Nine Major Agency Reform Proposals in the House GOP Budget

House Republicans on Tuesday issued their budget blueprint for fiscal 2018, proposing a $5 billion cut next year at non-defense agencies and a total of $1.3 trillion in reductions in domestic spending over the next 10 years.

Lawmakers pitched a slew of governmentwide and individual agency reforms, including familiar targets such as improper payments, duplicative programs and constraining bureaucracy. By fiscal 2027, non-defense agencies would face a collective cut of 18 percent from current spending levels and 34 percent from the Congressional Budget Office’s projected top-line appropriation. Defense spending would increase by $929 billion over the current caps during the next 10 years.

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GAO-17-645, Defense Contracts: Recent Legislation and DOD Actions Related to Commercial Item Acquisitions, July 17, 2017

Data from the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG) show that as a proportion of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) total contracting obligations, contracts awarded using commercial item procedures have gradually declined in a narrow range from fiscal years 2007 to 2016 (see figure). These numbers, however, do not reflect the full extent to which DOD acquires commercial items because FPDS-NG only captures information on whether or not commercial item acquisition procedures were used to acquire the product or service, and not whether items purchased are commercial or not commercial.

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Lawmakers Aim to Restrict Use of Lowest-Price Contracts

A contractors group has welcomed a bipartisan House bill placed in the hopper last month aimed at curbing agency use of lowest price technically acceptable contracts.

The Promoting Value Based Procurement Act (H.R. 3019), introduced by Reps. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Don Beyer, D-Va., would amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require civilian agencies to align themselves with the Defense Department and stiffen their rationales for resorting to lowest price technically acceptable contracts, which have grown in use in recent years but are controversial.

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June 30, 2017
FROM: Wilbur Ross
Secretary Department of Commerce
Mick Mulvaney
Director, Office of Management and Budget
SUBJECT: Assessment and  Enforcement of Domestic Preferences In Accordance with Buy American Laws
On April 18, 2017, the President signed Executive Order 13788, Buy American and Hire American (the Order),
to ensure that Federal procurement and Federal financial assistance awards maximize the use of goods, products,
and materials produced in the United States, including iron, steel, and manufactured goods. Buy American Laws provide important benefits to the Nation. As defined in the Order, “Buy American Laws” means all statutes, regulations, rules, and Executive Orders relating to Federal procurement or Federal grants including those that refer to “Buy America” or “Buy American” that require, or provide a preference for, the purchase or acquisition of goods,
 products, or materials produced in the United States, including iron, steel, and manufactured goods.

NIST Cyber Advisers Anxious Over Auditing Agencies

Members of an advisory board for the government’s cyber standards agency are skeptical about a House bill that would expand that agency’s mission to auditing cybersecurity across the federal government.

That bill, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework Assessment and Auditing Act, would task the National Institute of Standards and Technology with verifying agencies have proper cyber protections in place and reporting on laggards.

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GSA Swears in Acquisition Chief as Predecessor Emerges as Whistleblower

Former Defense Department acquisition official and private-industry veteran Alan Thomas was sworn in Monday as commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service, just two weeks after incumbent Tom Sharpe abruptly resigned.

Sharpe’s resignation followed acting General Services Administration chief Tim Horne’s announcement that the agency’s newly stood-up Technology Transformation Service would move into the Federal Acquisition Service as part of President Trump’s efforts to streamline information technology acquisition.

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DoD seeks input on streamlining DFARS

The Defense Department has targeted existing procurement rules in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order to evaluate existing regulations and recommend their repeal, replacement or modification. DoD is asking for comment specifically on how the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) might be streamlined. The DFARS contains requirements of law, DoD-wide policies, deviations from FAR requirements, as well as policies and procedures that have a significant effect on the public. (Federal Register)

DOL Withdraws Obama-Era Interpretations On Independent Contractors and Joint Employment

On June 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it was withdrawing two informal guidances, namely a 2015 administrator interpretation on independent contractors and a 2016 administrator interpretation on joint employment, effective immediately. The DOL’s short announcement states that the removal of the administrator interpretations does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), and that the DOL “will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction.” Here’s an attempt to read between the lines and determine the DOL’s position on these two issues.

Withdrawal of Independent Contractor Interpretation

When we wrote about the July 15, 2015 independent contractor interpretation here, we noted that then-Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil stressed that most workers meet the criteria to be deemed employees under the FLSA, and therefore, should not be treated as independent contractors. Although noting that multiple factors are used to determine independent contractor status, former administrator Weil stated that the DOL would focus primarily on whether the worker runs his or her own independent business or if instead, the worker is economically dependent on the employer.

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