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Why do we care about competition?

  • Published
  • By Col. James Hodges
  • 6th Mission Support Group commander
Fiscal year 2013 has begun. We started the fiscal year with a continuing resolution in place to keep our government operating at FY12 funding levels.

We know we can expect reductions in current funding levels. The worst of the reductions could be the automatic budget cuts that will result if the proposed sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act comes to fruition in January. Now more than ever, it's important that we become even better stewards of taxpayer dollars and make the best possible use of our scarce resources. Our primary tool to realizing savings and ensuring we get the best value comes from competition. It's also the cornerstone of how the 6th Contracting Squadron supports the 6th Air Mobility Wing's priorities of Airmen, Mission and Community.

Why do we care about competition? First, it's the law. The Competition in Contracting Act requires government agencies to promote full and open competition. The law provides for exceptions to be used in rare circumstances, where the justification for the exception outweighs the potential cost savings.
Competition takes advantage of free-market forces that encourage proffers to provide their goods and services at lower prices or improve quality-- by differentiating other values such as added aspects of their product or service. Competition also promotes innovation. If we do a good job of defining our requirements, we will often benefit from the unique solutions the world's greatest industrial base can provide.

Competition is also good for government contractors. It promotes fairness and transparency. Contracts are awarded on the merit of the offer and not based on relationships with customers or government contracting personnel. Competition also serves to prevent fraud, waste and abuse by providing regular changes in vendors, reducing collusion and encouraging contractors to perform at a high level to earn repeat business.

The better news is that your contracting squadron is here to help navigate the process of turning requirements into effective solutions. The 6th CONS's mantra is "get to yes"-- meaning we will guide you through the contracting process. We will provide you a roadmap to fulfill your requirements without violating laws, regulations, policies or compromising procurement integrity. Most of the time that will include early involvement, acquisition planning, market research and writing requirements that promote competition. We are proud to say we achieved an open competition rate of just more than 80 percent, which helped justify the exceptions.

Competition continues to be a high-interest item in federal procurement and a key component to the Air Force priority to recapture acquisition excellence. Regulations and policies continue to evolve and focus on promoting "effective competition," which is a solicitation that results in more than one competitive proposal. One example is the expanded requirement to publicly post requirements to the Federal Business Opportunities website. Current rules require contracting officers to re-advertize requirements that have been posted for less than 30 days if only one offer is received. This highlights the importance of acquisition planning, market research and early involvement between the customer and the contracting team. We need to work together to ensure we meet operational needs in a timely manner, while being good stewards of our taxpayer dollars.

Competition frees up more money to take care of our Airmen, promotes innovation to accomplish our mission and provides transparency and opportunity to the businesses in our community. The key to success in your next competitive procurement is early involvement and deliberate planning.