Search Penny Hill Press

Friday, July 12, 2013

Transforming Government Acquisition Systems: Overview and Selected Issues

L. Elaine Halchin
Specialist in American National Government

Increasingly, the federal government uses technology to facilitate and support the federal acquisition process. Primary beneficiaries of this shift to online systems (websites and databases) are the government’s acquisition workforce and prospective and incumbent government contractors. The suite of web-based systems supports contracting officers’ efforts to ensure the government contracts only with responsible parties, is essential to the dissemination of information regarding contracting opportunities, and facilitates interagency contracting. From the contractor perspective, the government’s online systems streamline the processes involved in fulfilling various administrative requirements, provide access to possible contracting opportunities, and are potential resources for market research.

Congressional interest in the government’s online procurement systems, and, relatedly, the federal acquisition process, flows from the institution’s responsibilities involving government spending and oversight of executive branch operations. Congress monitors how well the federal acquisition process works, which includes several web-based systems, and also uses data and information available from some of the systems as resources for its oversight activities.

The federal government’s major, governmentwide web-based acquisition systems include Acquisition Central, Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS), Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps), Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) Portal (this system is known as the “FFATA Portal”), Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (FPDS-NG), Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), FFATA Sub-Award Reporting System (FSRS), Interagency Contract Directory (ICD), Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS), System for Award Management (SAM),, and Wage Determinations On-line (WDOL).

Interest in the federal government’s online acquisition systems is reflected in a variety of issues and topics. Over the years, questions have been raised regarding the accuracy, completeness, and timeliness of the contract award data available from FPDS and its successor, FPDS-NG. Recent efforts to remedy these problems include guidance issued by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) in 2011, which provides instructions for calculating and reporting the accuracy and completeness of data submitted to FPDS-NG. The most recent information available regarding FPDS-NG data shows that, governmentwide, the four-year average (FY2008-FY2011) for completeness was 98.3% and for sample accuracy 94.0%.

Another significant topic involving the government’s web-based acquisition systems was the launch of the System for Award Management in 2012. The following three systems became part of SAM in July 2012: Central Contractor Registration (CCR, which includes Federal Agency Registration (FedReg)), Excluded Parties List System (EPLS), and Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA). When completed, SAM will also include five other online procurement systems, plus the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). A variety of issues and problems, including separate logins, overlapping data, the absence of a single, uniform level of service, and multiple vendors hosting the systems, prompted interest in developing an integrated system.

Although this report does not focus on transparency, several issues discussed here are related to transparency. First, while the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website and FPDSNG provide information about executive branch agencies’ procurements, a database of federal agencies’ contracts does not exist. In 2003, GSA established a working group to examine the feasibility, challenges, and anticipated benefits of posting federal contracts online. Ultimately, the working group concluded there were insufficient data to support recommending the establishment of a central system for posting contracts online. In 2010, the Department of Defense (DOD), GSA, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) regarding posting contracts online. Comments submitted in response to the notice identified several challenges, and the matter was concluded when the agencies withdrew the ANPR. Second, transparency does not necessarily equate to comprehension. Generally, variation exists among the users of government procurement systems regarding their knowledge of government procurement and procurement data. Third, during the 113
th Congress, two similar bills (H.R. 2061 and S. 994) with the same name (Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or DATA Act) were introduced, either of which would enhance transparency of spending data, including certain procurement data. If either bill is enacted, it might have implications for FPDS-NG.

Date of Report: June 20, 2013
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R43111
Price: $29.95

To Order:

R43111.pdf   to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.