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President Bush is asking Congress to give the proposed Department of Homeland Security flexible procurement authority.

The plan released by the White House says a "top priority" for the new department will be developing a communications system linking federal, state and local emergency response agencies. "It is crucial for response personnel to have and use equipment and systems that allow them to communicate with one another," the plan says.

"The new Department should have flexible procurement policies to encourage innovation and rapid development and operation of critical technologies vital to securing the homeland," it adds.

The White House says the department will achieve savings "by combining and integrating functions that are currently fragmented."

The president wants the new department to take over 22 separate agencies with homeland security responsibilities. Its procurement budget would top $5 billion, according to an analysis by GovExec.com, making it the third-largest spender among civilian departments, after the Energy Department and NASA.

The General Accounting Office said agencies may go ahead with A-76 outsourcing competitions that are already in progress, even though they may violate a new rule against conflicts of interest.

In December GAO ruled that a Navy A-76 competition was flawed because the same people helped write the performance work statement setting out job requirements, then helped prepare the government's in-house bid for the work. GAO said that conflict could give the in-house team an unfair advantage in competing with contractors.

Both the Navy and Army said the ruling could force them to restart dozens of competitions.

In a May 29 decision. GAO said the conflict-of-interest rule will only be applied "prospectively." But it said agencies should "take steps to address any appearance of a conflict." (The decision is file B-286194.7.)

Legislation that would sharply limit outsourcing at military depots has been passed by the House and is pending in the Senate.

The provision, part of the 2003 Defense Authorization bills, would double the number of depot jobs that are exempt from outsourcing to 129,000, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

OMB said, "This provision would undermine one of the president's top management agenda goals to increase competitive sourcing."

Congress has previously declared about 64,500 of the depot positions to be "core" logistics functions that cannot be transferred to contractors. The pending bill would expand the definition of "core" functions.

The Senate passed the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act (H.R. 327). The legislation would require each agency to establish a single point of contact for small businesses and create a task force to recommend ways to streamline information collection requirements.

The bill, which already passed the House, also directs the Office of Management and Budget to post a list of regulatory compliance assistance resources online.

An OMB study estimated that businesses spent 7 billion hours filling out federal paperwork in 1998, at a cost of $229 billion.

Dynamic Systems Inc., an 8(a) firm based in Los Angeles, was awarded a Defense Information Systems Agency blanket purchase agreement worth up to $180 million over nine years.

Dynamic Systems will provide services associated with Sun Microsystems Inc. products. It was awarded the contract off its GSA schedule.

DISA's director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., said the agency will save up to 63% off Sun's list prices because of discounts for a high volume of orders for hardware and software maintenance.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is fighting legislation that would federalize security guards at nuclear power plants.

"The private guard forces that exist today at such facilities are qualified, trained and tightly regulated," NRC Chairman Richard Meserve told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee June 5. "There have been no failures in nuclear plant security that would warrant the creation of a new federal security force."

Meserve said the guard forces are tested periodically with "tough, simulated commando-style raids." But Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said, "The nuclear industry's guard forces have been routinely failing elementary school force-on-force security exams."

"These tests are seriously dumbed down to favor the guard forces," testified Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group. "According to the guards (her group has spoken with), they know within an hour or two when a test will take place and what part of the plant the mock terrorists will attack."

The bills are S. 1746 and H.R. 3382.
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Title Annotation:Office of Homeland Security
Publication:Set-Aside Alert
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 14, 2002
Words:731
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