Sen. Robert Bennett Joins Oversight Subcommittee


Sen_Bennett_5X7_300dpiSen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, made his debut as ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight today.

During the hearing on improving government procurement data systems, Bennett spoke of the importance of balancing the need for transparency with the need to protect some contract information from the public eye. (Check later for more on the hearing)

Industry representative, Trey Hodgkins, national security and procurement policy vice president for TechAmerica, testified that companies were concerned new policies might permit the publication of un-redacted contracts and allow access to past performance reports, which could contain proprietary information.

If government creates a central database contractors won’t agree to use, it’s the government that loses because it narrows the pool of contractors willing to compete for work, Bennett said. The fewer the players, the higher the cost to government, he said. Already, government’s cumbersome procurement rules cause some of the best players in the market to eschew government contracting, hurting competition, he said.

Bennett expressed similar views last week during an interview with Federal Times about what he hopes to accomplish on the subcommittee.

One of his top priorities is to encourage competition. Last week, Bennett said:

There are too many organizations that say ‘we don’t want to bid for government work because it’s too cumbersome and there are too many rules and restrictions that don’t make sense.’

Bennett said he hopes to take a look at policies that make it too costly for some firms to do business with government to ensure the largest competition pool possible.  Without reform, “you run the risk of good businesses staying away from federal competition and you end up with a smaller competitive pool to choose from. As a result you don’t have the best value.”

As a former businessman, Bennett said he found that while the decision to buy cheap may be good in the short term, going with the best value is what is best in the long run.

Enhancing competition will help Bennett achieve another goal as ranking member: fighting waste, fraud and abuse.

It’s a standard statement to say I want to root out waste, fraud and abuse, but my experience leads me to use another word: inertia. Inertia is not just a law of physics, but it also is a law of large institutions….[In government] it’s not inertia of rest, but inertia of motion. Once something is put in place inertia keeps it moving forward even after the need has changed and that’s where waste comes. It’s the duplicity of effort.”

Bennett said he’d like to root out duplicative procedures that slow government down and allow for waste, fraud and abuse to occur.


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