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White House Officials Hope ‘Myth Busting’ Campaign Will Spur Communication with Contractors

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“Mythbusting” is no longer just for the Discovery Channel.

As part of the administration’s efforts to reform federal IT acquisition, the White House promised agency contract authorities and the private companies they do business with would communicate more frequently.

But the first step in that process is dispelling some of those myths that plague the process and have made simple talk almost taboo.

“Inadequate communication with industry is often driven by commonly held misunderstandings about what level of vendor engagement is permitted,” reads a blog post authored by federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Dan Gordon, who have spearheaded the IT reform efforts.

The occasion for the blog was a recently circulated memo that laid out the top 10 most widespread and entrenched communication myths.

They include:

Myth: “The government cannot meet one-on-one with a potential offeror.”

Fact: Government officials can generally meet one-on-one with potential offerors as long as no vendor receives preferential treatment.

Myth: “Conducting discussions/negotiations after receipt of proposals will add too much time to the schedule.”

Fact: Whether discussions should be conducted is a key decision for contracting officers to make. Avoiding discussions solely because of schedule concerns may be counter-productive, and may cause delays and other problems during contract performance.

Gordon and Kundra said they developed the list through “listening sessions” with government and industry stakeholders.

But, even though they mean business about opening the lines of communication, the two don’t see an expansion of authority or a host of new rules as the solution. Echoing remarks the pair first made in December, the blog post points to the “broad flexibility,” government contract officials already have under existing rules.

More than new rules or lines of authority, “we need communication,” Gordon said. “We need it early, and we need it often.”

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