solve problems we see in procurement.

"Competitive sourcing facilitates our use of performance-based service contracts, which bring innovation, creativity, new ideas," she said.

Styles said that competitive sourcing policies bring integrity to the process, to assure taxpayers that their money is not being wasted.

OFPP opposes a contracting bill that gained momentum during the closing months of the Clinton administration and appears to be gaining fresh support on Capitol Hill. The Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting (TRAC) Act places a six-month moratorium on all federal contracts which are not deemed "essential," and could permanently freeze, or "blacklist" the contractor's activities if it is shown that the work could be performed more cost-effectively by the public sector. According to Styles, the TRAC act "would put at risk the federal government's ability to acquire needed support services in both the short and the long term," she said. "There is no aspect of the TRAC Act that would contribute to competition, efficiency or accountability," she said.

Prior to her confirmation in May 2001, Styles was a counselor to the director of 0MB. From January to April 2001, she was in a temporary appointment at the General Services Administration's (GSA) office of government-wide policy and public buildings service. Before that, she was an attorney for Miller & Chevalier, a law firm in Washington, D.C. She also did a stint on Capitol Hill, working as a legislative aide for Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Styles' legal practice concentrated in the area of federal procurement law and litigation, including cost and accounting issues, defective pricing, procurement fraud matters, contract disputes and claims, contract drafting and negotiations, and compliance matters. During the past several years, her practice increasingly focused on government contract disputes involving cost accounting standards compliance, cost allowability and allocation.

Styles litigated contractors' claims against the U.S. government before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Since 1998, she has chaired the American Bar Association's Contract Law Committee. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia, and a law degree from the University of Texas.
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Title Annotation:Angela B. Styles of Office of Federal Procurement Policy
Author:Book, Elizabeth G.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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