The Pentagon Continues to Write Absurd Contract Solicitations | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Pentagon Continues to Write Absurd Contract Solicitations

The WasteWatcher

The Department of Defense (DOD) has long given lip service to the notion of breaking down barriers to entry for firms looking to bid on contract solicitations.  Unfortunately, the reality on the ground for new entrants in the market is much the same as it’s always been.

Large, successful firms like Palantir and SpaceX have been forced to bring lawsuits against the DOD in order to open up access.  However, this recourse is not available to all U.S. companies. 

Small businesses, unaccustomed to wading through the DOD’s byzantine contracting system, and unable to afford specialists to help win contracts, find the process to be particularly onerous.  The overly complex contracting system drives up prices and dissuades new firms to bid, resulting in infamous solicitations for a $640 toilet seat, $436 hammer, and 15 pages of instructions on how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

To this notorious list arrives a new example:  An October 26, 2021 DOD contracting solicitation acquired by Citizens Against Government Waste that takes 54 pages to ask for a pipe wrench.  It seems highly likely that whatever the Pentagon is looking for can be found on the internet, which takes a few clicks of a mouse rather than 54 pages of instructions.

The DOD claims to be aware of its contracting dilemma, and has emphasized an initiative to simplify the process to increase the involvement of small businesses.  According to a September 7, 2021 interview with DOD Director of the Office of Small Business Programs Farooq Mitha, “We're looking to streamline the points of entry … we're also looking to increase the connective tissue between these programs, so that businesses don't have to go to 10 different places to get 10 different opportunities.  We want them to be in one place, and we want to help businesses mature across these programs.”  Clearly, Director Mitha had not seen the pipe wrench solicitation.

Acknowledgement of a problem is the first step to rectifying it.  Unfortunately, given the Pentagon’s track record, small businesses and other companies that wish to be involved in the massive defense procurement process should not expect a more streamlined or simplified system anytime soon.

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